If the weight-for-length calculation on your baby's growth chart drops below the fifth percentile, he is considered underweight. This means that more than 95 percent of babies his age weigh more than he does. Be sure to seek professional medical advice about your concerns regarding your baby’s weight, since there could be underlying problems that need to be addressed. If you're nursing, a referral to a lactation consultant or a feeding clinic might also be in order. If the doctor has already advised you to increase your baby's calories, there are foods and feeding methods that can help.
At around 6 months of age, the average baby will be drinking 24 to 32 ounces of formula or breast milk per day. Instead of increasing that intake, babies need to supplement it with solid foods. By 8 months of age, your baby should be eating solid foods a few times per day. Mealtime is the time to practice feeding skills, advance oral motor development, take in essential nutrients and add more calories for appropriate weight gain.
It’s beneficial to have focused feeding times as infants get older, especially if feeding difficulties are present. Instead of meal sessions that go on indefinitely, which can cause fatigue and frustration for both you and baby, try spending 20 to 30 minutes on feedings more frequently throughout the day. Offering a variety of foods at each meal and rotating through bites of each can increase the volume that babies and children eat in a sitting. Limit juice to 4 to 6 ounces per day to avoid hampering your baby’s appetite.
Include plenty of variety in your baby’s diet. It can be tempting to provide desserts at each meal since they are high in calories, but there are foods within each group that promote weight gain while ensuring a balanced diet. Including a tablespoon of baby cereal in each meal provides extra calories and supplements essential nutrients such as iron. Baby cereal powder can be mixed with formula, breast milk or pureed foods. Read nutrition facts labels for calorie content of baby foods, and aim for 60 to 100 or more calories per serving for fruits and vegetables and 100 calories or more for meats and mixed dishes.
Talk to your doctor about whether it would be appropriate to use commercial calorie boosters in foods or mix infant formula using a different recipe to make it higher in calories. Never mix your baby's formula to a different concentration than the one specified on the can unless a medical professional gives you specific instructions. Ask a dietitian for advice on products that can be mixed into your baby's foods to add calories from carbohydrate, fat, protein or a combination of these nutrients.