Baby almost a year old and doesn't eat enough to gain weight

Smith_family0609 - posted on 01/24/2014 ( 3 moms have responded )

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Hello moms...So I have a sort of long, drawn out story about my son. My son is 11 months old and since 2 months of age, has not eaten enough to gain well on his own. To this day, he does not eat more than 2-4 ozs at a time, 3-4 times a day. He was breastfred until 8 months then went to formula since my breast milk was having to be supplemented with high calorie formula as it was. Right now, he is taking 3 oz of formula with 1 oz of heavy whipping cream (boosting bottles to 40 cals for oz) and adding 1 tablespoon of heavy whipping cream to babyfood, when we can get him to eat any. We see a nutritionist weekly and feeding therapist and are now waiting (after starting the referral process 4 months ago) to see a G.I. doctor. We have tried everything under the son to get him to gain...he goes through spurts where he will eat well for a week or two, gaining 1/2 oz a day, then suddenly he stops for a few weeks and loses weight. Right now, he is 17.2 lbs. born 7.2 lbs. We have fortified formulas, tried giving him cheeses, chicken nuggets, all the fatty foods we could give him and again, he goes through periods of loving it all then hating everything. He has been tested for reflux, had ultrasounds and blood work done, and he is normal aside from never wanting to eat. It has been a total and utter nightmare... He gained weight so well and so fast right after he was born, then developed severe eczema which caused his skin to peel off. His doc perscribed a HIGH dosage of singulair which is when all the feeding issues started. Stupid me, we did what the doc said and kept him on it for 4 months before another doc said "what the hell are you doing giving that to him!?" We stopped and began seeing a new doc. He seemed to start eating once he was off the medication, but has never increased the amount of food he could intake and he NEVER shows signs or ques of being hungry. Its such a struggle to get him to eat that I'm in tears daily. He is now very ill with RSV that my daughter brought home from preschool and has since completely stopped eating...he is so skinny that he can not afford to lose weight and we are back to the discussion of a feeding tube :( I held out hope all the time that he would be well and eating like a normal baby by his first birthday, but nothing has changed...He is super tall (in the 65% for height and >.0.50% for weight). I just don't know what to do...we have seen 4 different docs and no one has any ideas. The nutritionist and feeding therapist both agree he needs to be seen by the G.I. but we are having issues getting in thanks to this crappy new insurance mess. He is mentally advanced, walking, running, talking, climbing and super active but can focus for long periods of time on puzzles and games. For 11 months old, he acts more like a 2 year old. But I'm at the ends of my rope with getting him to eat...if I don't push every 2-3 hours to get food in him, he loses weight FAST. He needs close to 1000 calories a day to gain well and gets around 700 when he is well. Thank you to all who have read through my drawn out story about my son. I'm so lost and when 4 docs have already said they don't know whats wrong or even where to send him, as a mom, that is absolutely frightening.

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Chet - posted on 01/25/2014

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Again, things could be worse than they are. He is active and developmentally advanced. He is well past doubling his birth weight. He goes through periods of time where he does eat enough to gain, even if it's with a lot of effort on your part so you know that it's possible. His caloric needs seem normal (it's not like he's consuming 1000 calories a day and still losing weight, he gains when he consumes enough to gain). And you haven't described any symptoms of malnutrition or serious vitamin deficiency.

My only point being that as stressful as this is, you have some things to be thankful for and some things you can work with. Try to use those to relax a little. Keep working hard at this, but take some comfort in the successes you have as well and the fact that things could be much worse than they are. You relaxing and being more comfortable around meals and snacks may help him.

Your doctor probably suggested 1000 calories a day as a target because she knows that 750 is average for 6 to 12 month olds and 900 is the average for one year olds... so if you overshoot the average he should gain fast I wouldn't carry that 1000 calorie figure around in your head thinking about what a huge shortfall your son has every day though. Set small goals and take comfort in small successes.

