If you are the parent of a toddler who is underweight, I am sure you are extremely worried.
Are you spending hours feeding your baby and missing out on the joys of parenting a toddler?
Then these 5 tips are for you.
Worry only if your doctor says you need to be worried.
- Do not worry that your child looks thin, if they are otherwise healthy and active.
- Do not worry if the paediatrician says there is nothing to worry about.
- Do not worry if your child maintains their position on the height-weight chart, even if they are consistently lower on the graph than you would like. Worry only if there is a sharp drop.
Build your toddler’s appetite.
Your toddler will refuse to eat unless they are hungry even if you spend hours begging, coaxing and threatening them to eat.
Build your child’s appetite like this –
- Ensure that your toddler gets a lot of physical exercise.
The more their body works, the more food it will need.
- Ensure a regular toilet routine.
Your child will be able to eat only after they have emptied their bowels and made space for fresh food.
- Focus on enough sleep.
Lack of adequate sleep disturbs the gut and kills the appetite.
- Serve meals on a schedule.
When your toddler’s gut gets used to expecting food at certain times of the day, it will keep the enzymes ready to digest the food at those times. And these enzymes will make your toddler hungry.
- Keep the mealtimes happy and stress-free.
Remember, stress kills the appetite. Connect through play and conversation. When your toddler is happy, they will be stress-free and feel hungry.
- Eat with them.
Watching someone eat makes us hungry. Watching you eat will make your toddler’s stomach growl with hunger.
Change the food you serve.
Toddlers have small stomachs and cannot eat large quantities of food at a time.
- Serve frequent small meals.
Offer 4 small meals and 4 snacks.
- Balance every meal and snack.
Ensure that every bite is rich in complex carbohydrates, proteins, good fats, vitamins, and minerals.
- Focus on nutrient-dense ingredients.
Use ingredients like ragi, banana, whole grains, a mixture of dals, nuts and seeds. This way, even if your toddler does not ‘finish’ their meal, they still get enough nutrition.
- Serve a probiotic every day.
Probiotics like curd fill your toddler’s gut with good microorganisms. This keeps the gut healthy and helps your child to absorb more nutrients.
Give your child some control.
Children who are restricted by too many rules and instructions, begin to rebel by not eating.
Give your toddler enough time for free-play and let them make some decisions.
Resist the urge to accelerate weight gain through junk food.
Never try to push up your toddler’s weight by force feeding. It just does not work.
Force feeding ultimately results in obesity, an attraction to junk food and device dependence. All of these do more harm than a slightly lower reading on the weighing scale.
Use these 5 tips and help your underweight toddler gain weight without stress.
Dr. Debmita Dutta MBBS, MD
Dr. Debmita Dutta MBBS, MD is a doctor, a parenting consultant, and the founder of WPA whatparentsask.com She conducts online and offline workshops on parenting for schools and corporate organisations. She also conducts online and offline prenatal and infant care classes. She is a well-known thought-leader in parenting and an expert on play, learning and eating habits. She is the author of 7 books on parenting published by Juggernaut Books and her books are among their most read books. She is frequently quoted in national and international publications of repute for her empathetic and compassionate approach and her application of physiology and neuroscience to parenting.