We often wonder just what is the ‘right weight’ for our child. ‘My daughter Amanda was a premie who weighed under five pounds when she was born. Now at seven years old, she wears a size 4 and weighs a mere 16 kilos,’ says one mom, who has done everything she could to get her child to ‘plump up.’ The good news? Under a doctor’s supervision, her daughter reached the right weight–without gaining all of the unhealthy fat from second of third servings of pumpkin pie. Here is what other moms with skinny children can learn from her experience.
Your child will be weighed each time he has a medical check-up. The doctor will then look at his BMI, or body mass index. This is a formula doctors use to estimate how much body fat a person has in relation to his weight and height. It considers both height and weight, and compared against the age and gender and the ‘national average.’
The BMI chart has percentile lines as follows: 5th, 10th, 25th, 50th, 75th 85th, 90th and 95th percentiles. Those above the 95th percentile are considered overweight because 95% of the age group has a BMI less than they do. Those below the 5th percentile are considered underweight because 95% of the age group have a higher BMI than them. At the 50th percentile would be those that are of average weight.
BMI is just part of the story
Although BMI is a good body fat indicator, it often doesn’t tell the full story. For instance, one may have high BMI because of a large frame and lots of muscle, not excess fat. On the other hand, one may have normal frame but this person can still have a lot of body fat.
Your doctor will observe your child over several months to track his development over time, and whether there is really a weight or growth problem. He will also see the weight interferes with your child’s health. Red flags include:
1. Feeling tired all the time
2. Getting sick a lot
3. Cough, stomach ache, diarrhea or other problems that have not improved after one or two weeks
Weight Gain Programs
Your doctor will give specific dietary and exercise recommendations suited to your child’s needs. For example, Amanda’s mom was told to give supplements and appetite enhancers, increase her milk intake to five times a day, and create balanced meals with 60% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 10% fats. (Check the new food pyramid.) Amanda was monitored by her pediatrician until she reached her ideal body weight.
Photo from flickr.com