19 answers

18 Month Old Needs to Gain Weight

My daughter is 18 months old and only weighs 20 lbs. She was 5 lbs at birth. According to my mom, I too was very tiny as a child. My pediatrician said to give her more carbs and more junk food. I don't really give her too much junk because I want to teach her good eating habits. My husband has terrible eating habits and I was afraid that she would pick up on that. I'm afraid that I may have over-compensated. Any ideas on what I can give her?

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So What Happened?™

Thanks everybody. I feel like I got a ton of support as far as teaching my daughter good eating habits. She loves her milk, yogurt, cheese omelets, wheat bread, baked potato with margarine, macaroni and cheese, etc. She really is a good eater and will eat anything I put in front of her (which is why I try to be careful what I give her). She is reaching all her milestones and is proportionate for her weight. She is on the taller side (75th percentile for height). As far as "junk" goes...junk for her is pudding, crackers, any Gerber snacks, etc. I don't want to give her cakes and cookies and stuff like that. If she has those things while at someone else's house that's fine with me, as long as she is not getting them on a daily basis.

Featured Answers

Milkshakes!! they are delish and full of calories. when you make them you can even add fresh fruit, etc to make them a more healthy snack. make them with whole milk too more fat and calories. good luck

oh my gosh I would totally not worry about that - My daughter was only like 21 or 22 lbs at 18 months and she started at 7 pounds. She is super healthy and I never give her "junk" food. What about a lot of pasta and try adding carnation instant breakfast to her cups of milk.

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My son was also under weight...we gave him instant carnation vanilla powder in his milk. One package per day. It is loaded with protein. Also, we kept him on whole milk. Your pediatrician's advice does not sound healthy...maybe you should see a nutritionist.

Good luck.

I would not give her more junk food. I can't believe your pediatrician said that! You are right to teach her good eating habits. There are plenty of healthy foods you can give her which will help her gain weight -- whole milk is one of them, bananas, cheese, full fat yogurt, beef, breads, potatoes, pasta. Little kids do need more fat in their diet until they are at least 5, but you can get that through foods which are healthier than junk food, such as full-fat dairy. Some kids are just smaller than others, but that's not necessarily unhealthy. Good luck!

I want to agree with everyone that this sounds ridiculous and that you shouldn't give your daughter junk food. My son is 20 months and 20lbs, but he's following the growth curve. Also, we talked with a nutritionist once that said it's more important that your child is proportonal than the weight (i.e. if she's too fat and not tall enough then that is more of a problem). I just thought I'd throw in some other ideas for weight gain though that our pediatrician suggested (and stay away from junk food). She said that carbs and dairy are the way to go. She suggested that a good way to add calories is to put butter or oil on anything-- butter up the veggies, pasta, and even fruit. Also, you can use things like sour cream for your daughter to dip things in. I would stay away from the junk food 'cause it is more empty calories than anything else. It just causes sugar rushes, etc and you can get more substantial calories from eating foods that are good for you-- not all calories are the same. Lastly, someone suggested peanut butter, since your daughter is under 2 I would suggest NO peanut butter until she is two since peanuts before then can result in allergies. Good luck and I would think about getting a second opinion if it's possible.

I just wanted to let you know that my daughter did not weigh 20 lbs. until she was 2 years old. The pediatrician was worried and made us get a bunch of tests done. Turns out that nothing, thank God, was wrong. She's just going to be little. My husband and I are not very big ourselves. While going through the whole testing process we were worried sick about it. I don't really have any great ideas as to what you can feed her but I just wanted to let you know that we have been in your shoes and some kids are just small!
Our doctor did suggest giving her pediasure, but she would not drink it, even when we made it like a milkshake. If I think of anything else that we have tried I'll keep you in mind. In the mean time, good luck and remember, good things come in small packages!!!!

