13 Excellent Foods To Boost Your Baby's Appetite & Weight Gain
13 mins read
Food & Nutrition for Baby
One of the biggest challenges for a mom is feeding her baby! Once your baby has started eating solids, it is crucial to ensure his nutritional needs are met and that he is gaining proper weight. Now, it is no longer enough to rely only on milk to fulfil all his body’s requirements. But what do you do when your child has a low appetite and just cannot eat enough?
Low appetite and low baby weight gain is a cause of major concern among parents; we worry about its repercussions on the baby's overall health. However, it is a fairly common problem in little ones. Before figuring out how to boost your baby’s appetite, it is important to understand the root cause of the problem. Why is your baby showing disinterest toward food, or is unable to eat enough?
Reasons for Low Appetite in Babies
If your baby is also showing an appetite slump, one of these could be the cause:
Illness – fever, cold, cough, nose congestion
Teething – discomfort in the mouth turns their interest off food and causes crankiness
Zinc deficiency – low level of zinc in the body can affect the appetite (Note: simple tip to balance zinc levels in the body is to feed chicken and pumpkin seeds. Both are zinc-rich and help solve the deficiency)
Digestion problems – constipation, gas, acidity or diarrhoea will all affect the appetite
Slowed growth – this is nothing to worry about; your baby’s growth slows when he becomes a toddler and an appetite slump may happen due to reduced calorific requirement
Improper spacing between meals – your baby may not be hungry enough at meal time if there isn’t a proper gap (2-3 hours)
Drinking too much milk – can lead to constipation and also lower the appetite. Milk is not enough to meet all the nutrition needs of a growing baby, so avoid over-feeding milk
Watch: 3 More Reasons for Poor Weight Gain in Babies
Foods to Help Baby Gain Weight and Increase Appetite
Now that you’ve identified some potential reasons for your baby’s low appetite and low weight gain, it is time to find a solution that will increase your baby's weight. We have compiled for you a list of appetite boosting foods for babies. Try these weight gain recipes for babies as per the expert-recommended guidelines, and you will be able to see the difference soon.
0 Months +
Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended till babies turn 6 months and breast milk contains all the required nutrients for your little one till he reaches this age. Make sure that your baby gets enough breast milk and he should be on-track with his weight gain. If for certain reasons, your baby is not getting enough weight on exclusive breastfeeding, you can start your baby on formula as a supplement after consulting your doctor. How to feed: Watch out for hunger cues and ensure that you follow a breastfeeding schedule.
Carrot Juice / Puree
6 Months +
Little ones often love playing with, or nibbling at, carrots – thanks to their red colour. But did you know carrot juice is also an appetite stimulant? As per experts, carrots are known to increase hunger and help babies eat more at meal time.
How to feed: Offer a small cup/glass of carrot juice before meals. You can also prepare a carrot puree.
7 Months + This popular South Indian food is an excellent item to boost your baby’s appetite. It also aids digestion, thus relieving your baby of any stomach related problems. Bonus: rasam also boosts immunity!
How to feed:Rasam can be a healthy breakfast option for your child. Keep the spices (e.g. pepper) in moderation when feeding smaller children. Use it with seasoning to increase toddler appetite as your little one grows older.
6 Months +
Ginger is one of the oldest remedies for improving appetite; it also helps cure ingestion and nausea.
How to feed: So, how to increase baby weight using ginger? It is best to feed ginger in juice form, mixed with lemon and honey. (This is great for adults too, to improve appetite and rev up metabolism!)
Cinammon / Daalchini
6 Months +
This is one of the most effective foods to improve appetite in babies. It also adds flavour to food, making it more appetising for your baby.
How to feed: You can add cinnamon in regular baby food such as mashes or porridge. You can also serve it in shakes such as this Apple Cinnamon Milkshake, avoiding the sugar.
Asafoetida / Hing
6 Months + This is a wonder ingredient to not only boost your baby’s appetite but also rid him of any stomach-related problems such as gas or flatulence. When the tummy is happy, the baby eats better and is likelier to gain weight!
How to feed: Add a dash of hing to your baby’s khichdi or daal.
7-8 Months +
Papaya is known to be an appetite stimulant fruit and help baby gain weight faster. The best part is, it is also a vitamin rich food, particularly providing your baby with Vitamin A, C and E. This makes it a healthy option to help your baby improve his appetite.
How to feed: Feed papaya in mashed form after de-seeding, or make a papaya puree using some milk/water. Papaya is also a good food for toddlers to gain weight so do serve it as a finger-food for your older child.
Shakarkandi / Sweet Potatoes
6 Months + Sweet potatoes are among the excellent foods to help baby gain weight in a healthy manner. They are rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Copper and Manganese, besides providing dietary fibre. This makes them one of the best weight gain foods for babies.
How to feed: Serve in boiled and mashed form. You can also prepare sweet potato kheer or khichdi. Avoid adding salt and sugar for babies under age 1.
6 Months +
The good old lemon juice which we all resort to during summer is actually a natural appetite stimulant! Plus, lemon is also a cooling agent which helps your baby feel more comfortable. Over-heating is a sureshot appetite-killer and can also be harmful.
How to feed: Offer your child a small cup of lemon juice once or twice a day.
Ajwain / Carom Seeds
6 Months +
Carom seeds have been traditionally used in Indian households to both bring flavour and keep stomach troubles at bay. But ajwain is also a great appetite booster! It can encourage your baby to eat more by improving his appetite over time.
How to feed: Serve your baby some carom water (ajwain seeds with water), or add carom seeds to the tadka in daal.
