What Foods Should I Give My Baby to Gain Weight?

By Ava Lee
Your baby likes to eat, but she's not gaining much weight.
Your baby likes to eat, but she's not gaining much weight.

Your baby may be eating solid foods, and at first she was delighted with her new diet. She seemed to be enjoying her rice cereal, peas and carrots. She still eats fairly well, but she’s not gaining weight. During her last checkup, perhaps your baby was on the low end of the percentile growth chart. You pediatrician is a bit concerned, and he may recommend a variety of methods to encourage your baby to gain weight.

Normal Rates of Growth

Feed baby plenty of fruits and veggies, along with cereal.
Feed baby plenty of fruits and veggies, along with cereal.

According to KeepKidsHealthy.com, a baby typically grows at a rate of approximately 1 oz. per day from birth to 3 months, then slows to 3/4 oz. from 3 to 6 months, and by late infancy -- 6 to 12 months -- he may be gaining only 1/2 oz. a day. Older children grow even more slowly; for example, toddlers from 1 to 3 years old grow approximately 1/4 oz. a day. Your baby’s pediatrician normally won't become concerned, unless your baby’s weight falls below the 5th percentile for his age when it is coupled with a declining growth rate. There are various reasons for a baby’s failure to thrive, including genetics, nutrition and medical problems. If your baby is not thriving, his pediatrician should give him a thorough examination.

The Full Examination

Your pediatrician will likely order a full battery of tests.
Your pediatrician will likely order a full battery of tests.

During the evaluation, your pediatrician will ask for a detailed history of your child’s nutritional intake. She will want to know the exact amounts and types of foods your baby is eating and drinking, including juice. In addition, she will want to know about the presence of any medical symptoms, such as diarrhea, fever or vomiting. Your pediatrician will likely order a complete physical exam, with extensive screening. If no medical symptoms are detected, your pediatrician may just wish to keep a careful watch on your baby’s weight gain for the next few months. In extreme cases, she may refer your baby to a pediatric nutritionist or other specialist.

Eating Habits

Avoid letting your baby have too much juice.
Avoid letting your baby have too much juice.

To increase your baby’s intake of food, your pediatrician may suggest that you incorporate a variety of procedures to make mealtime easier and less stressful. Many pediatricians tell parents to allow the baby to feed himself as much as possible by offering finger foods and to keep him on a schedule of three meals daily with only two to three snacks. Offer juice or other liquids only after mealtime, and avoid trying to “bribe” or force your baby to eat. A baby who engages in a power struggle with his parents may become resistant to eating. Feed your baby high-calorie snacks with lots of nutrients and don't let him fill up on large amounts of juices or soda. Instead, give him breast milk or formula, which has more nutrition.

Suggestions

Older babies can eat a wider range of foods.
Older babies can eat a wider range of foods.

Additionally, your doctor may encourage you to feed your baby a more concentrated formula. For older babies, you can substitute whole milk, half-and-half, evaporated milk or condensed milk. Offer whole-milk milkshakes, made from ice cream or instant breakfast powder blended with milk. Give her pudding made from whole milk; add cheese or peanut butter to veggies. In addition, you can make a high-calorie gelatin by using fruit juice instead of water. Older babies can eat meats and breads with additional butter or sauces.

Doctors' Advice

You can cook with olive oil and add heavy cream to pasta.
You can cook with olive oil and add heavy cream to pasta.

In “Parents” magazine, Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson suggests that if your baby is having difficulty gaining weight, you, as the parent, must remember that it’s your responsibility to feed him correctly. You must ensure that he learns to eat in a healthy manner by offering a diet that includes veggies, fruits, lean meats and proteins, whole grains, dairy or soy products. In addition, she recommends that you give an underweight baby at least one calorie-dense food at every meal, such as avocado. You can also try cooking with olive oil and fortifying baby's pasta or cereal with 1 tbsp. heavy cream. Dr. Alan Greene adds that you should also give your baby a multivitamin; even very young babies can take a liquid multivitamin as prescribed.

About the Author

Ava Lee began writing professionally in 1982. She holds a master's and a bachelor's degree in English literature, and has proofread and copy edited for "Better Homes & Gardens" and the American Marketing Association, among other outlets. She has edited for more than 25 years.