Need Child to Gain Weight

Updated on February 16, 2009
D.H. asks from Canton, OH
27 answers

My daughter (age 3)just had her doctors appointment and she needs to gain a lot of weight. She is willing to eat almost all foods, but she won't eat enough of them. One or two bites is all she ever wants. She says she's hungry, she eats a little, and then stops eating. I don't want to make mealtime a battle, but she needs to gain weight. Short of force feeding her- which would only end in tears- I don't know what to do. Her doctor said to give her milkshakes to help gain weight, but I need more suggestions. how do I get her to eat more?

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D.K.

answers from Indianapolis on

For now, work on "JUST ONE MORE BITE", rather than 3 or 4. ONE isn't near as overwhelming as ONE. Every little bit helps! One hear, one there......they add up as much as the ones moms get while feeding and cleaning up after the kids! : > )

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M.P.

answers from Indianapolis on

You can't really force a child to eat, just change what she is eating. Like putting real butter on her vegetables. Maybe give her more snacks throughout the day. Ice cream before bed. My grandson has this same problem, so you are not alone.

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T.

answers from Cincinnati on

My three yr old is thin. What we do is in the morning she has to eat her food first than she gets carnation in her milk. Same for lunch we make her eat before she drinks anything and than she gets her milk, juice, water or drinkable yogart. Than same with dinner. The last three days been good she has even had snacks in between meals and saying she is not full. Not sure if she is going through a growth spurt but will take it. My almost two year old I think is heavier than my 3 yr old. LOL Good luck.

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C.J.

answers from Toledo on

I am a stay at home mom of a 2 1/2 year old who is 23 pounds. She is exactly the same way. She will ask for food and then only take a bite or two and i'm left to eat the rest. If i try to make her eat she will stuff the food in her cheeks and not swallow it. There has been times when i've found food in her mouth that has been there for hours! Gross! Some days i'm lucky if she eats at all. Our Dr. made the comment at her check up "Look at your belly it's so big, you'd never know you were malnurished". You wanna talk about me freaking out! The only advise i use is she'll eat when she's hungry, and i try not to worry about it. All you can do is offer the food!

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M.N.

answers from Cincinnati on

Good suggestions of one or two more bites, Pedisure, carnation instant breakfast and food before drink. I could not use the drinks because my daughter is allergic to corn products (its the modified food starch and the corn syrup, corn syrup solids that add the thickness and the weight) From age 6 to age 12 she fell 'below' the growth charts in both weight and height, but she continued to grow with some spurts a few times each year. She is now starting puberty and grew 1-1/2" and gained 9 lbs. Except for the ones with real health issues [failure to thrive, or other medical symptoms] - has anyone thought about the fact that more kids are now too large and THAT is what the doctors are comparing your child to? I'll take a healthy, active, but thin child any day!

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J.F.

answers from Elkhart on

My son in on a medication that supresses his appetite. He is a good eater, but doesn't eat enough, and our doctor also recommended high calorie foods (like milk shakes) to supplement his diet. I bought the breakfast milkshake mix, it has tons of vitamins, and calories. I mix it in his milk with dinner to add some extra calories. he still eats a regular dinner with us. You may want to add a couple of snack times in your day too. My sister, while growing up, would eat tons of high calorie (junk) foods and was under 100lbs dripping wet. She has a high metabolism and couldn't gain weight. You'd think she was anorexic if you didn't know her. She now takes medication for depression that has helped her put some meat on her bones too.
I wouldn't get over worried about your daughter, provide options at meal time and encourage her.

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S.P.

answers from Indianapolis on

I would NOT try to get her to eat MORE at this point.
Just get her to eat the high-calorie food as your doctor suggests.
NOT JUNK though.
Milk shakes, fruit juice, noodles and pasta, mashed potatoes and gravy, cheese sauce on veggies, rice,
casseroles, whole-grain bread/rolls and butter etc.
You are better off with the high-calorie food than pestering her to eat MORE all the time.
That will only turn into battles which I am sure you and she do NOT need now or in the future.
I would just put small amounts of food on her plate and expect her to at least try everything.

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C.T.

answers from Cleveland on

My youngest is 2 1/2, and weighs 20 lbs. She can't be charted into a percentile because her weight is so low. The dr suggested Carnation instant breakfast, Pediasure, and increasing high fat foods such as cheese, butter, etc.
She is a great eater, has hit all the milestones, seems smarter than average, and is growing taller at the correct rate - - so I am not stressing about making her gain weight. I think she'll be able to count herself lucky in 15-18 yrs if she still has this metabolism, especially in today's day and age of processed foods, and artificial ingredients that the body doesn't know what to do with. I still give her whole milk, cheese, yogurt, fresh fruit for snacks between meals, and she loves carbs with her meals, and eats all vegetables. She eats a great diet of whole foods and I stop at that. I don't what to teach her to constantly be snacking, or to condition her to think that a high-calorie diet is normal.
If your daughter is healthy otherwise, I wouldn't go too crazy trying to plump her up. Some people are just very thin and it isn't something that needs to be fixed.

