My 18 Month Old Son Is Small - Worried for Him - Please Help!

Updated on February 08, 2013
M.F. asks from Riverside, OR
24 answers

Hi Mamas,

My sweet little boy is just about to be 18 months old, and weighs 20.5- 21 pounds, and is 76 cm (30 inches) long. For months, I've been worried that he is small, and have seen an endocrinologist (who did not think he needed testing - I have my own hormonal issues, so I thought they might be related), and a series of pediatricians. It is so hard to find a good and comforting baby doctor!

Anyway, I just had a visit at the pediatrician because our whole family is sick and I wanted to get him a throat swab. I asked the ped to measure him, and told her that I'm still nursing him (only partially, as obviously he is already taking down little sandwiches, fruits, and crackers all day). She started screaming at me that my nursing him is inhibiting his growth, and that I may have already done him permanent damage (stunted his growth). I basically broke down crying in the office, to which she replied "what are you crying for??", and demanded I stop nursing him immediately. I was devastated, and am now terrified that my tiny boy is going to be a midget because of me.

I decided that she is right that I should reduce nursing - maybe he'll eat more. In the meantime, I sometimes give him iron supplements, he gets a multi-vitamin gummy bear every day, but he won't drink formula. He's not a big drinker at all, for that matter, and only takes sips from a cup, unlike his tall sister who used to suck down full bottles of formula with great happiness.

I'm really scared for my son - is he going to grow up to be shorter than me??? I'm 5"3 and my husband is 5"7. Should I get him other tests? I'm nervous to start subjecting him to tons of poking and prodding - which he hates - but want him to be well, happy, and have every advantage in life.

FYI - he was also a little late to turn over, a little late to crawl, and a little late to walk, but now has several words in his vocabulary and is so bright and inquisitive. He's fun loving and has no problems with eye contact or interaction (except for being a little shy of strangers).

Please help a mother who doesn't know which direction to turn! I don't feel like I'm getting any good advise from doctors...

PS - I know it's hard to believe, but believe it! She looked at his height and weight, told me it was a "catastrophe!" and said that only "crazy Americans" nurse their babies after a year old (I don't live in the US).

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So What Happened?

First of all, words cannot describe the comfort you offered me in your responses - just having someone listen to your concerns and offer their honest and sympathetic opinions did so much to make me feel like everything will be ok.

We took my son to an endocrinologist (I have hormonal issues I thought he might have inherited) who has seen him twice. He says my son is at the 3rd percentile, but that he is now starting to grow at a good pace. He says he's not going to order any tests, but that we should come back in 4 months for another checkup. I really like this doctor, who is both calming and serious, and has a professional eye on my child. So, thank G-d, so far so good! My son is adorable, super mess-making, and fantastic. Thank you again for all of your help, dear Mamas!

More Answers



answers from Pittsburgh on

Extended breast feeding is not stunting his growth. Breast milk is more calorically dense than many foods. However you child should be eating more than sandwiches and fruit. At his age he can eat everything you do. Just make sure the size and texture are appropriate to avoid choking. Likely your son is small because both his parents are small.

Actually extended bfing is way more common in the rest of the world.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I don't know where you live but please DUMP this pediatrician immediately. Even if there were any reason to stop breastfeeding (and I don't see how there could be), the way she treated you was borderline abusive! Screaming, calling you (and us) crazy, shouting at you stop crying in her office? I would never see her again.

As for your son: If you are petite and your husband or SO is on the small side -- 5'7" is pretty short, my husband is 5'8" and people say he's short --has any doctor ever just realized that your son has "short genes"? Our godson was very, very small and up until he was about three, his parents were in constant panic that he was "failing to thrive" or not absorbing nutrients or something. Doctors bounced them from program to program, test to test, until ONE doctor actually looked at the parents. Dad is very short and very, very slim and eats like a horse but never gains an ounce. Mom is very short and heavier but still -- very short. Their son is perfectly healthy and is always going to be short and very slim! It was genetics, not some defect. Your son may indeed be as short as you are. Why would that be a problem if he is healthy?

Now, if you have hormonal issues your son may as well, so I think you're right to want to find an endocrinologist who will listen to you about your own family history and possibly test your son. At a minimum an endocrinologist should have asked to see your son again in a few months and consider then whether to test him, depending on his growth. But please consider that your son may just be a small person, period. Being small and being healthy are not mutually exclusive. He is eating a lot, from what you say, and is developing mentally and physically. I would find a better pediatrician, and see if that doctor is concerned about his weight or not. Then go from there.

