There’s a reason why a child is lean. But first, let me take you through my journey and share my experience.
“Get her admitted immediately. I’m coming to the hospital in an hour to see her.” My Gynaeceologist told my husband and he, along with my mom quickly arranged for all the said medicines. I was quietly lying on a bed in one corner of the hospital room, wondering if I will ever deliver this baby.
It had just been four months since I got pregnant, but it looked like ages. Continuous vomits had drained me completely. I didn’t just have morning sickness, my misery continued all day and night. Especially night! I had to sleep near the bathroom because the urge to vomit woke me up every half an hour or so. My BP had dropped drastically, I was severely dehydrated and at times, I used to have black outs which once resulted in fainting too.
Basically, I was suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum- a rare condition few pregnant women suffer from. After being on just medicines and NBM, I finally got better and returned back home 3 days later. Needless to say, I had to quit my job and take good rest. Such was the beginning of my pregnancy.
Later, at around 6 months, I was detected with Intra-Uterine Growth Restriction, a condition wherein the baby doesn’t grow to an optimum level and has extremely low weight. Such babies are at a high risk of developing diseases since they’re very fragile.
Finally, at 37 weeks, after taking several protein injections, we delivered my little one via LSCS. Yes, we took opinions from several experts and doctors and realised that it was the safest option for our child.
When she was born, she weighed 2.3kgs and by the time we came back home, she was down to 2.1kgs. Textbooks may classify her as LBW i.e. Low Birth Weight or SGA i.e. Small for Gestational Age baby. But she was a perfectly healthy child. Unlike most LBW babies, she didn’t suffer from Jaundice and wasn’t even kept in the NICU for observation. I can’t thank the Almighty enough for this grace. (To see World Health organisation’s Growth Chart for babies 0-2y, click here)
You may ask, why am I sharing about my pregnancy ?
Because there are reasons why lean babies are lean. Not all pregnancies are easy. Also, not all babies who weigh more are healthy and not all lean babies, weak!
We live in a very strange society. It surprises me, how quick are people to judge both the child and the mother. In fact, it’s a shame that we look at newborns with judgmental eyes and even have the audacity to pass comments.
I’ve often seen people comment on the weight of the baby- both less and more, complexion of the baby, method of delivery- vaginal or LSCS, if the mother is breastfeeding or has opted to formula feed, if she’s working or has decided to stay at home- basically everything!
I too was one of the victims. I still am. Even today, people pass sarcastic comments on her weight (She’s 1 year old and weighs 7.5kgs). Since I’m a nutritionist myself, I get the worst ones. “Has your mom put you on a diet?” they tell her; and then there are comments on the quality of my milk too-“Your milk must be thin like you”, and of course, speculations on if I even feed her- “She is so weak, don’t you give her food?”etc.
My only question to them is- “which mom won’t feed her child?!”
These remarks often leave me speechless. I never respond to such comments, but I lose my cool when they say- she’s weak. She’s lean, not weak! Don’t you know the difference?! 😒
Anyway, now that you have patiently read my rant 🙈 and you also know the background, let’s move on to the main issue:
Is being underweight a matter of concern?
Let me ask you a question. Does your weight match the standards set by the health organisations? No, right? Similarly, it’s perfectly normal for the child to not match those standards too. As long as he is eating optimum nutritious food, achieving his developmental milestones on time, is playful and energetic, doesn’t fall sick, has a good immune system, he’s a healthy baby. Don’t let the numbers worry you. Don’t give him additional formula milk or bottles of vitamins and minerals just so that he gains weight. He doesn’t need that. He just needs healthy, nutritious meals and your love!
Why is my child underweight?
There can be several reasons. Some are:
- Pregnancy complications- like it was in my case
- Genetics- When my daughter’s paediatrician first came to see her in the hospital, I asked her- why is my girl underweight? She turned to my mom and asked her about my birth weight. I was 2.5kgs when born and my husband was a fairly lean baby too. I got my answer.
- Exclusive breastfeeding: EBF children are often leaner as compared to formula fed children. And by lean, I just mean their weight is less. That being said, they are more active and fall ill less often because their immune system is very strong.
- Hyperactivity: Lean babies are extremely active and thus they don’t easily gain weight too. It’s a vicious cycle.
When should I be worried?
- If your child is inactive and isn’t playful
- If he isn’t eating well or spits out all his food
- If he’s falling ill often
- If he has frequent bouts of diarrhoea
- His pee/poop frequency has reduced.
What should I feed my child with?
You would be tempted to (and often advised to) give your child not-so-healthy fattening foods. But trust me, your child needs healthy, nutritious meals more than anything else. Add colour and variety to his plate. Give him combinations of food and try to add all possible food groups. You’ll find some interesting ideas here.
Also, there are a few good high carbohydrates, proteins and fat foods that can be a part of your child’s meals, like:
- Sweet potatoes
- Peanut butter
- Paneer etc.
Avoid adding a lot of sugar, ghee and butter to his meals. Childhood obesity is another pressing issue and we don’t want to jump from this puddle to that one in the future.
Does my child require multivitamins or formula feed?
Formula milk will only make him bulky, not healthier. So, if that’s your aim, go ahead. Your milk is absolutely perfect and he doesn’t need anything over and above it. Also, if he’s on breast-milk, he requires no additional supplement to gain weight.
What if my child has a poor appetite?
If your child isn’t eating well, that’s an added concern. I’ll try to jot down an article on how to deal with fussy eaters, but here’s one tip for now- add ARF to his food. By doing so, you increase the nutrients in his meal without adding bulk to it. Basically, he will derive more energy and nutrients from the same amount of food.
How to prepare ARF?
1. Soak grains and/or pulses of your choice for 12 hours.
2. Germinate it for another 12 hours.
3. Dry roast or sun dry it.
4. Grind it into a powder and store in an airtight container.
5. Add one to two teaspoons to his preparations.
I hope you found this article helpful. Please feel free to ask if you have any questions. Comment down below and I’ll definitely try to answer them.
Have a great day and don’t worry, your child is healthy! 🙂
You’re doing a good job, mama ❤