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T.P.

answers from Indianapolis on

Hi D.,
My daughter is the same and she's 2. She has always been in the lower percentile for weight and the upper percentile for height. Her doctor told me to give her carnation instant breakfast drinks twice a day. She also told me not to worry about calories and to give her something high in calories once a day.

She has started gaining weight now and eating better. We will see if she continues. She will eat a lot for a while and then go back to not eating again. Good luck.

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C.S.

answers from Canton on

Relax! My 23 year old couldn't gain weight either. So we gave him milkshakes with peanut butter and honey in it. Carnation Instant breakfast 3 times a day with honey. And then Ensure 3 times a day. Still no weight gain. For her I'd give her pedisure 2 times a day. After breakfast and just before bed time. And then give her water to rinse her mouth out with before going to bed. Also, pasta. Things that are high in starches. Best advise is to relax and don't worry about it.

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A.G.

answers from Spartanburg on

I tried to get my daughter to eat more too (she went through a period of failure to thrive when I quit breast feeding). We started the rule of everyone staying at the table until everyone is done eating. Then, she would eat a little, wait a little, eat a little more, wait a little, etc. We also made sure she had high calorie snacks available......she loved cheese. Same thing.....she sat at the table for that amount of time (not as long as meals, though). If she wanted to eat, she did......if she didn't want to eat, she didn't. I also gave her what she called "nutritious drink" (carnation instant breakfast). I cut out all juice and water to drink and only gave her milk (whole milk).

My daughter's problem turned out to be an under-developed digestive tract that couldn't absorb food (except breat milk), even at a year of age. We just had to wait for her to catch up, but now she is still petite at 35lbs (6years old). My pediatrician says not to worry about it, unless her developmental milestones start to slip.

Those "averages" on the growth curve are just that.....averages. They are also based on the average american kid, not the healthy average.

A.
Work at home mom of 3 "Small" Blessings

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A.J.

answers from Mansfield on

D.: Let me tell you something..... This should make you smile and not worry so much. I have 2 girls. My oldest is almost 7, she weighs between 39 and 42 pounds, she is 43" tall. My youngest is 3 1/2, she weighs between 40 and 44 pounds, she is 39" tall. The Dr. told me the same thing... I thought I had it under control. I gave my oldest milkshakes, ice cream before bed, McDonald's, everything you could think of... She hit a growth spurt and the 7 pounds I put on her were.....GONE! The Dr. then saw her and wanted to start chewing me out, then she decided that maybe she has a high Metabolism and sure enough, she does. The Dr.s don't always know your kid as much as you do. If she is healthy, that is all that matters. When my Oldest was 3 she didn't even weigh 30 pounds. When she was 4, she weighed 32 and topped off at 34. She finally started to put on a little weight at 5. She finished age 5 at 39 pounds. And that is where we are now. The only thing that really stinks about the weight issue is the darn "child seat" law. My 6 year old still doesn't technically weigh enough to be in the booster sytle car seats.

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D.G.

answers from Columbus on

Do not force feed her that will only make her rebel against food. I was always told that kids will eat when they are hungry.You say she is tall and thin maybe that is the way she is suppose to be. Dr.s are NOT always right.If she is healthy I would not push extra food at her at all.They do make a drink like Ensure for children it is pricey but it will help her gain a bit of weight.Fat kids are not cute , thin kids are burning up what they eat.Maybe she needs more exercise to increase her appitite.Unless her thinness is making her ill I really would not worry to much.

