What should I feed my underweight 16-month-old?

by Lyla
(Lake Oswego, Oregon)

My son will be 16 months on the 10th and his length is 29" long and he weighs 18 lbs 7 oz today. He gained one pound in two weeks so I'm very happy but I'd like him to gain weight faster and catch up to the growth chart. He was 6 lbs 10 oz at birth and was doing very well until I started him on the jars of baby food at 6 or 7 months and I was still breast feeding him. At 9 months he was 15 lbs 8 oz and no longer on the charts and he stayed that weight until he was 13 months and he actually lost a few ounces. He had a blood test which came back normal and the doctor said to "Stuff him" so since he was 13 months I threw out the jars and I've been making home made baby food and he gained two pounds in a month. Then we traveled to some relatives for a week and half and he lost some ounces and when we came home he got sick with his first cold and lost more. He's gaining again fast but I'd like to know what I can feed him to speed up his weight gaining and what's safe for his age.

This week he's been feeding himself cut up meat balls for lunch and dinner and I've been giving him pureed mango, vegetable straws (Basically potato chips), cheese and milk with it. Some times peas and corn but they hardly ever make it to his mouth.

He eats Greek yogurt and cheerios for breakfast and a pureed avocado and more veggie straws for a snack with water and a toaster strudel for a later snack with either a peanut butter, heavy cream, ice cream milkshake or a sundae. Late at night I give him Carnation Instant Breakfast with whole milk and heavy cream.

Sometimes I give him wheat bread with his lunch and dinner but today I'm out so he didn't have any. Some days He has peanut butter toast, grilled cheese sandwiches, spaghetti, doughnuts, brownies, cup cakes, broccoli and cheese, carrots, oranges, peaches, bananas, squash, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes with heavy cream and butter, pineapple and other things I can't think of right now.

What are some things I should stock up on and how often should I feed him and are there any safe supplements for a 16 months old? Oh and what happens when he does catch up with the growth chart and all he's used to eating is super fattening food?

Thank you!

Answer: It sounds like you are certainly doing all the right things and following your doctor's recommendations to "stuff him. I would add some olive oil to his diet and stress the good fats such as oils, nut butters and avocado over the like cupcakes, doughnuts and ice cream.

As for supplements, Carnation Instant Breakfast is a good one, as are Pediasure and Pediasmart, which is an organic powder that can be ordered online or at a health food store. These are good for children over age 1. If he likes juice you can try Resource Boost Breeze, which is a high calorie supplemental drink that comes in fruity flavors. You can also add dried milk powder to his pureed foods to give them a calorie and protein boost. Check out our high calorie section for more ideas to get your little one fattened up.

It's great that he has such a good variety of foods and seems like he's doing well with different textured foods. You don't mention how much of each thing he will eat but with the foods mention he should certainly be on the chart in no time!

You can feed him 4 to 6 times a day, depending on portion sizes. Often toddlers do better with small, frequent meals, so 6 times a day is optimal if possible.

Once he catches up and is nicely on the growth chart you need to slowly wean him off the super fattening foods and give lower fat, healthier foods. Start to do this once he reaches the third percentile and replace one high fat meal with a lower fat one. For example, replace the heavy cream in his Carnation Instant Breakfast with all whole milk, and once he gets to the tenth or twenty fifth percentile give plain whole milk.

You can replace his potato chips with Snikidy snacks which are an organic, healthier option, and his ice cream shake with a fruit smoothie. Don't stress how you are going to transition him too much though, concentrate on getting him on the chart first, and worry about that later.

Good Luck! You're doing a great job.

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