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When your baby has congenital heart disease

By Angella Wali | February 15th 2017

Congenital heart disease (CHD) is a condition where the heart or the blood vessels near the heart fail to develop normally before birth.

Babies born with CHD can grow normally and sometimes the condition is not diagnosed until later. However, weight gain in such babies is much slower and can mean the baby will weigh less or look smaller as compared to others of the same age.

This is so mostly due to the increased caloric requirements, such that the body uses more calories than normal for the extra work the heart performs instead of concentrating the calories on growth.

Other factors that can interfere with growth include poor appetite, decreased food intake due to rapid breathing or low energy, respiratory infections and poor nutrient absorption form the digestive tract.

When feeding your baby, therefore, do not be frustrated when they do not gain weight rapidly, despite your hard efforts. It is quite normal. However, putting a few tips into consideration can help your baby grow well and experience a healthy lifestyle.

After birth, you may not be able to breastfeed your baby immediately due to medical reasons. Therefore, it will be advisable to express your breast milk and store to kick start and maintain your milk supply for when the baby will be ready to breast feed. Your baby will need a minimum of 10-12 feeds a day to meet his/her energy needs.

The baby might sometimes need more frequent feeds because he/she might get tired easily during the feeds and will therefore require more frequent breaks. If the weight gain is still not sufficient, your doctor will refer you to a dietitian or will consider using fortifiers to enrich your breast milk to boost your baby’s growth.

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