Is my toddler too skinny?

Naturally skinny or underweight? Are you really sure your child needs to pack on some pounds?

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Your little one might have been a chubby baby, but don’t be surprised when she develops into a beanpole in a few years. Lots of toddlers are naturally skinny, but she’ll shed all that lovely baby fat once she starts getting moving around and walking.

Says Amy Chan, mum to 20-month-old Grace, “Once my daughter hit her 1-year mark, she started to lose those chubby rolls. While I didn’t think it was an issue, I had elderly relatives asking me if she wasn’t eating, or why I didn’t feed her more.”

It’s not common for children to be underweight, says Kinder Clinic paediatrician Dr Vera Oh. Sometimes, when the child’s parents or grandparents think they are underweight or not heavy enough, it’s usually a perception, especially if the child is in the 10th or 25th percentile. “There’s a perception that the child has to be yuan yuan, fei fei, pang pang (round and chubby), but that’s not necessarily the best thing for the child,” Dr Oh notes.

“There’s a perception that the child has to be yuan yuan, fei fei, pang pang (round and chubby), but that’s not necessarily the best thing for the child.”

Many children are naturally skinny or slim, especially if you and your husband are also thin, or were thin as children. “They gain weight very rapidly for the first year or two, then after that, it slows down. That’s normal.  There is a problem if the child does not gain weight or if the weight is dropping,” Dr Oh says.

So, how do we tell if junior is underweight, or if it’s a cause for concern? Dr Oh recommends parents refer to the charts in their child’s health booklet so that they can compare their child’s height and weight against their peers. “Generally we’d say that children who are in the less than 3 percentile ― lighter than 3 per cent of the population of the same sex and age ― will be considered underweight.”

Nor is being underweight a cause for concern. “There may not be anything abnormal,” adds Dr Oh. “It just means that this child is lighter than 3 per cent of the population and you should take note of that.”

So, what should you do if your child is underweight? Read on…