Small 3-Year Old Needs to Gain Weight

Updated on July 06, 2010
G.Z. asks from Charleston, SC
15 answers

Please help! Our 3-year old boy hasn't gained any weight in the last year since his 2-year checkup. He still weighs 24 pounds. He's always been small and low on the charts and we had numerous tests done when he was 20 months for low weight gain. Tests included cystic fibrosis, GI-tests, and even some genetic testing. All turned up negative. Our doctor wants us to try and get him to gain weight before ordering additional tests. I've tried duocal but he seems to taste it (am I adding too much?) and refuses to drink it. He won't drink the Instant Carnation drinks. I haven't yet tried Pediasure. I add a few drops of cream to his milk. My husband and I are both on the small side so we're not surprised that our son is also small. But his sister who is 11 months younger than he is has caught up to him in weight and everyone's concern is that he has gained anything in a year. I am beside myself with worry, especially since I found all the previous testing traumatic. Does anyone have other ideas for weight gain or anecdotal stories/advice that will help me relax a little? I get so stressed out when he doesn't eat or insists he isn't hungry, when I know he needs calories.

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So What Happened?

Thank you everyone for all your suggestions and comments. It is so helpful to hear we're not alone. We did get an absorption test done when he had his endoscopy and colonoscopy which turned up fine. At the time I think the GI doctor also did dairy tests as well as celiac and the other major ones. We've never had the skin prick allergy test done. Might this show a different result? The GI specialist did find that his sphincter muscle between his stomach and esophagus was loose making him susceptible for future acid reflux (at the time he had no symptoms), so our doctor has suggested acid reflux med for a month. Good idea?? Thank you all.

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answers from Tulsa on

I had a boy that didn't hardly gain anyweight till he was 8. then he became real husky. both me and his dad were both small framed. now he is 5'8" and 180 at 21 yrs old and very healthy. they grow at diffrent rates mine spent the first 4 yrs. of his school years being the smallest kid in the class. and he outsizes me and his dad. stop sweating it he will grow.

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answers from Chicago on

Your son is fine! I am always so surprised in this day and age with childhood diabetes and obesity that we are trying to fatten up a child! Some kids are little just as some adults are. I was a tiny kid as was my husband and my 2 1/2 year old is a little peanut. We weren't surprised in the least. If he says he's not hungry, it's because he's not. Don't try to force feed, you will only set him up for food issues down the road. Mealtime should be pleasant, not stressful. Offer good choices and just relax! The actual portion size for a toddler is like 2 tbls or something. It's very little. Dairy is also a culprit for a lot of people too as a few other moms have said. Icecream is not the answer! Junk food will not make your child healthier, just give them heart disease one day!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Fresno on

Leave him alone. The tests haven't revealed any problems, and if he is happy, alert and has rosy cheeks, then there is no need to worry! My husband and I are both taller than average (I am 6', so is DH) and our 5 year old has always been tiny. Her pediatrician became concerned when she turned 3 also (especially since our older daughter has always been off-the-charts tall), and we went through all those tests too. They all came back negative. Since then we've realized that she is who she is, and no amount of cramming food down her throat will ever make her taller, more muscular, or anything else. She is the perfect size and weight for who she is, and her little body allows her to do some pretty amazing things! We don't want to make her feel inadequate over something she can't control. Our older daughter will probably be 6' tall like I am, and our younger daughter will probably be 5' tall (like nobody else in the family, LOL). At least in your case, your husband is not a big guy, so your son will grow up being just like his dad! Is that such a bad thing to be?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I wonder why your Dr. instructed you to have your son gain weight, but didn't give you any suggestions, or help in actually achieving that. Maybe, you could consult another physician and get help? My sister's daughter had the same issue and they found out she actually had a few serious (gluten and dairy) food allergies, which prevented her in gaining weight. She would reject food all the time, but did very well after they discovered the allergies. I'm sorry I don't have more advice!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

Hi G.,
I'm sorry you are having to go through this worry...I went through all of those same tests, including a "bone growth" test when my oldest son was four. (He, by the way, was only 24 lbs. at four years old...) They didn't find anything wrong, and we have since had two other children, who are also always on the small end of the charts, and the doctors have not worried us about them...(my daughter is five, and weighs about 32lbs) The fact is, they are small...we aren't very big people, my husband and I, and our kids are healthy...some one has to be at the small end of the scale, so try not to's great that the tests were all negative, and as long as you are providing healthy meals and snacks, along with milk shakes, etc...your son will be just fine. Please try not to worry!