Hi J.,
my daughter was 6 pounds when she was born and all through my pegnancy that doctor's were worried that she was not growing enough....nearly drove me crazy with it. But I'm a small boned person, so naturally I would give birth to a small child...and she was small not unhealthy!! She was born perfectly healthy and beautiful. She will be 3 soon and she still only weighs 28 pounds. There IS NO right weight a baby should be as long as they are healthy and I hate to disagree with the "expert", but I don't think feeding your daughter junk food would be a good idea even if she were underweight, that would only make her unhealthy, bigger perhaps, but still unhealthy. It's my experience that kids at this age eat when they are hungry and don't when they're not. They rarely starve themselves. As for what to feed them, I can tell you my daughter LIVED on chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese for the longest time. She also went on a broccoli kick. Feed her what she'll eat. That's the main thing. Try to get in some vegetables if you can. Don't worry about getting her to eat a "balanced" meal so much now, it'll will probably be a losing battle right now. Don't worry so much about her weight. She sounds fine to me. As long as she is healthy, I don't think you have anything to worrry about. Hope this helped. Good Luck


I had premature twins, girl and boy, now 4 years-old. My daughter put on calories very well, but my son did not, a very picky eater. My pediatrician suggested power drinks, which included putting ice cream, carmel syrup or sherbert in the milk. My son loved it and he started gaining weight. He now better eating habits and is doing very well.

I hope this helps.

I would not increase her junk food. I agree with you. That might undermine your teaching her good eating habits and nutrition. Just offer her plenty of healthy foods. Does she like peanut butter? If so, that's a wonderful protein rich, no cholesterol, high calorie food. Yogurt makes great dips for fruit and veggies. If you increase carbs, try to keep them whole-grain based. I'd rather see a kid eating one slice of good whole wheat bread rather than three slices of icky white bread in a plastic bag. Try brown rice and whole wheat pastas. You can get very creative with cheese or olive oil based sauces for those. And if she's meant to be petite, so be it. That's her body type. My oldest was always off the charts. He was 40 pounds before he was 2, but he was a solid little guy, all muscle. Today, he's the same way. He's not quite 6' tall and weighs 195. He's just a mass of muscle. He's built like the men on my side of the family with barrel chests and lots of muscles. The docs were always saying that he was overweight, but there was never any flab on that little muscle-man! There is a normal range, but sometimes, what's normal for some people is very small or very large for others.

oh my gosh I would totally not worry about that - My daughter was only like 21 or 22 lbs at 18 months and she started at 7 pounds. She is super healthy and I never give her "junk" food. What about a lot of pasta and try adding carnation instant breakfast to her cups of milk.

This is all too familiar. My son now is 2 1/2 years old and weighs about 24lbs now. When he was born he was in the 25th percentile and and for about a year and a half he decreased to the 3rd percentile. I know scary, but regardless of percentile factor he was gaining weight at a steady pace just not fast as the average child. but the thing was i was only feeding him nutritious foods and he was constantly eating. he just had a high metabolism. At that point, my doctor recommended him going on medication to increase his appetite. It helped a little but i didn't agree with whole idea. So as soon as he gained enough weight, i took him off the meds. I don't believe in drugging your child unnecessarily. He's still a small child but so was i and so was my husband at his age. It could be just genetics that are in affect. i wouldn't give your child junk food that won't solve anything but may only create problems later on. Also my husband doesn't have the best eating habits but around our son i have him make a point to eat nutritiously to set an example. I would get a second opinion on options for your child. if giving him the medication is an option, (i can't remember the name of it) but try it. There are side effects i remember that so just do some research on that before you make a decision. For my son the only side affect he had was sleepiness. Again, i would go for a second opinion. Good luck,

Hi - I'm curious why your pediatrician is saying this. My daughter was 6 pounds when she was born and was only 20 pounds as well at 18 months. As long as they continue to grow/gain weight on the curve consistent with their birth weight, my pediatrician did not get concerned. My daughter is still a little peanut and she eats like a horse. :) Depending on how much you like your pediatrician, you might want to seek another opinion too. Like I said, my daughter had the same weight at that age and my pediatrician told me the opposite of what yours is saying.

If you feel like she needs to gain more...she is still on whole milk, right? Is she getting the daily amount of dairy? You could try putting the weight on by making sure she gets all of the dairy (milk/yogurt) that she should have. Maybe give her smaller meals more frequently. I am shocked that your pediatrician told you to give her more junk food given the child obesity that we are seeing daily. If you want to give her carbs, I would do pasta (whole wheat so it's nutritional) and potatoes (white and sweet). Sweet potatoes are extremely nutritious. You can cut both of them up and bake them to make french fries, which kids love. Fresh fruit is great too - it's high in sugar, but the healthy kind rather than junk food sugar.

Good luck!


