What to do if your baby is skinny

If you have a skinny child, you are often subjected to unsolicited advice about how to fatten up a skinny baby. However, does your child need fattening up?

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“Wah! Baby so skinny leh! Better give formula and make fat…”

When you have a skinny baby, it is better to be the dad than the mum. Because when you’re a mum, people who have absolutely no role or significance in your life walk up to you and give you advice about how to fatten up a skinny baby. Like it’s your fault the little one is not huge. 

It does not matter to them that the baby has always been small, is on top of his milestones, and is healthy and clever. No. A skinny baby just evokes strong emotions in strangers.  

Even close relatives are not kind to mums when it comes to lean babies. Random pieces of advice are doled out and the mum starts to feel pressured into fattening the baby up!

Dads seem to be more immune to this, but even they eventually give in. I have a skinny baby. He is also tiny. And I am a work-from-home dad. So I have been responsible for his weaning and nutrition while his mother is away at work. So I know, mums. It stings!

Here, I am going to give you some information about skinny babies, primarily to learn about the causes, and secondarily, to shove this article in the face of someone who comments “Why baby so skinny, ah?” the next time. 

Should you fatten up a skinny baby?

Why Children Are Skinny

Firstly, not all babies who appear skinny are underweight. Appearances can be deceiving. You all know what dark colours and vertical stripes can do to the way you look! So, it is important to judge objectively if the baby/child is truly underweight. For that, we use

  1. Weight and height for age charts
  2. Body Mass Index charts

There are two main reasons why kids are skinny:

  • They are just born tiny and have a genetic makeup to be skinny.
  • They are truly underfed.

I am going to give you a table to differentiate between the two as well, later on. 

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Lean Babies

Genetics or not growing properly in the womb can cause babies to be lean. At birth, they may be on the lower side of normal when it comes to weight and height. However, they usually maintain the percentile point as they grow up. 

These babies are generally healthy. The hallmark of a healthy baby is one that takes an interest in his  surroundings and interacts well with others. He eats well, sleeps well, and is playful. He achieves his milestones on time. He eats his fill, is interested in food, and would/should not be force fed.

Underfed Babies

These babies may be born normal or lean. However, they do not feed properly, are quite clingy, and are active. Yet they do not choose to interact with the surroundings. If the state of underfeeding continues, doctors label them as “failure to thrive”. 

Special measures should be taken in such cases. It might be due to improper feeding techniques, or due to underlying conditions. In either case, the doctor will recommend special care.

Should You Fatten Up a Skinny Baby? 

As a mother, you might be looking for tips to fatten up a skinny baby. However, that should not be your objective.

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The main reason for nutrition is growth and development, not to make your baby fall within the accepted societal standards! If you are worried that your baby is skinny, the first thing you need to do is to look at this chart and see what describes your baby accurately. 

If your baby is lean, don’t worry. Let him be. Overfeeding can cause aversions and frequent throwing up. This will worry you even more. If your baby is underfed, on the other hand, you should see a doctor about it. 

What About Skinny Toddlers and Young Children?

As soon as the baby learns to walk, his baby fat is going to disappear. So suddenly, your baby would no longer look like a baby.

Children are quite active, and the more active they are, the skinnier they appear. Just ensure that your toddler: 

  • is eating enough
  • meets milestones
  • does not appear lethargic
  • is not terribly small for his age

BMI is a good indicator for judging if you need to fatten up a skinny baby! If the BMI is within the normal range, do not worry.

Check out this BMI calculator here, or speak to a paediatrician if you are concerned. 

Overfeeding may cause obesity later on, and you don’t want that! Just focus on his development and ignore all the comments about his weight. After all, you are the best person to judge how well your baby is growing, aren’t you?

 

Sources:

1. Stanford Children’s Health

2. BMJ, Best practices

3. Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

Also read: Attention parents! You must watch out for these developmental red flags