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N.L.

answers from Columbus on

You've gotten a lot of responses & I couldn't read them all, but I wanted to put my two cents worth in, because I didn't see it in the ones I read. My son also was and still is the smallest in his class. Give vitamins, they are not only good for her, but they usually make them hungry. Ask her "How many more bites can you take?" My son would always say more than what I was originally going to make him eat. I would also tell him he needed to eat as many bites as he is old - when he was 5, he had to take 5 bites, etc. As much as I couldn't believe I was doing this, but I also gave him candy - AFTER meals - just to put some weight on him. However, we aren't a big candy house, so I didn't do it too often. Sometimes I would have a "race" to see who could finish their corn first (of course I would allow him to win.) I used to play games to get him to eat - like after eating carrots it would make him jump like a bunny, etc. He would take a bite, jump a few times & come back to take another bite. To this date, I still have the "Clean Plate Award". Nothing is giving, it's just a verbal happy award. This can be accomplished by not putting a lot of food on the plate, just the amount you would be happy with him/her eating, so you can exlaim, "You get a CLEAN PLATE AWARD!" And as the days go by, you can sneak a little more on the plate! Have fun. And good luck. My son is now 10 years old & claims he is the smallest in his class - I told him to get used to it, because I always was & his dad was probably too. But I didn't have to tell him that until this year. And he now weighs more than I did at his age. He weighs more than me in the 4th grade, then I did in the 6th grade... & I turned out ok. (My weight has caught up & surpassed what I want to be now! LOL)

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E.S.

answers from Toledo on

Maybe she's more of a "nibbler" and needs to eat little bits throughout the day rather than scheduled meals and snacks. Some people are like that and it's perfectly normal and healthy. If you can, I would keep calorie dense (but healthy) snacks like cheese, bananas, raisins, things like that, always available to her. I know it's tough with another little one running around, but maybe you can figure something out. Maybe if she always has access to something she can nibble on she'll eat more calories throughout the day. Good luck!

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C.L.

answers from Lima on

They have an ensure for toddlers that have this problem. One jar a day will cover 2 meals. No, I do not mean not to feed her, just give her both and the weight should follow. My second child had eating issues. Watch her, mine did have to be forced to eat. For 2 years at every meal, we had to feed her the exact amount of food the pediatric chart recommended. It was a pain but, the insurance would not cover the counseling. She would stop eating to the point where she could not get up and play, she did not have the energy. She now still only eats what she needs. She is 15 and at just under 5' she weighs in at 106. She had 2 years where we supplemented with the canned drinks I suggested earlier. Good Luck C.

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C.L.

answers from Columbus on

Have you tried offering her meals, snacks, food in general, more often during the day? A little bit might fill her up for the time being, but she gets hungry sooner. Maybe offer her more than just a snack in between breakfast lunch and dinner, like every 2 hours. Worth a shot.

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K.J.

answers from Columbus on

We went through this with our son who will be turning 4 in May. It was a VERY frustrating time as they were running tests to see what was wrong (NOTHING!). He was an excellent eater. What we did was added pediasure to his diet. He loved the taste of the strawberry stuff. After labelling him as "failing to thrive" and doing so many tests that can back that everything was fine we finally had to draw the line. They wanted us to have him go through a test where they would inject a chemical into his brain to make him release a bunch of growth hormone so they could count it. We finally said enough was enough. They tried to strong arm us by asking, "Aren't you concerned for your son?" We said, "Of course!" "Concerned enough to make sure you don't do this test on him." FYI--it was not long afterward that he went through a huge growth spurt. The doctors were all AMAZED that his numbers improved so much in so little time. I guess what annoys me is that they expect every child to fit into their perfect little chart and we are all different. It didn't matter how many times we told them how small I was as a child or how small my family, in general, were as children....they just pushed and pushed. We took him off the pediasure shortly therafter as well and he is still a terrific eater. According to their charts...he is now a perfectly "normal" (whatever that means) kid.

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K.A.

answers from Terre Haute on

I was an underweight child, then I grew up and had kids! LOL As long as you are feeding her healthy foods for snacking and meals, she will most likely be okay, unless there are some other health issues. If it is just that she is underweight she will most likely grow out of it as an adult. A good multivitamin is a plus also.
My son was an underweight child and the doctors put him on a high calorie diet. First of all he would try to eat all the food but just couldn't. Second, all the food he was poking down himself he did not gain even one ounce. Some kids are just skinny and some are heavier. My 13 yo is one of the heavier ones and diet and exercise doesn't change that much.

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P.R.

answers from Indianapolis on

Force feeding is not a good idea. Milkshakes are a good idea. You need to find some higher calorie foods she will like. Try puddings for snack time. You can make it up and put it in small containers, for snacks. It is really better to eat 6 small meals a day than it is to eat 3 large meals. Try giving her more fruits and fruit snacks. Keep a bunch of easy snacks to offer her throughout the day, pop tarts, granola bars, cheese and crackers, etc. offer her some every couple of hours. If she only eats a few of the cheese and crackers you can save the rest for later, half a pop tart can be saved, same with the fruit snacks and yogurt, puddings, etc. Jello squares are easy to make too and a great finger food as are carrot sticks. Good Luck.