A couple of things to bear in mind: You mention seeing "a series of pediatricians." That's kind of a red flag; I have to ask, do you think you might have been doctor-shopping in hopes of finding a doctor who is as concerned as you are, even if there is not a reason to be concerned? You seem very, very focused on whether your son will be short.You want him to be "happy, healthy and have every advantage iin life" but seem to be equating that, at least in part, with his weight and height. To be honest, you sound like you are anxious and perhaps too fixated on the size issue and on how that affects the entire rest of his life. You can't control whether he is going to be small but you can control your anxiety -- which he can detect, even at his young age; parental stress does telegraph itself even to young children.

Please think hard about whether you have other sources of anxiety and stress that might be manifesting themselves in this intense focus on his size. (IF he is otherwise healthy-- I am not downplaying your concerns, just noting that if doctors say he really is healthy, just small, the focus on size may indicate that you need something to focus on....)

In the country where you live, do you have any support system or family or friends other than your husband? It sounds like you could use a reality check with some experienced moms or just some time away from your son with other adults. I worry that maybe you are focusing in on him like this possibly too much and it's a focus for a more generalized anxiety or stress--? Just something to keep in mind.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Albuquerque on

Oh my gosh - you poor dear. What an awful doctor. Find a new one immediately. Every study ever done shows that extended nursing (whether in the US or elsewhere) has POSITIVE benefits to the child, it doesn't create midgets.

You're short, your husband is short, it stands to reason that your son is going to be short too. That doesn't mean you shouldn't worry... but it does mean that the doctor shouldn't scare you with unsupported medical opinions.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Um, is this for real? Actually in other countries they tend to nurse longer than Americans. Find a different doc. Your kid is going to be fine. He sounds like he is proportionate and intelligent. He probably won't be a very big man but you and your husband are both short, so that is to be expected. He will probably be similar to his fathers height, and you love him right? Relax and keep breast feeding, to hell with what people say.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Biloxi on

only "crazy Americans" nurse their babies after a year old
That line alone summed it up for me. Cultural differences - while wonderful, can sometimes slant opinions.
Find a new doctor, pronto.

My son was always low on the height/weight charts. Met milestones - though he walked later than most. His doctors have never showed any concern. And I have been fortunate to have the same pediatrician for 14 years - who has been able to track his growth.

I am 5'2, his father 5'10. He was always the smallest (and youngest) in his classes, and most of friends were almost a head taller than him. His first girlfriend was taller than he was.

He is now 16, and a healthy, slim young man. He is about 5'4 or 5 now. He will most likely gain a few inches in height as he continues to grow, but he will always be slim as he comes from a long line of slim men on both sides of our family tree.

Please don't worry yourself sick over this. Genetics play a big part in height/weight. If he is otherwise healthy, and growing, relax and enjoy him.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Whhhat? Seriously? No.
Get a different doctor ASAP! This cannot be tolerated. My baby is 20 months and weighs 23 lbs. So??
Shes fine, and even if she was underweight, she is still healthy, growing, and striving.
Crazy American? Your doctor is a dumbass.
Maybe you should find an American Ped.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Where do you live? That doc is nuts. MOST of the rest of the world nurses till 2 years or more. We're crazy Americans because we DON'T nurse. Now, if you were nursing exclusively, THAT would be a problem. But you do need to cut back so he's nursing and has regular "meals" of people food. You AND your husband are short. Your son will probably be short. As long as he is nutritionally healthy, and proportional, please stop freaking out. Contact the American Embassy or consulate or whatever and ask for help. They may have nothing to offer, but you never know.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

Your son sounds perfectly normal to me. You seriously need a new pediatrician. This one is off her nut AND has a terrible bedside manner. She also clearly has no education at all about breastfeeding, doesn't pay attention to the AAP nor the WHO.

Lady be whack. Drop her like a hot pocket.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

First of all, I would find a new doctor. You need to feel comfortable with your pediatrician. Secondly, breastfeeding does not cause your child to be small. Genetics does. Nursing helps provide healthy fat and calories to your son's diet which is beneficial to him. It changes as your child grows and actually has more fat and vitamins per ounce now than it did earlier. It also ensures he is hydrated well since he doesn't yet drink much from a cup. Solid food is obviously important at his age, age but breastmilk helps ensure he gets the nutrition he needs. Breastmilk also helps provide antibodies to keep your son healthy. Also, research has shown that extended breastfeeding is great for brain development and will actually help increase your child's IQ by a few points. My daughter is ten and already 5'1. My four year old son is 45 inches tall. I breastfed both of them for much longer than you have with your son. I did not stunt their growth. They are very tall for their ages. People all over the world breastfeed for several years, and it has no poor impact on their children. If you have taken your child to several different doctors who all agree he is healthy, you should relax. You can't make your son tall if his DNA says he won't be. be Celebrate your healthy child.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

Your son is probably fine -- I'm 5'1" and my husband is 5'6" and our kids were right where your son is at that age. Find another doctor (are you sure she "screamed" at you? That's a little hard to believe, although I believe she did recommend you not nurse. Perhaps she asked why you were crying because you overreacted to her comments). I nursed my son until he was about 22 months. He has a summer birthday so we held him back and let him start kindergarten at six - so he's one of the oldest in his class and still one of the smallest. There's nothing wrong with him -- he just has really small parents and really small genes. Same with my daughter -- I finally gave up on the 20# rule for turning her car seat when she was a baby because she was almost 2 before she hit 20#. Even now, at 10, she's less than 65 pounds. There are kindergarteners as tall or taller than she is, and she's in 5th grade. She's got small parents.

