The Child Who Eats Too Little

All children know how much they need to eat in order to grow in the way nature intended for them. Why do you think your child doesn't eat enough? Is it because he eats less than other children? Is it because he is smaller than other children? Chances are, there is no problem. Some children don't eat much, others eat a lot. Some children who eat a lot are still small and slim. Some children are just small, others are just big . As long as your child's weight follows along near the same percentile, he is growing well. On the other hand, if his weight percentiles are going down, he may be getting thinner than nature intended. If a child eats too little and grows too slowly, it is essential to take a look at feeding.

For either the small child growing consistently or the child of any size gaining too little weight, feed in the same way:  maintain a division of responsibility in feeding, keep your nerve, and let him eat and grow his way. Do not get pushy with food. Include high-fat, high-calorie food, but don’t try to get your child to load up on it or any other food. He will get turned off to food and eat less when he gets the chance. Instead, feed in the best way for his stage of development, keep your nerve, and let him grow his way.

  • Get started with family meals, if you aren't having them already. Have the same meal for everyone.
  • Have your child join in with family meals and sit-down snacks at set times.
  • Don't let him have food or drinks between times, except for water. Food handouts will make him eat less, not more.
  • Include high-fat food, such as butter, salad dressing, and mayonnaise, but don't push high-fat food.
  • Make wise use of ”forbidden foods.
  • When in doubt, ask yourself, ''How would I feed him if I weren't worried about his weight?''

For more about raising children who eat as much as they need and get bodies that are right for them (and for research backing up this advice), see Ellyn Satter's Your Child's Weight: Helping Without Harming, Kelcy Press, 2005. Also see to purchase books and to review comprehensive educational materials that teach stage-related feeding and solve feeding problems.

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