Background: Healthy infants typically regain their birth weight by 21 days of age; however, failure to do so may be due to medical, nutritional or environmental factors. Globally, the incidence of low birth weight deliveries is high, but few studies have assessed the postnatal weight changes in this category of infants, especially in Africa. The aim was to determine what proportion of LBW infants had not regained their birth weight by 21 days of age after discharge from the Special Care Unit of Mulago hospital, Kampala.
Methods: A cross sectional study was conducted assessing weight recovery of 235 LBW infants attending the Kangaroo Clinic in the Special Care Unit of Mulago Hospital between January and April 2010. Infants aged 21 days with a documented birth weight and whose mothers gave consent to participate were included in the study. Baseline information was collected on demographic characteristics, history on pregnancy, delivery and postnatal outcome through interviews. Pertinent infant information like gestation age, diagnosis and management was obtained from the medical records and summarized in the case report forms.
Results: Of the 235 LBW infants, 113 (48.1%) had not regained their birth weight by 21 days. Duration of hospitalization for more than 7 days (AOR: 4.2; 95% CI: 2.3 - 7.6; p value < 0.001) and initiation of the first feed after 48 hours (AOR: 1.9; 95% CI 1.1 - 3.4 p value 0.034) were independently associated with failure to regain birth weight. Maternal factors and the infant's physical examination findings were not significantly associated with failure to regain birth weight by 21 days of age.
Conclusion: Failure to regain birth weight among LBW infants by 21 days of age is a common problem in Mulago Hospital occurring in almost half of the neonates attending the Kangaroo clinic. Currently, the burden of morbidity in this group of high-risk infants is undetected and unaddressed in many developing countries. Measures for consideration to improve care of these infants would include; discharge after regaining birth weight and use of total parenteral nutrition. However, due to the pressure of space, keeping the baby and mother is not feasible at the moment hence the need for a strong community system to boost care of the infant. Close networking with support groups within the child's environment could help alleviate this problem.