The travails of a parent whose toddler is underweight can only be felt, not described. Children usually follow a predictable growth pattern. They triple their weight in the first year of their life, and thereafter a kilogram every 3-4 months for the second year of their life. However, not all children follow the same pattern. Each child develops at a different pace. So when does a parent start to worry about poor or no weight gain? A month, 2 months or 6 months of no weight gain? Or more?
There is no correct answer to this because there are a lot of factors that can affect weight gain in a toddler.
- Genetics: If the child’s parents are lean, chances are the baby will be skinny too
- Dietary restrictions such as dairy free diet, vegetarian diet or a vegan diet can put the child at a risk of being mal nourished
- Recent illness or medications can kill diet temporarily resulting in poor weight gain or even weight loss
- Emotional upheaval: A change of scenery that didn’t go down too well with your toddler may directly affect hunger
- An increase in height that precedes weight gain
However, if your gut feeling tells you to get an expert opinion, the best person to give it is the paediatrician.
Assuming your child has no underlying medical problem, you can proceed with the following to ensure that your child is getting enough calories. The rest will follow.
- The best way to get your toddler to gain weight is to increase his calorie intake with heart healthy foods such as nuts, vegetable oils, dry fruits, dairy, carbohydrate heavy fruits and vegetables. Don’t forget the protein found in eggs, peanut butter and beans.
- Avoid filling up the calorie count by means of ‘junk food’. These are empty calories that do nothing to help your child develop holistically.
- If your toddler is a fussy eater, you have to ensure two things are always right. First that the meals are calorie and nutrient rich and secondly, that meal times are enjoyable and an unhurried affair.
- If nothing else works, your doctor may prescribe a high calorie supplement drink.
- Filling up on milk and other beverages is a common hunger killer. It leaves little room for other nutrient rich foods that are necessary for weight gain.
- Increase the frequency of meals. Add 2-3 snack times to ensure that the child is meeting his daily quota of calories, as prescribed by the paediatrician.
- Keep a daily diet chart of the child’s diet plan and stick as close to it as possible.
Once this checklist is in place and you have begun to follow it, do not be in a hurry to check your child’s progress daily. Let the doctor do it at a monthly interval. This will ensure that the child doesn’t become too self conscious about his/her weight.