Do get a second opinion. At a minimum, you're not comfortable with her judgment or reaction to you. But he's not going to be a midget -- that's a genetic mutation. His parents are small and so is he.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Please don't worry about it, and don't stop nursing. The pediatrician sounds like an uninformed idiot. There is nothing wrong with nursing your baby up to age 2 and over. Breastmilk is a very nutrient dense food and far healthier than formula, which no baby needs past age 1 anyway. At this point, his diet should be mostly food and either whole milk or breast milk. Breast milk can take the place of whole milk in his diet - if you decide to stop, just go to whole milk instead of formula.

FWIW, your son sounds totally fine to me. My youngest son was the same size at the same age as your son. He's 7 now and still small, but someone needs to be on the lower end of the growth chart, why not my kid? With your height and your husband's, your kids are probably not going to be big. I also wouldn't worry about being "a little late" on those milestones...compared to who? Your daughter? Don't compare your kids - they are their own people and as long as he eventually hits those milestones, he's fine. If at 18 months he's walking now, then when he started to walk doesn't matter. My two younger boys started walking at 15 months. Taking up to 17 months is considered perfectly normal.

I'm no doctor, but from what you describe, he sounds normal and healthy to me. Relax and enjoy your son. And keep breast feeding if you want to. I would find a different pediatrician - perhaps ask friends for recommendations. The one who berated you about breastfeeding should not be in her profession.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pueblo on

Find a new doctor NOW! Seriously.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Wow. Drop that idiot doctor THIS MINUTE.
Actually, Americans are the *worst* about breast feeding - globally speaking. You did NOT stunt your son's growth by breast feeding! My boy BF until he was over 2 - trust me, there is nothing small about my boy. There isn't really any way for you to determine how tall he'll be, that's genetics. Forcing him to eat and pack on the pounds won't make him taller!
I'd say to ask around for opinions about doctors. More important than if someone does/doesn't like a doctor is WHY. You might like a particular style that drove someone else crazy & you won't know until you find out why.
Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

If he has always been on the lower end of the percentile chart, then he is just growing at his own normal rate. If he was 10th percentile on his height/weight and has maintained that curve, he is just small. If he was 50th percentile for the first year, but has dropped to the 10th percentile since turning one, that would be cause for further investigation. And, I'm sorry, but no doctor should be screaming at your about anything. Find a friend you trust and who loves their pediatrician, then start going there.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Bloomington on

First, I have 2 things... Your son is most likely fine, just small . Second, World Health Orginization advocates nursing until , age 2 . So, until one of you, does not want to nurse , I find it hard to believe nursing , is the reason for his size.

Obviously, you are extremely concerned about your son. For that reason alone, you seek out more opinions. Since you've already been to an Endo, maybe a developmental Ped, would be a good next step, to give yourself peace of mind.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

He's just little. I nursed both mine for 19mths. One is 5' 10" and the other 5'11. I am 5'1" and my H is 6 ft. Their hight is pretty solidly genetic.

He probably does need a more varied diet but no matter what you feed him he will be, what he will be. Instead of being fearful for him, put that energy into making him feel perfectly loved, not like something is wrong with him.
Confidence evens out short stature.

Even if you wanted to do anything about his hight, the testing would come at about 11 yrs old. Then the decision about Human Growth Hormone, which is terribly expensive.

Right now, it's your anxiety that's driving you to seek help for a perfect 18 mth old. Look into counseling. It will give you the assurance and confidence to enjoy him and know that you are a good mom. Then you can make good decisions about his docs.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

