For mothers whose babies are born prematurely (<37 weeks gestation) or with low birth weight (<2.5 kg) it can be frustrating to watch their babies not being able to gain weight as expected. There could be other reasons too why the baby is underweight or showing poor weight gain like genetics (where both the parents are themselves petite or underweight), poor food choices, infection or other metabolic reasons. Once the pediatrician has diagnosed the underlining cause and taken adequate measures to address it the second line of treatment would involve providing foods that promote healthy weight gain.
A balanced diet with energy and protein-dense foods coupled with foods that provide vitamins and minerals (read fruits and vegetables) will help the baby gain a healthy weight.
Since the baby’s stomach is small it cannot eat large amounts of food at a time and so small frequent feeds are preferred. In addition to 2-3 meals, the baby needs to be given 2-3 snacks in a day.
Here are the best weights gaining foods that can be given to babies:
Many mothers in their zeal and enthusiasm may resort to adding sugar to their baby’s meals but this is not healthy as it leads to sugar craving in babies and causes dental caries as well as paves the way for non- communicable diseases like obesity, diabetes in the future. Junk foods like chips, soft drinks, cakes, cookies, and biscuits provide only calories without the goodness of vitamins or minerals and are best avoided.
One of the other points to be kept in mind is to curtail giving juices, soups and watery dals as these may not provide enough calories but will ‘fill the stomach up’. Energy density is the keyword here which means that porridges and khichadis should be thick and not watery or runny.
A word of caution: In your enthusiasm for wanting the baby to gain weigh do not resort to force feeding the baby. As long as the baby is active, sleeps well and continues growing at a steady pace on the growth curve you should be happy.