Children grow and develop at their own rate. It is best to monitor your child’s growth over time rather than compare your child to other children. This can be done by attending all your child’s well-visits with their primary medical provider. Your child’s provider should graph your child’s growth. Your child may also get their height and weight checked at the WIC clinic.
A child who plots consistently, even if at the lowest ends of the growth chart, is usually okay if they are gaining weight steadily. However, if a child drops in the growth chart based on height, weight, and age and is no longer gaining weight or gaining at a lower-than-expected rate, it may indicate a problem with growth.
Children are at increased risk for being smaller than expected if:
• There is an underlying medical condition.
• There is poor eating or feeding habits. Children that lack structured mealtimes and/or are forced to eat more than they want often end up eating less.
• They have poor diet quality because either
- The foods offered to the child lack the nutrients needed to promote adequate growth
- The child has a poor appetite and is not consuming all the food offered, or
- There is a lack of food available in the household.
Having adequate nutrition and growth in early life plays an important role in your child’s overall development and their ability to meet their full potential. Inadequate nutrition in early life can lead to several complications, including:
• Short stature and/or stunted growth
• Learning difficulties
• Weakened immune system
The good news is that there are many things you can do to optimize your child’s appetite and promote growth:
•Offer regular meals with sit-down snacks in-between
• Follow the division of responsibility:
- The parent decides when, where, and what food is served.
- The child decides how much and if they are going to eat.
•Add additional calories to your child’s diet wherever you can. Ideas include:
- Add butter or margarine to food
- Mix in some mashed avocado, or
- Sprinkle on some extra cheese
• ‘Dress’ your child’s foods with gravies, sauces, dressing, and dips. Never serve food plain.
• When appropriate, involve the child in the planning and preparation of meals and snacks.
For additional information, resources, and ideas on ways to optimize your child’s appetite with healthy foods, speak with a WIC nutritionist. If you have concerns about your child’s growth or rate of growth, speak with your child’s healthcare provider.