First, get a new doc
Secondly, you and your husband are not big. Now if you were say 5'11" and your husband 6'5" you would have reason to be concerned. Sounds like a normal size little guy who comes from two small parents. Good things come in small packages. You are doing fine in my opinion. He is happy and healthy. I worked for a Ped Endo. I will never forget the parents that were concerned about child's size. He looked at the parents and said your son is perfect. He did some x rays to put their minds at ease. Now my husband is 6'5" n me 5'10. Our kids were all huge. Very tall. Breathe and try to relax, but I would. It return to that doc. Can't be.iebe you were told you were doing permanent damage to your son by nursing him. Holy cow. Hugs you way.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Ignore the Dr. She has no idea what she is talking about and NEVER go back to her. I had the same experience when I was living in Ireland and my daughter at 6 months was less than 5% on her weight and hadn't started solids yet. My daughter didn't hit 20 lbs until after her 2nd birthday (and she was full term and nearly 8 lbs) and she's perfectly healthy. The growth charts most doctors use are based on formula fed babies who do tend to be chunkier, but not healthier. As long as your son is meeting his milestones with walking, talking, etc. don't worry about it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Oh my. I nursed my daughter past 18 months and she is now in the 90th percentile for height (not for weight, she is very healthly). As long as your son is eating a well balanced diet, do not worry. Growth spurts come at different times, for different kids.Good luck finding a nice doctor.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

I'd first find a new doctor. Any doctor that yells at you to stop breastfeeding immediately and then wonders why you're crying doesn't deserve to have patients.

Honestly though, I wouldn't be overly concerned. If all the other doctors say he's growing fine, and nothing is wrong, then stop looking for something to be wrong. Just be content that he got your genes and is going to be smaller, and not tall like daddy.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Albany on

Find a new Dr. please! There is no problem with the size of your child. And, if she really is concerned, she should be way more tactful about the way she tells you and gives you advice. My daughter who is 20 mos. weighted 20.5 lbs at her 18mos apt. also. She was in the 25th % for weight- why does your Dr. think this is too small?- My daughter, who is 7 weighed only 18 lbs at her 18mos. apt.! She was never on the charts until she was 4. The Dr. wasn't concerned because she was eating well and meeting all of her developmental milestones and was happy and healthy. If your child is small AND not eating and not developing normally, then there is reason for concern. Being small in itself is not reason for concern. I am also 5ft. 2 inches and my husband it just under 5ft. 7 in. Guess what... we are never going to have tall/big children.... and that is just what the Dr. said to us! That being said, your little guy doesn't need to nurse for nutrition anymore (I am not saying you shouldn't), but maybe if you stop nursing, he will start taking in more table food/drink. If he doesn't like milk, try cheese, full fat yogurt, pasta with olive oil, peanut butter. These are all healthy hight calorie foods our pediatrician suggested for our older daughter just to give her a little boost in weight. Your child is definately within the normal range for size... on the smaller end of the percentile. But, like our pediatrician said about my older daughter, "somebody has to be in the 1st percentile"! She is still petite... but she is now in the 40th% for height and 20th % for weight... she is active, healthy and bright. I have an almost 5 yr. old son who is also a little guy.... Just keep on offering your child healthy table foods and if he is happy, healthy and developing, don't worry about it. And, find a different Dr. or asked more questions about why she is concerned.



answers from Boise on

The doctor you saw is a HORRIBLE PERSON and I am sure she must be a terrible doctor as well. Your son will suffer from no damage permanent or otherwise from breastfeeding, the very idea is ludicrous! No doctor should spout such lies and fear mongering, it is unconscionable. Breastfeeding beyond age 1 is not that unusual and it is beneficial in many ways. I was breastfed until I was 3 and I am now 5’9”. I have breasted each of my children 2-3 years and they are not underweight or too short. Your son sounds perfectly fine to me. If you and your husband are not that large why would you expect your child to be a whopper? His small size is probably genetic and has nothing to do with his diet at all. Infant formula is not really necessary for a child over 12 months, and it is not healthier than breastmilk. Just the opposite in fact, breastmilk is MUCH healthier so you don’t need to try to get your son to take bottles of formula. Also, when you do decide to wean your son (it is YOUR decision!) do NOT go cold turkey, you need to wean gradually so that you will not get clogged milk ducts and even mastitis. Gradual weaning is also much easier on your son so he does not feel abandoned or rejected by you. You need to relax and not get so worried about your son, as long as he is eating healthy food and is active and happy then you can be assured that you are doing your job as his mother and that he will grow up just fine! Best of luck to you!



answers from Salt Lake City on

My daughter didn't break 20 lbs until she was 18 months, either. Small babies run on my husband's side of the family. Don't worry about it. The size of a baby has nothing to do with how big they will turn out to be as adults.
For his age, I would say you should cut back on nursing so he'll eat more solids (you never said how often you were nursing him). I'd say twice a day is plenty.
And the other mothers are right. Get a new pediatrician. I have two doctors in my family (my brother is a ped and my husband's father is a family practice) and I would throat punch either one of them If I knew that they treated a patient so horribly. What a freak.
And by the way, there are LOTS of American women who nurse their babies past the one year mark.



answers from Atlanta on

Im sure that your son is probably fine. You and your hubby are not tall people. As long as he is healthy is all that matters. Dont matter how tall or short he is. But to put your mind at ease, just get a second opinion

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