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S.G.

answers from Indianapolis on

I understand. My daughter is 3yr, 3feet tall, and about 23lbs. The Dr. wants me to get her to eat more too..but you can't make a 3yr old eat. She has times where she will eat really well, and other times a bite or two and that's it. I've tried the ice cream and all and it doesn't matter, if she not ready to eat-forget it.

I tried the milkshakes..I end up drinking them, and I don't need them. It's really hard. I have a 12yr son who needs to watch his weight..and our 7yr old daughter is 4 foot and about 47lbs or so...both girls are very thin but look healthy. I don't know what the dr.s think we can do.

Just wanted to give you some encouragement.

A little about me:
SAHM of 3-son 12yr, two girls-7 & 3. I sell MaryKay so I can be at home with my kids. I have a wonderful hubby of 18 wonderful year (this May).

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K.I.

answers from Indianapolis on

Hi D.
Just curious, have they checked your daughter's pituitary gland? Those can be signs it's over active. It may be just fine, but if docs are concerned about her weight, I would think they might want to check. I have always heard that kids will eat when they are hungry and not to sweat the kids who pick so much. I hope you can get some good advice here! :)
Take care.
~K.

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R.K.

answers from Cleveland on

My sister had the same problem with her daughter. She would let her snack all through the day just to get her to gain weight. She would feed her breakfast, then a mid-morning snack consisting of fruit and dry cereal, lunch. then a mid-afternoon snack (cheese crackers..she LOVES eating green beans out of the can! things like that), dinner, evening snack. My niece is now almost 16 and is still just a tiny little thing and she still eats like this. Guess some are just lucky like this! Not me or my daughter....UGH! Anyway, I'm just saying that my sister had food and snacks ALWAYS available and just let her eat when she felt she wanted to. Didn't make a big deal of it, didn't fight over it. SHE knew she was feeding her daughter...one doctor even threatened to have children services check up on her...boy! did THAT piss her off! She found a new Dr. ASAP! I wouldn't worry...when she's hungry, she'll eat. I think in this day of obesity, Dr's, just don't know what to do when they see a tiny child! They automatically think the parents aren't feeding them when that is the farthest from the truth.
Good luck to you!

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E.I.

answers from Cleveland on

she is going through a growth spur, around this time they don't want to eat all they want to do is drink..so a little advice from what my ped told me, as long as they are not throwing up and they are drinking they are good.. a child will not starve themseleves if they hungry they will eat. good luck!! i went through that with my son, he is 16yrs old now. perfectly normal.

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J.S.

answers from Indianapolis on

Hi D.. I am in the same boat with my 25 month old. I have tried to bump up the amount of good fats in her diet. She is still on whole cow's milk. I try to get her to eat PB (only from a jar these days) and full fat cheeses whenever I can. I do make her shakes using whole milk, a banana, and PB - she loves them. There is a brand of yogurt (Stonybrook - I believe)made for babies called YO BABY. It is also made with whole milk. Occasionally, she gets ice cream as a special treat, and I usually try to give her a premium ice cream with a high fat content (Haagen Dazs if I can swing it). We do not eat a lot of junk or fried foods and I have stuck with that belief. She is slowly gaining, but her activity level is also very high. My advice is not to stress too much over it. Good luck!

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S.C.

answers from Fort Wayne on

I'm a mom to a picky little bird, so I know how you feel! There are days I think my daughter lives on air and water! You can't force her, that's the first thing. If she eats two bits and says she's full, does she not eat anything else until the next mealtime? I would start trying to get her to eat one more bite of everything before she can get down. Also, limit her liquids at dinner time. My little one likes to chug her drink and then she's not hungry. We finally had to just take her cup away totally until the end of the meal. Pediasure is good for helping to gain weight. It has all the good stuff in it. NutriPals granola bars are good too. Our doctor told us to give my dd 8 ozs of whole milk 3 times a day. That helped her gain weight too. Good luck!

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L.S.

answers from Evansville on

We have the same problem with our daughter, she is 2. We have consulted with a dietician at Riley children's hospital in Indy. She said that you really can't get her to eat more, that you just have to add more calories to what she is already eating. We add carnation instant breakfast to her whole milk for added calories. Always add butter, margarine, sour cream, gravy/sauces or salad dressing whenever possible. Add calories any way you can. I have a whole list of ideas if you are interested, e-mail me at [email protected]____.com and put calorie ideas in the title. Another thing the dietician mentioned was if there is a zinc deficiency she could loose her appetite. She recommended flintstones complete vitamins. Hope this helps!! Good luck this is no easy task!

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