answers from Athens on

Has he grew taller in the last year? If so, I wouldn't worry about his weight gain. You will find that some years children grow up and some years they grow out. Maybe this year was a year of growing up and that doesn't neccessarily mean weight gain, it could just be redistributing the weight. If he hasn't gotten any taller and the two of you are small I would not worry myself overly much - I would take the no news or signs as better, than if you were receiving bad news when so far their is none. All children are not the same and many grow at different stages of life. Sounds like to me he may be so far developing into a little you or your husband. You will probably look back one day and say "and I was worried, look at him now!" Enjoy his smallness while you can... if he is healthy in all other aspects - don't worry... he will grow up just the same as most children, just maybe a little smaller than some - not a bad thing?

Good luck and best wishes



answers from Lansing on

My youngest daughter was always really tiny and didnt eat well so we have tried all of the pediasure type drinks...we call them her special drinks and after she got to pick them out and try them all to find her fav she loved drinking them...she actually likes the meijer brand, choc or vanilla flavor the best but also likes the pediasure not the gerber ones though. Make it a little fun and special for him and dont show ur frustration and hopefully it will work (it took a few weeks but then she was great with it!) Good Luck!



answers from Phoenix on

I'd only be worried if he wasn't growing in height either. I would do as the other mammas have suggested and ask for some simple allergy tests but past that, let him be him. My immediate family are all ridiculously tall and then there is me, the family shrimp. I received no less love and nutrition than my siblings and eventually put on weight when I hit puberty and got my curves but can not cook in my mothers kitchen without a step stool :)



answers from Columbus on

Perhaps you could seek help from a nutritionist. I have a friend who is an occupational therapist who specializes in eating issues. Perhaps he doesn't like the texture of foods for some reason and needs some therapy to get over that. Just a few suggestions. Good Luck!



answers from Atlanta on

Check for food allergies.


answers from Richmond on

My daughter was and still is small for her age. She was 20lbs from 9 months to 4 years old. I tried pediasure and she gained about 5 lbs while on it. After a while she got tired of it. I just made sure she ate as much as she wanted (without getting sick of course). But once they start walking, they burn a lot of fat fast. Doctors seem to forget that. If both you and dad are small, then more than likely he will be small. Don't worry about it, he is gonna be fine.



answers from Spartanburg on

Protein, meats, peanuut butter. crackers dipped in milk.
My sister stayed 49 lbs for 3 years and then just started growing.
My littlest is a string bean, but healthy.
Not an ounce of extra on her. She has grown 4 inches taller and no weight gain.
Yours sounds healthy, he'll eat when his body needs it.
I have short friends, their 10 year old is the same height as my 4 year old and my 11 year old is taller than me. Genetics.
Sounds like you need a new doctor to me.



answers from Cleveland on

I like Michelle B's response.

Also, maybe his pituitary gland is not putting out enough growth hormone? That's the only other thing i can think of to check. Has he grown in height?

Maybe he would like to help pick out food in the supermarket, or grow some in a garden, or help prepare it? Maybe he'd be more interested in eating if he'd been involved with it in other ways. just a thought.

Good luck

K. Z.



answers from Atlanta on

Offer a generous omount of fresh water Try water from Jamaica and France.


answers from Austin on

My daughter had weight gaining issues... Long story short: Her pediatrician told me to boost her dairy fat. A quote from her, "ice cream, ice cream, ice cream! I don't care about the sugar". I started cooking all her food in butter, butter on all her noodles and toast (even made mac & cheese with creme frais and cream--OMG it was yummy! So fattening!). Melted cheese on all her bread and vegetables...

Did she gain weight? No.

Turns out, she is allergic to cows milk/diary... No wonder she didn't gain any weight--her body couldn't fully digest it; the cows milk protein was interfering with the absorption of all other foods.

Have you done a food allergy test on him? I'm referring to the skin prick test, not the blood test (my daughter's blood test came back Indicating a high white blood cell count, but didn't point to a food allergy; only the skin prick test was able to confirm it). If your son is not gaining weight, I recommend you investigate whether he has a food allergy that is inhibiting the absorption of nutrients in his intestines. I know, it seems like such a simple explanation, considering the doctors have already done big scary tests... I say this because that's what they did to her too... Heart scan, immunology tests, CF was on the horizon (but we got the skin prick test first). It was all due to a food allergy. Once we eliminated all traces of that food from her diet, she started to put on weight.

Good luck!

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