Most parents are worried about their child’s weight. A child who is thin in comparison to other children who are the same age – can send parents into a panic.
When Is A Child Considered Underweight?
A child is considered underweight when her/his weight is below the normal weight expected for children of that age.
An Indian child may be considered grossly underweight if she/he is compared to her/his American peers. The weight of an Indian child must be compared to other Indian children only.
In India, we plot the weight of a child on a height-weight chart made for Indian children and if the weight of the child falls below the reference curves drawn on the chart – the child is considered underweight.
How Do You Know If Your Child is Gaining Enough Weight?
A child whose weight is within the curves marked on the growth chart is usually considered the right weight for her/his age.
When a child’s weight drops below the plotted percentile curves on the chart – the child is considered underweight.
Children usually gain weight in proportion to their age and height or length. More important than a child’s position on the growth curve – is her/his pattern of growth. A sharp fall from the previous positions on the curve should worry you. A consistently low percentile reading is usually not something to be worried about if your doctor is happy with it.
Reasons For A Child To Be Underweight?
There are several reasons which may result in a child to be underweight. Come let us look at the 6 most obvious reasons.
1. Low Birth Weight
A child who is born with a low birth weight is likely to be underweight for several years after birth.
2. Inadequate Breastfeeding
Poor latch during breastfeeding can result in the child not gaining sufficient weight initially and therefore lagging behind even later. It is important to correct the latch in these cases. Formula feeding from a bottle must not be started.
3. Inadequate Food Intake
Children who do not have access to food because of poverty may not gain weight at the expected rate because of malnutrition. This is unlikely to happen in families where plenty of food is available.
Diseases such as worm infestation, tuberculosis and repeated respiratory tract infections.
5. Metabolic Disorders
Disorders of vital organs like the thyroid can cause hypermetabolic states that may result in the child not gaining weight.
6. Food Intolerance
Some children may not be able to digest and metabolize certain foods. Lactose intolerance is a common condition that may keep children from gaining weight adequately so is gluten intolerance.
10 Things To Increase Your Toddler’s Weight
Here are top things to do to ensure that your toddler gains the right amount of weight.
1. Feed Your Child High-Calorie Food
In our enthusiasm to ensure enough vitamins for the child, we may focus too much on very low-calorie vegetable purees. That is incorrect. More than anything else children require carbohydrates from whole grains like whole wheat flour, brown rice, and millets
Must read: High-Calorie Rich Indian Foods.
2. Feed Your Child Often
Children have very small stomachs. Insisting that your child eat a lot of food at breakfast lunch and dinner is pointless and can only result in power struggles. Instead serve small meals frequently.
3. Serve Healthy Snacks
Because children eat very little during meals – they get hungry very soon after the meal is over. At this time – tired parents usually offer packaged junk food which is not healthy. It is best to plan healthy calorie rich nutritious snacks when you are planning meals.
4. Include Protein in Every Meal
Many of the meals that children eat consist only of a carbohydrate source such as roti or rice. It is better to reduce the quantity of carbohydrate and include a protein source. So dal must be given with rice. A dosa is an excellent combination of dal and rice.
Also, read about: Low Carb Indian Diet.
5. Avoid Sugary Drinks & Juices
Sugary drinks kill the appetite and add empty calories to your child’s diet. Your child may gain weight because of these calories but this is not the right kind of weight because it deprives your child’s body of essential nutrients in the form of vitamins and minerals.
6. Avoid Excessive Saturated Fats
Burgers, sausages, cakes, biscuits and cheese contain saturated fats that result in weight gain but are not nutritious and deprive the body of essential nutrients resulting in various diseases.
7. Make Mealtimes Pleasant
When a child eats less than what the parents want her/him to – meal times are so stressful that what is eaten is not digested and absorbed by the child’s body at all. Never get into a power struggle over food even if you are very worried about your child’s weight. Never force feed your child. Children who don’t like to eat must be given small portions of food and never be made to eat more than they want.
8. Talk About Healthy Living
Healthy eating is a habit that children learn from those around them. If you want your child to be healthy – focus on your own health. Talk about the healthy food choices you are making and how you are benefiting from them.
Also, read about: How To Have A Healthy Lifestyle?
9. Avoid Feeding Junk Food
Offering ice-cream as a reward for finishing the vegetables – only makes your child hate vegetables more. Never bribe your child into eating something he/she doesn’t want to eat. Keep offering the disliked food item in very small quantities every day. When your child is used to the sight and smell of the food she/he will want to eat it.
10. Keep Your Child Physically Active
Sometimes parents with underweight children are afraid that their child will become even thinner if they allow her him to play. But that is not true. Playing builds your child’s appetite and helps your child to eat and gain weight.
Weight is an important marker of good health in a child. However, it is not the only marker. If your child is active, happy and healthy – allow her/him to enjoy healthy food. Do not panic and feed her/him junk food to increase the weight
About The Author
Dr. Debmita Dutta is a practicing doctor, a Parenting consultant and the founder of the Parenting website – Whatparentsask – a video-based website that provides expert answers to parenting questions. She is based in Bangalore and conducts Parenting workshops and prenatal classes for pregnant parents in addition to her medical practice. She believes that parenting stress can be relieved significantly when parents are well informed about their children’s growing brains and bodies.