When a child fails to gain weight at the same rate as others her age and gender, it’s known as a failure to thrive. Yet, a parent might not be able to adequately tell if her child is actually suffering from this condition. After the rapid weight gain of the first year of life, a toddler will only gain around 3 to 5 pounds from years 1 to 2, making it seem like she might not be growing adequately. Discuss your child’s weight gain -- or lack thereof -- with your pediatrician, who can tell you if it’s necessary to make dietary modifications.
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Offer Whole Milk
At a year old, your child can begin the transition from breast milk to cow's milk, reports pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu. Although it's recommended that adults drink low- or nonfat milk to save on calories and fat grams, you can and should offer only whole milk to your 1-year-old, unless your doctor tells you otherwise. Offering whole milk rather than lower-fat versions can promote weight gain in your child. In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends whole milk to promote development of the brain and nervous system. When your child turns 2, discuss the option of switching to a lower-fat milk with your pediatrician.
Feed Her Frequently
Your 1-year-old has a small stomach, so she fills up quickly and eats less food per meal than an older child or adult. Boost her caloric intake by offering regular snacks -- two to three per day, recommends Children's Hospital Los Angeles -- as well as three meals per day. The snacks should be spaced throughout the day so the child is hungry and more likely to eat them, and you should offer a variety of foods. Without these extra snacks, your child might not be getting enough food for proper weight gain.
Focus on Nutrient-Dense Foods
With each meal or snack, offer your 1-year-old high-calorie, nutrient-dense foods, which offer more calories and nutrients in less volume -- meaning she'll get what she needs without filling up her small stomach too much. For example, Children's Hospital Los Angeles recommends offering your little one chopped, steamed broccoli with cheese sauce rather than a green salad for her serving of vegetables.
According to the New York State Department of Health, choking is the fourth-leading cause of death in children under age 5. Certain foods that would normally be recommended for weight gain in teens and adults can be hazardous for a 1-year-old. For example, peanut butter is very nutrient-dense, but it poses a choking risk for a small child. Other foods that should be avoided at this age, despite their nutritional content, include cheese cubes, dried fruit, nuts, whole grapes and fish with bones.
Talk to Your Doctor
If you’re concerned about your 1-year-old’s weight, make an appointment with your pediatrician. He might order blood, urine or other tests to rule out any medical conditions, or decide to monitor your child’s caloric intake. However, according to Babycenter, if your little one is hitting her development milestones on time and a medical condition can’t be found for the lack of weight gain, rest assured that your child is probably healthy. Ask the doctor what she suggests to promote weight gain, and make changes in your child’s diet as appropriate.
- MedlinePlus: Failure to Thrive
- HealthyChildren.org: Physical Appearance and Growth: Your 1 Year Old
- Babycenter: Failure to Gain Weight
- HealthyChildren.org: Ask the Pediatrician
- Children's Hospital Los Angeles: Promoting Healthy Weight Gain
- New York State Department of Health: Choking Prevention for Children