It’s hard to imagine that your little one could be any cuter — but you might be wondering whether they’re growing as fast as they should.
If you’re worried that your baby might weigh too little, bear in mind that newborns normally lose 3–7% (and up to 10%) of their birth weight in their first few days of life, which they regain by about the end of their second week (
Keep in mind that these numbers are averages, and a healthy baby may have different weight gain numbers depending on their birth weight, rate of linear growth, and other factors.
You can ask your baby’s pediatrician about weight gain at any time, such as at their well-baby exam.
If you and your healthcare practitioner have ruled out medical reasons for your baby’s slow weight gain, such as heart or digestive issues, consider feeding them calorie-dense whole foods. These may encourage healthy weight gain (
Here are the 7 of the best foods to help your baby gain weight. We’ve grouped them below by age group.
A baby under 6 months that’s putting on less weight than average can be troubling. Since all or most of their calories at this point come from breastmilk, formula, or both, what you can control right now is how often they feed and whether they’re getting enough (
1. Breastmilk or infant formula — often and enough
Breastfed newborns will feed every 2–3 hours, so account for 8–12 or more feedings per day for the first 4 months.
Be sure to let your infant fully empty your breast. One reason this is recommended is because hindmilk, which comes out last during a feeding, may be richer than foremilk, which comes out first.
Let your baby feed fully, until your breast feels very soft. This will ensure they’re getting all the milk available, and it sends your body a message to make more.
You can try consuming foods that are thought to increase breastmilk production. These include lactation teas or bars with fenugreek, blessed thistle, or fennel. Oatmeal and dark beer may also help. Still, more research on these solutions is needed (5).
Additionally, avoid wearing tight-fitting bras or tops.
Until your baby begins solid foods, they will not need to drink water. Offer them breastmilk or formula instead to maximize the number of calories you’re getting into their tiny tummies.
Your doctor may also ask about any latching issues and investigate any underlying medical issues that may affect your baby’s nutrient absorption or metabolism at this age.
Speak with a pediatrician for guidance if you’re considering whether to supplement breastfeeding with formula or wondering which formula to choose.
These choices are complicated and depend on many personal factors, and a doctor can help you make informed decisions. You may also consider talking with a lactation consultant.
Most babies will start to show readiness to eat solid foods around the 6-month mark.
Speak with your healthcare professional about when to start your baby on complementary solid foods.
Whether you’re taking a baby-led weaning approach, a more traditional puréed foods style, or a combination of the two — avocado is a great transitional food for babies starting on solids.
Mash it up or serve it in thick spears. You can also add it to other foods, such as rice cereal or another fruit.
It’s a good idea to introduce new foods one at a time. This way, if your child has any sort of allergic reaction, you have a better sense of what might have caused it.
Oatmeal cereal is another wonderfully rich food that’s easy to add to your baby’s diet.
To make it, blend plain oats cooked in water, adding water as needed to achieve a soupy texture. To make it heartier, cook and thin out the oatmeal with formula or breastmilk instead. Gradually thicken it as your baby gets more comfortable.
Oatmeal packs lots of fiber, including beta glucan, which is one form of soluble dietary fiber. It promotes the growth of your baby’s beneficial gut bacteria and may encourage bacterial diversity in the gut (8).
What’s more, oatmeal is fairly neutral in taste, which makes it easy to combine with other hearty, healthy foods. For instance, you can spoon in puréed fruit and cinnamon for more flavor.
4. Peanut butter
Peanut butter packs protein and fats — both of which can encourage weight gain in your baby.
Keep in mind that peanuts are one of the 8 allergens that can cause the most serious allergic reactions in the United States (
The latest evidence supports feeding infants as young as 6 months foods that commonly cause allergies. This includes peanuts. Research suggests this approach may actually help prevent allergies from developing (11,
You’ll want to introduce allergenic foods methodically, always one at a time and introducing new, higher-risk foods at least a week apart.
It’s important to feed these to your baby on a regular basis — always watching for signs of allergies, including hives, redness around the mouth, or wheezing. If this occurs, seek medical help immediately (11,
Never feed your baby peanut butter straight from the jar, as doing so may pose a choking hazard.
