Effective implementation of interventions targeting low birth weight (LBW) and preterm infants, who contribute 60 to 80% of all neonatal deaths, requires an understanding of local people's perceptions of birth weight. This study was conducted to understand how birth weight is perceived in a lowresource setting, including the etiology, signs and care given to infants of various weights. In this qualitative research study, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions were conducted with recently delivered women (RDW) and their families, as well as local health stakeholders in a rural North Indian community. Birth weight per se is not considered a determinant of newborn health. Instead, newborns are classified into types, and care is provided based on these types. Classification is based on observable criteria, including feeding, vigor and alertness, and interviewees did not always consider low weight a criterion for weak type. In communities that do not perceive birth weight to be an important determinant of health, public health programmes and practitioners must reframe messages regarding additional care for LBW infants at home and care seeking outside the home in locally relevant ways.