Babies grow rapidly in the first year, but between the ages of 12 and 24 months growth slows. As soon as an infant starts to walk, his body shape changes: Muscles develop in his arms and legs and his face and tummy are likely to slim down as he morphs from baby to child. Every child is different; some are naturally slight or slim while others carry a lot more weight regardless of how much they eat. If you have any concerns about your toddler's weight gain, seek advice from a qualified health care provider.
According to The Best Chance website from British Columbia's Ministry of Health, between the ages of 12 and 24 months a toddler's average weight gain is 1.4 to 2.3 kg, or 3 to 5 lbs. Between the ages of 24 and 60 months, a child's average weight gain is 1.5 to 2.5 kg, or 3.3 to 5.5 lbs. Your health care provider should measure your toddler's weight, height and head circumference regularly to assess her growth. The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control recommends that doctors use the the World Health Organization's growth charts for the first two years of a baby's life and the CDC's growth charts after she turns 2.
A nutritious, balanced diet is essential to keep a toddler's weight gain on track. He should be offered a wide range of healthy meals packed with fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, unsaturated fats and lean proteins. A healthy attitude toward food is just as important as what is on the table, and toddlers will look to their parents for guidance, so it is vital that they too make healthy food choices. A toddler should never be forced to eat, bribed with "treat" foods as a reward for eating a healthy meal or given high-sugar or high-fat drinks or snacks. Regular mealtimes where the whole family eat together at the table set a good example to a toddler. He should be encouraged to sample lots of different healthy foods, but never criticized for not trying them.
If your health care provider has confirmed your toddler is underweight, you can increase the calorie content of her food in several healthy ways, says BabyCentre. Make sure all dairy produce, such as milk and yogurt, is full-fat. Add seed-based oil, butter or double cream to your toddler's foods. Mix full-fat cheese and milk into her baked potatoes, and serve mayonnaise as a dip for raw vegetables. Nutritious, high-calorie snacks with high vitamin content include avocado and peanut butter. Encourage your toddler to eat a healthy, milk-based pudding after her dinner, such as mashed banana with full-fat yogurt. Encourage your toddler's appetite for solid foods as the day passes by resisting the temptation to give her milk during the night. Restrict her consumption of whole-meal pasta, bread and brown rice, as these foods contain high quantities of fiber and can fill a toddler up quickly, leaving no room for high-calorie foods. An age-appropriate vitamin supplement containing vitamins A, C and D may increase the amount of iron absorbed by your toddler's body, which could give her more of an appetite. It's best to get professional advice before giving a toddler an iron supplement.
If your health care provider has measured your toddler's height and weight and confirmed that he is overweight, this is simply because he is consuming more calories than he is expending. Increasing his physical activity is one way to help him regain a healthy weight. The Best Chance website recommends at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. The best way to keep your toddler active is to take him outside and encourage him to run, jump, climb and explore. Choosing toys that promote physical activity, teaching basic sports skills such as throwing and catching a ball and keeping stroller time to a minimum are other simple ways to keep a toddler moving. Your health care provider may suggest that you keep a food diary for him, to help you identify areas for improvement. Your toddler may have gotten into a habit of constant snacking, which could be the reason for his weight gain. Gradually cutting down on snacks between meals, and only offering healthy snacks such as fruit, breadsticks and oatcakes, is a good tactic. Be aware of how much full-fat milk your toddler drinks throughout the day. According to BabyCenter, he should drink no more than 24 ounces of milk per day. Dr Lisa Dana recommends 16 to 18 ounces of milk per day for 1- to 3-year-olds. Aim to give your toddler five portions of fruit and vegetables every day. Increase his vegetable intake by adding them to soups and pasta sauces or serving them raw with a low-calorie cream cheese dip.
- Mayo Clinic: Infant Growth -- What's Normal?
- BabyCentre: I Think My Toddler Is Underweight -- What Should I Do?
- The Best Chance: Toddler Health -- Growth and Weight
- The Best Chance: Toddler Health -- Physical Activity
- BabyCentre: I Think My Toddler Is Overweight -- What Should I Do?
- BabyCenter Blog: How Much Milk Does my Toddler Need?
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