Along with everything you're doing I would continue to offer finger foods and to encourage your son to feed himself even if it's just a bite here and there. I would also try to give your son snacks when he is contained and has nothing else to do (like in the car or the stroller).

Smith_family0609 - posted on 01/25/2014

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Thanks so much Chet for replying! I wish my son ate 1000 cals...that is what the doc says he needs to gain well. he gets around 600-700 on a good day, a bit more and he gains weight. He won't eat more than 3-4 ozs in a sitting, right now that he is sick, he only drinks about 2 oz at a time every few hours.

He usually plays with food when I give it to him, sometimes he eats it, sometimes not. Its different at each meal with him. I have offered everything under the sun, pretty much anything I eat, I let him try and see what he does. We do babyfood mixed with heavy whipping cream most often right now since thats what I can get in him.

We had an ultrasound done on him a month ago which showed "sludge" in his gull bladder. The doc had no experience with something like that and said we would see what the GI doc said about it...could be something, could be nothing.

We have just been dealing with this for soooooo long. If I let him tell me when he is hungry, he won't eat all day and loses weight FAST. Its as if his brain doesn't send the signal that he needs food to live.

Chet - posted on 01/24/2014

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I would try to relax. You clearly have a situation that needs to be dealt with, but I don't think things are that bad. And a lot of tension and stress around food doesn't help kids to develop healthy eating habits, which should be your ultimate goal.

Honestly, sick kids usually look or act sick. If poor weight gain was a symptom of a serious underlying problem it would be surprising that your son is so active and developmentally advanced. Does he look gaunt or emaciated, or does he just look very lean? I've known plenty of babies who were only 16 to 18 pounds at this age - and they were skinny, but not sickly.

I'll be surprised if the GI specialist finds something, so I wouldn't be too upset about the wait for the appointment. Sometimes kids have poor gains because of absorption problems, or because of some health condition causing them to need a very large number of calories. But 900 calories a day is average for a 12 month old and you said your son gains when he consumes 1000 calories a day... so his caloric needs seem reasonable considering he's light but his activity level is high. Of course, the GI specialist may find something, but the situation you describe doesn't sound like it's a GI problem.

It's pretty common for kids to go through cycles of eating and then not being interested in food. I understand specialists wanting you to carefully track calories, but try to take it with grain of salt. To some extent, being hyper aware of what your son takes in is not normal and may be causing you more worry than it should. And if he's sensing a lot of upset or pressure around food and feeding that may be part of the problem.

Unfortunately, it's also pretty typical for babies to stop gaining and slim down when they get older and become more active. Our first bounced around 17 pounds for months as an older baby. The thing is, most moms hit this stage with a chubby baby. Although it's a bit of a shock when their little one starts eating less and doesn't gain any real weight for a couple of months, it's easier to take if you don't start out already worried about weight. So again, when you set your expectations try to remember that part of this is probably your son's age and actively level. Lots of babies his age are the same, they just put on more weight before they got to this stage and become too busy to eat.

Our youngest had hardly any interest in solids at 11 months and weighed about the same as your son. None of our kids weighed anywhere close 20 pounds at 12 months, but all four were well over eight pounds when they were born. Doubling your birth weight is the most important thing, and your son has done that and then some.

Since your son goes through periods of eating okay he clearly knows how. I think that's a huge plus, and something you can take comfort in. I would really avoid the GI tube if I could since I would be hugely concerned about disrupting your son's relationship with food and eating. This is an age where children should be learning to eat actual food, to feed themselves, appreciate the texture of food in their mouths, etc.

If you leave a snacks somewhere accessible (like the coffee table or a kiddie table) will your son graze?

What does your son do when you sit down to a family meal? What does he do when you put food in front of him? Will he play with it? Ignore it?

If you offer to share your food with him will he be interested and try what you're offering?

If you give him a snack in the stroller when you're out for a walk and he's not distracted by wanting to run and climb will he eat it? What if you give him a snack in the car?

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