Toddler weight gain: Why size matters

Anchel talks about why the weight of her tiny tot causes her anxiety every few months.

Syona's trip to the doctor.

When Syona was born she weighed a whopping 4 lbs 3 oz. Now, almost two years later, she tips the scales at almost 19 lbs. She is tiny.

Syona’s weight has always been a cause of mild concern for her doctors, and as a result we’re seen at the paediatric consultation clinic at SickKids in Toronto, which focuses on her weight gain and any feeding issues. When she was under a year we set up a feeding schedule with consultation from the clinic and started to add cream to her milk in our efforts to fatten her up. She’s done really great with the schedule, enjoys flavourful food, and we’ve recently moved away from purees; Syona wasn’t a big fan of chewing so we very slowly introduced more texture in her food in our efforts to progress past purees.

Because of her lightweight status, I generally cook special meals for Syona. The smells of high-fat, high-carb and high-protein food wafts from our house. I’ve actually started a Pinterest board called “high-fat recipes for my underweight toddler” and use it to gather meal and snack ideas. When we go grocery shopping we scour the aisles and read labels, ensuring we’re getting the highest fat/calorie options for any prepared food. Her breakfast is usually homemade, high-fat banana bread French toast, pan-fried in coconut oil (coconut oil contains slightly more calories per serving than other fats and is considered a healthy oil), served with full-fat Greek yogurt. Her mashed potatoes are made with cheese, whipping cream and butter. Any sandwich she eats is filled with avocado, mayonnaise and cheese, and Haagen Daaz is a regular staple in our freezer because it contains more fat per serving than most other ice creams.

We’re fortunate because Syona likes a wide variety of food. Her diet is also filled with fruits, veggies, at least one meal based on a vegetarian source of protein per day and most of her carbs are of the whole grain variety. Syona’s special diet ensures that I usually don’t nibble on her leftovers (though the irony of the fact that I’m still struggling to lose the stubborn baby weight is not lost on me).

We go back to the clinic at SickKids a few times a year, and yesterday was one of those days. Syona weighed in at almost 18 ½ lbs, which the doctor considered acceptable. There is always a part of me that is worried that they won’t be happy with her weight (and I start thinking about how I’ll react if the doctors start discussing a feeding tube). But I have to remind myself that there is a good chance that Syona is just small. Both Dilip and I are South Asian and on the smaller side, and Syona’s two “typically developing” cousins are super lightweights as well. And kids with cerebral palsy tend to burn calories at a much higher rate anyway.

We offer Syona lots of delicious food, hope that she eats a decent amount and keep feeding time stress-free. And while I worry about the occasional skipped meal, I try and get over it because I think having a laidback attitude about Syona’s eating will continue to foster her enjoyment of food.

Did you ever worry about your kids’ weight gain (either too much or too little)? What are your toddler feeding tips?

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