Many parents worry that their toddlers are underweight, and they may understandably be concerned that it is a sign of a medical condition. My own daughter is naturally slim but not considered to be clinically underweight. Nevertheless, I sought help from her pediatrician so I could help my thin toddler gain weight. She gave me the following guidelines to help a skinny toddler gain weight.
Find the Cause
If you are worried that your toddler is underweight, your first step should be to contact his physician. This is particularly important if your skinny toddler has suddenly dropped weight or is refusing to eat any food at all. Significant thinness may be the first sign of a serious medical condition, so be sure to take your toddler for regular check-ups.
My daughter’s pediatrician attributes her thinness to genetics (both of her parents are also thin) and a healthy diet, but other toddlers may display thinness due to underlying medical problems. If your toddler receives a clean bill of health at his check-up, don’t fret about weight gain, but do make sure that she has what she needs to build a healthy body.
Feed Healthy High-Calorie Foods
Provide your skinny toddler with plenty of opportunities to eat high-calorie, minimally processed foods. Full-fat milk, natural puddings, cheese, nuts, beans, whole grains and dried fruit provide plenty of calories for substantial weight gain, but without all the negative health effects associated with candies, soft drinks or fried foods. Do not help your skinny toddler gain weight by allowing her to overindulge on junk food; this could easily cause her to experience obesity or diabetes later in life.
Do try to work within your toddler’s preferences. My skinny toddler is crazy about Bunny Grahams (organic graham cracker products similar to Teddy Grahams) and they appear to be the healthiest way to help her gain weight. Although her diet has become relatively monotonous, I don’t want to harm her progress by taking away her healthy food.
Accept Your Toddler’s Thinness
My toddler’s pediatrician urged me to avoid pressuring my daughter too much about eating. This will often backfire, causing the skinny toddler to become even more resistant about eating food. Furthermore, parents can unintentionally set a child up for eating disorders later in life by constantly commenting that the child is very thin. If a toddler internalizes the notion that she is “too skinny”, she may hate her body if she remains thin. If you frequently mention your child’s thinness as a point of pride or as a compliment, she may never feel comfortable about gaining weight.
For the time being, I intend to provide my skinny toddle with plenty of healthy foods and a multivitamin to keep all her nutritional bases covered. Although I want her to remain healthy regardless of her weight, I understand and accept that she may– like both of her parents– be a naturally petite person. Avoid placing too much pressure on your child’s eating habits, regardless of where she rests on the spectrum of toddler weight.