The best way to feed them natural peanut butter, or any other type of nut butter, is to blend them with either warm water, applesauce, breast milk or formula, or — if you’ve already introduced dairy — yogurt.
You can add it to oatmeal for added richness.
If your child is at a higher risk of allergies or has had eczema, speak with a healthcare professional before feeding them any nut butters or higher-risk foods.
They may advise waiting until they’re older and then want to supervise this in their office or suggest an allergy test first (
8 most common food allergies
- cow’s milk
- crustacean shellfish, like shrimp
- tree nuts
Learn more about food allergies here.
Eggs are another powerhouse food that’s great for infants and adults alike. They provide a filling combination of fats and protein. They’re often gentle on the stomach, versatile, and easy to prepare (
Be mindful because this is another common allergenic food that you’ll want to introduce slowly and methodically. Keep an eye open for an allergic reaction. Seek immediate emergency care if your baby is wheezing or having trouble breathing (11,
Once eggs are a mainstay in your baby’s diet, you could try scrambling them and sprinkling in some cheese and veggies for added nutrients.
You can also use eggs in other dishes. For example, try adding them to rice with cheese and veggies for some quick rice patties, then cut these into strips to serve.
You certainly don’t have to hold off until the 9-month mark to introduce fish, but it might be easier for babies to handle the texture at this age than earlier in life.
Pair fish with a rich lemon full fat yogurt dip or marinara sauce for added nutrients.
It seems counterintuitive, but when babies hit their 12-month milestone, you may find they’re eating less.
This is because their growth rate slows. In fact, most toddlers will only put on about 5 pounds between their first and second birthday (
Of course, they’re still growing and needing lots of nourishment — they are simply not growing quite as rapidly as they were in those first 12 months of life.
So, don’t be worried if your champion eater suddenly slows down or plateaus at this phase. If they still have the energy to play and seem alert, they’re probably doing just fine.
7. Olive or avocado oils
Your toddler should get a fair amount of healthy fats. In fact, 30–40% of your toddler’s calories should come from fats (
They need roughly 1,000-1400 calories each day at this age, so that translates to about 30–50 grams of fat per day (
If your toddler needs a bit more support, consider adding a splash of olive oil or avocado oil to their food, about 1/4–1/2 tablespoon (4–7 mL) to start. You can add it into a bowl of soup or hummus or sop some whole grain bread into it.
Take care not to feed your baby too much oil, as doing so could cause gastric upset or diarrhea.
If your baby has energy to play and is tracking along with developmental milestones, they’re probably growing just fine.
Unless a healthcare professional has identified an issue with your baby’s weight, you probably don’t need to worry.
Keep in mind that babies born prematurely and those with special health needs may not track along with general growth charts.
That said, parental instinct is real. Always voice any concerns with your child’s healthcare professional. Take note of what exactly you observe that troubles you, in as much detail as possible.
For example, you could record the times, dates, and amounts and types of food your child has eaten.
If your baby seems lethargic, is refusing to feed, or isn’t meeting developmental milestones, you should make an appointment to speak with a healthcare professional, such as a pediatrician.
In addition to a medical evaluation, they may refer you to another specialist, lactation consultant, occupational therapist, or dietitian.
Your little one’s early nutrition can have lifelong impacts. Making sure they’re getting enough to eat — and growing enough — is a concern for many parents.
If your child is not tracking along or suddenly not feeding as well as they used to, speak with a healthcare professional to rule out any underlying causes. Do keep in mind that babies’ food intake normally slows at around the 12-month mark.
There are many wonderful, nourishing foods to help support your baby’s growth — including eggs, avocados, and peanut butter.
If they’re younger, or under 6 months, try to provide enough opportunities for them to breastfeed or drink enough formula according to their hunger cues.
All that said, if your little one seems alert, is meeting the developmental milestones for their age, and has enough energy to play, they’re probably getting enough to eat.
Just one thing
Try this today: The article 21 Homemade Baby Food Recipes is a great resource with tips on how to make a variety of tasty, nutritious meals for your baby once they start eating solid foods.