I don't think you should feed your daughter junk food for her to gain weight. If you are that concerned then you should just give her more of the healthy foods that you normally give her. Or you can add some olive or canola oil to some of her meals. These are healthy alternatives to loading her up with sugar and fat loaded junk foods. I am really surprised your doctor even recommended it. You are right about bad habits but also for the fact that it's been proven that diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol can start at a young age depending on how active children are and how they eat. Try whole wheat pasta and bread, they have more calories than white but they are better for you. Can your daughter eat nuts? Or peanut butter, they are high fat but it's good fat.

I don't think your daughter is very light for her age, my son is only 50lbs and he is 8 years old. He is a little small for his age but I am not worried. If you feed your child junk food the only thing they are going to gain is fat and that really isn't what you want for them.

I brought my 24-month old to CHOP nutrician services (part of GI), and they gave me some advice and ordered a blood test (still awaiting results).

Try putting (olive, peanut, coconut) oil on/in everything -- in soup, on eggs (use an oil sprayer), on pasta. And use a bit of heavy cream in eggs or whatever. Milkshakes, ice cream, etc.

That being said, keep an eye out for possible allergies or food sensitivities, such as milk, soy, peanuts, eggs.

I have been keeping a food log to help me figure this out.

I agree with you about the junk. Even if it solves the weight problem, it causes others.

I don't usually respond or get fired up about these posts, but this one is ridiculous! I can't believe that a board-certified pediatrician would reccomend that you give a toddler more junk food. They are exposed to enough junk and the last thing they need is to be given more. In addition to giving your little more healthy calories, you should also find a new doctor.

Milkshakes!! they are delish and full of calories. when you make them you can even add fresh fruit, etc to make them a more healthy snack. make them with whole milk too more fat and calories. good luck

My 9lb 4oz baby weighed 16lbs 10oz at a year. Check developmental milestones. If she is hitting them, then she is just genetically predetermined to be small. Now at 7 she's only 43 lbs. I'm 5'9 and my husband is 6'

My daughter (now 5) was also 20lbs at 18 months. She has always been on the low end of the percentile chart (less than 20%), but she has hit her milestones and does continue to grow every year. Even now, she is only 34 lbs. The doctor always asks about her eating habits, but says that as long as she is growing, she should be fine. I am on the petite side, so she probably will too.

We have always tried to instill good eating habits and she does eat better than a lot of other kids we know. However, when she does want something that is not good for her, I am not as concerned, because she knows the difference between a healthy snack and junkfood. At this point, I think that junk food in moderation is ok, but I wouldn't want her to start eating it all of the time just to gain weight. Maybe a nutritionist could give you ideas on healthier, higher calorie alternatives.


I agree..do not increase junk food. I mean, if she likes ice cream, that at least has calcium in it which wouldnt be bad. (milkshakes are a good way to bulk up!) But, using full fat mill, olive oil and peanut butter are all good ways to get lots of "good" calories in her and teach her some good habits!

I have a similar situation. A friend of mine had a doctor say this to her with her 27 lb son at 18 months which we all thought was ridiculous. The Dr.'s rationale was that kids at this age slow down and become picky eaters and to keep his weight consistant. I was suppossed to see this doctor with my son and changed my appointment, thank goodness! So when I went to see the doctor, my son, was 23 lbs at 19 months (had only gained 1 lb in 3 months). This doctor told me not to worry, that as long as he was still within his growth range curve from birth (6.5 lbs at birth) then he is perfectly NORMAL!!! So, my suggestion to you is that you find a doctor who understands that following the growth curve is normal and don't change her eating habits! I am sorry you had to go through this but definately get a second opinion if it willl make you feel better!

Hi J., do not worry about your daughters weight as long as she is growing. I also have a daughter that was only 15 pounds at 1 year old and maybe 18 pounds at 18 months old. I Was also told to give here any thing with alot of fat to increase her weight. The doctors told me to take her to a feeding clinic and I was frantic about her not being normal. I did not take her after talking to her physical therapist and alot of other mothers. They some times make you worry over just them being small. My daughter is now 2 1/2 and still only weighs 24 pounds. She never even made it over the 5th percentile on the charts. She is fine and growing on her own curve. She is very bright and is talking full sentences, knows her abc's and colors and can count to 13 by herself. Your daughter will catch up on her weight someday. Kids need the fat for brain developement. I fed her alot of food that was covered in butter or olive oil. She is still small. She likes to drink her whole milk over eating solid food. What is a mom to do but let her eat what she wants to as long as it is not alot of junk food. Please do not worry too much, she will be ok. I was very small as a child and my daughter is taking after me. Good luck! K.

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