Since about the age of 6 months, our toddler has had to have monthly weigh-ins with our local nurse because he just wasn't putting it on like other kids. Before 6 months, he'd been tracking pretty average. But at average height, his weight gain slowed down significantly and he was around the 3rd percentile in weight - that's right down the bottom of the charts they give you.
At 21 months, we've finally stretched our weigh-in appointments to 3 monthly since he's now about 15th percentile. When I told my mum this, she got so excited... "out of 20, that's really good!". No mum, it's 15 out ot 100, but yes, it is still pretty good considering where we've come from.
One of the first things that helped was to see a peadeatric allergy dietician. Our son's head circumference continued to grow, and this is one of the most important factors in measuring growth. Once children hit the age of 3, the head stops growing. So if their head size isn't growing now, then there can be problems that last a life time. Although our son wasn't growing in height as much, he could still make up for any deficiencies when he hits adolesence. Weight... well he has his whole life to stack that on! So taking into account that our son's head was growing fairly normally, and his mental and physical development seemed to be growing in leaps and bounds, there was no cause for alarm.
Keeping all that in mind, we still had to take action to increase his weight so that he has some sort of health buffer should he fall sick or lose his appetite, plus to make sure his growth does continue. Some of the ideas we've used will sound totally wrong to some people, but the rules are different when your child has allergies, and the rules are different when they're super skinny and need to put on weight.
These are some of the methods we've used to help him put on weight:
One of the simplest ways to increase calories was to add Nuttelex (a non-dairy margarine replacement) to our toddler's food. 6 teaspoons a day was what we started off with. Fortunately for us, our son actually liked eating spoonfuls of the stuff, probably because of the slight saltiness. I cook nearly all his foods in it, and often finish off a meal with a spoonful of it, especially at dinner.
Believe it or not, we were also told to add sugar to his food. Yes, that's right. When you think about it, it's not that bad. Our son can't have any jams or other spreads, so instead, I mix up a teaspoon of Nuttelex with a teaspoon of sugar, and there you have it, one high-calorie spread! I know sugar isn't good for your teeth, but eating it at mealtime is Ok. You just don't want them sucking on sugar throughout the day - that's what gives you decay.
Increase protein and carbs
We give our toddler meat/fish/beans twice a day. I never buy lean meat - but try and choose cuts with some fat. Chicken legs and chicken wings are great options. Also, did you know that chicken thighs have 3 times the iron levels than chicken breast? Makes sense when you think about the difference in taste and texture. The first course in his meals is usually a protein. Second course is carbs - potato/rice/pasta/polenta. Third course is sweets - sweet cereal and sometimes some fruit.
You'll notice I haven't put any vegies in his meals. Sometimes he has vegies with his meals - corn or chickpeas (which both have a higher carb level). But typically I only give vegetables for morning and afternoon tea. That's because I don't want him filling up his stomach with low-calorie foods, and definately not at dinner time. Our dietician suggested a vitamin supplement called Pentavite, but we haven't seriously tried it yet. So yes, restricting veg intake sounds contrary to most people, but our main aim is weight gain, not weight loss. As adults, we often say to fill up on veg to lose weight... so we're doing the exact opposite, and it seems to be working, little by little.
Foods to watch
This is an area which I found interesting. Apparently there is a balance between glucose and fructose in some foods that lends themselves to be more of a laxative. If we want to put on weight, we definitely don't want foods going straight through if you know what I mean. In contrast, if you want your kid to be a little more regular, then perhaps these are food you should consider! For us, we had to limit watermelon, pears and honey.
So very much to think about every day and every meal, but it's certainly paid off. If I see a bit more of a chubby cheek or chubby arms, I get so very excited! Baby steps, meal by meal, our little boy is growing bigger and stronger. Hooray!