Curd With Mint Leaves / Curd With Oats
8-9 Months + Curd is a good option to fulfil your baby’s dairy needs without going overboard with milk. Sometimes, consuming too much milk hampers the child’s appetite for other foods. Plus, adding mint to curd is known to be an appetite booster for babies and also introduces your little one to an interesting new flavour.
How to feed: Add some mint leaves to curd and blend properly before serving. You can also whip up a complete baby meal using curd and oats. It is both filling as well good for the digestive system.
Dry Fruits & Nuts
8-9 Months + Nuts such as cashew, almonds and walnuts are proven appetite boosting foods. You can also use dried fruits like dates and figs. Eaten over time, they will definitely help your baby gain healthy weight.
How to feed:Make nut powder and add it to your child’s food and drinks. Another good idea is to make a nutritional nutty punch combining nuts with other wholesome veggies. This can become a complete meal for babies older than 8 months. For older kids, nuts can be served as finger foods.
However, make sure you supervise this closely as nuts can become a choking hazard. Also be careful not to serve too many raisins as they have been linked to problems like tooth decay (Read more about feeding raisins to kids here).
6-8 Months + The anaar is an excellent fruit for improving appetite in babies mainly because it cures digestive disorders, making your baby feel more comfortable and fit. It is also useful to kill intestinal worms and protect the liver. All this makes it a front runner among foods that stimulate appetite in little ones.
How to feed: Offer pomegranate in juice form, without the seeds. You can serve the pulp to an older baby but avoid giving the whole seeds.
Tips on How to Increase Appetite in Babies
In addition to the above foods, you can try the following tips to help increase appetite in your little one:
Never skip breakfast
Your little one should have a filling breakfast to break the night’s ‘fast’. A balanced breakfast gets the body running for the day and thus improves metabolism. A family breakfast should be a must in every household to start the day on healthy note.
Offer water before meals
Having water half an hour before every meal and one hour after every meal is a must to ensure that your little one’s digestion is on track. However, having water too close to the meal will dilute the digestive juices so avoid doing so.
Set a schedule with mini meals
Instead of three big meals, try and offer your child mini meals every two hours. A big meal may take longer to digest and be too heavy for your little one. Offering food every two hours will also boost their metabolism.
Don’t feed milk as a meal in itself
Milk in itself shouldn’t be a meal if your child has already started eating proper foods (i.e. after he’s completed a year.) Milk can kill your child’s appetite for the next meal. You can substitute milk with milk products like yogurt, cottage cheese, etc. Or complement it with certain healthy foods like cereals.
Teach your child to eat small bites and chew well
While your child learns to eat his food on a schedule, you should also teach him how to eat his food. Never feed him in hurry. Feed him small bites and teach him to chew well to ensure that the food gets digested quickly and easily. This will also help in boosting his metabolism.
Ensure your child gets enough playtime
Playtime and any physical activity improves appetite while also having other benefits. If you see your child’s appetite declining, you can try and increase the amount of play time he gets to make him digest food better.
Avoid oily and fatty foods
Oily, fatty foods are heavy and tougher to digest. While a balance of healthy saturated fats i required in your child’s diet, don’t go overboard as it could affect your child’s appetite.
Increase vitamin-rich foods
Certain vitamin deficiencies, especially a zinc deficiency, are linked to a low appetite. Make sure that your baby has a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals and consult your doctor to understand the severity of the deficiency and supplements, if required.
Real Mom Experience
WOM Mommy Blogger Vaishali Sharma shares how she worked to increase her baby’s appetite and helped him gain weight:
Vaishali says, “A newborn usually regains its birth weight by the time he/she is 14 days old. A baby doubles its birth weight in 3, or maximum, 4 months. You can expect your baby to triple its birth weight by about one year of age. It was all going well for my baby boy too. But as soon as my baby hit the third year mark, things got rough. He began to get sick and wasn't gaining weight as per the growth chart.This really began to worry me.”
But Vaishali did one important thing that helped her baby – She spent quality time with her child She stated “Spending quality time with your little one is very important. If you are wondering how this is connected to weight gain, this is what I have learnt from experience. When you spend time with your baby and laugh together, it helps create a positive environment at home. This keeps stress at bay and helps your baby feel happier and more protected. Result: his appetite improves! So, make sure you and your baby indulge in laughter therapy and have fun playtime together. Also read out stories to satiate the curiosity of the little-creative-mind. One advice: When you are trying to help your little one be happy, also look after yourself. Always remember - a happy mom means a happy baby and a happy family!”
Truly, Vaishali’s story shows that ‘momma knows best!’ She’s doing a commendable job at parenting and guiding others by sharing her experience!
A baby's weight is an indicator of his overall development and for this reason most moms want to ensure that their little one is gaining weight and gaining it fast! Worries about your baby’s loss of appetite are justified but as long as your baby’s weight fall in the average weight standards for his age, he should be fine. However, moms tend to look at whether the baby has gained weight or not, regardless of whether it still falls in the average weight category. This can often lead to babies becoming overweight and ultimately lead to obesity as the child grows up. Today, India has the second highest number of obese children in the world, but this number can be brought down by simply exercising precaution on the type of food your baby is consuming and focusing on his health and happiness instead of his weight gain. Obesity can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and other life-threatening conditions, but inculcating healthier lifestyle habits earlier on in life can cut down on the risk of obesity itself.
If your baby fails to improve his appetite or gain weight despite consuming the above foods, it could signal a health problem such as an eating disorder, or a gastro-intestinal infection. Please consult the paediatrician who might recommend a tonic or medication to rule this out. However, if your baby is active, eats well and looks happy, don’t worry too much about his weight parameters. A chubby baby is not necessarily healthier. Keep doing physical activities with your baby and feed him a balanced, nutritious diet – that’s all that matters.