DD8yo is my 'underweight' child

koala_emSeptember 18, 2006

Calling all mums and dads,

DD is 8 3/4 she is 4'1" and weighs 48.5lbs. Her BMI is 14.

She has always been small and skinny, even as a baby. Her current weight has stayed the same for this last year.

She eats a good range of fruits, veg, meats, milk and dairy, breads and cereals. She is active- dance, karate and swimming, and a 'fidgeter'.

Should I be concerned?


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I think you should ask your daughter's doctor whether this is a problem. This may be her natural growth cycle. What were you or your husband like growing up? It also depends if she is taking any medication that suppresses her apatite. I know that my daughter's doctor was fine with her being under weight as long as she gained 5 lbs/year. The first year she didn't she was very concerned.

After you talk with your doctor and you decide to increase her calorie intake these are some suggestions that we use:

1) Make "chocolate milk" using Carnation instant breakfast in addition to whatever she usually eats for breakfast. This adds about 280 calories/day with whole milk, less with skim.

2) Buy Ensure or other brand 350 calorie shakes. Use as an additional snack or drink during the day.

3) Give her a snack right before bed time. Cheese and crackers or something with protein. No sugar.

If she is very active then she just may need more calories. You can't make an 8 YO eat more, but you can try and make every thing she does eat carry a bigger punch.

Good Luck!

    Bookmark   September 18, 2006 at 8:07AM
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My 8yo DD is a lot like yours. She's grown 2 inches this year and gained only 1.5 lbs. She's 4'3" and weighs 53lbs (some days she goes as low as 51lbs). She's borderline at 14.1 or so BMI. Her checkup isn't until next month, but I'm guessing her Ped will bring it up. This is the 3rd year she's been in the low 14 percentile.
She's very active. There is no way she would choose to sit if she can be running around. She's a picky eater that hates junk foods. She may eat a cookie, but only wants one. She eats when she's hungry, snacks on fruit, veggies, and crackers and likes water better than juice or milk.
Her 6' dad weighed 125 lbs when he was 18! He was so thin when he joined the military that he had to weigh-in every month to prove he wasn't losing anymore. His mom was a size 2 her entire adult life.
So, she's going to be thin. Chances are, she'll always be thin. I keep an eye on her and make sure we have cheese and PB to supplement the crackers. I make sure to cook foods she does really like or give the option of one of her favorite foods every dinner (like pasta with spinach and parmesean cheese). We always have a bowl of fruit on the counter and deli meats in the fridge. Since she is involved in very body conscious avtivities (dance and gymnastics) I take extra care to see that she's not getting pressured to remain thin. We talk about strength and endurance rather than size and weight. I discourage the "You're sooo tiny" comments from family and friends.
As long as her Ped is fine with it and she eating healthy foods and *not* restricting herself I'm learning to accept that's it perfectly normal for her.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2006 at 9:47AM
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I wonder how much the 'fidgeting' has to do with it. DS never went a million miles an hour, but his skinny body was always moving, very restless. When he was about 9, he had surgery on his inner ear and was given an elephant's dose of Valium 2X/day to keep him still. After 8 days, with only a couple of meager meals per day, he had gained 11 lbs!!!!

    Bookmark   September 18, 2006 at 1:38PM
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I think your dd will be very happy one day that she has a "fast metabolism," or whatever it is. I was one of those children and though I sometimes disliked it when I was younger, I was always told I'd appreciate it when I got older. That was very true!!!! My father was the same way and is now a *very* young looking 78 (79 in a month). My sister was the opposite and battled a weight problem her whole life.

I was 4'11" and weighed 85 lbs when I started high school. I made it to 5'1" and 95-100 lbs by graduation and was always mistaken for much younger, much to my dismay as a young adult. I used to have people come to my door when I was a married mother of 2 and ask if my mom was home, LOL.

I have stayed relatively small and relatively youngish looking, though lately I seem to be on the fast track when it comes to aging, sigh.

Your daughter will very likely be quite happy to be naturally small, especially as she gets older, though she should be prepared for a lot of people accusing her of having an eating disorder. I had to hear that all my life.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2006 at 2:33PM
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Me too. Up until a few years ago, I was 5'6" and about 100-105 lbs all my adult life. Naturally. Heard the "too skinny" all through childhood and had to hear the "eating disorder" remarks later on too, after such a thing was introduced. I find it interesting that folks who would never go up to an overweight person and make a rude comment think nothing of doing so to me.

Anyway, some folks are naturally very thin. Do you think all those high-fashion models diet? Most of them don't. (With the advent of middle age I did gain a few lbs.)

As long as your daughter is healthy enough for the activities you mentioned, and doesn't seem concerned about her food intake, I wouldn't worry (or bug her about it). It's annoying as heck!

    Bookmark   September 18, 2006 at 7:33PM
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I really appreciate your ideas and comments.
As to naturally thin, I guess she fits the bill.

seekingadvice and gina- let me assure you I get the comments as the mother too. Directed to DD "Doesn't you mother feed you?" or general comments about my inadequecy as a mother and provider since my child is thin.

As a previously massive lady, I can also assure you people absolutely do make comments about fatter bodies- they will share diets they have tried using a 'hinting' manner, they will make snide comments (my personal favourite was: "So and so is REALLY BIG, almost as big as you")- the list goes on and on.

You are all right, in that I am sure she will love that fast metabolism in future years. My DS14 is also thin, and DD13 is bottom end of 'normal' BMI.

I think I will make DD a Dr appointment for a checkup.

As for fiddling... I have suspected for years that she sits on the borderline for hyperactivity, constantly moving, plays with her hands, wriggles, fidgets with anything she can reach. But at this time I am letting that sit as she is doing well in school and has an understanding teacher who gives her a stressball to fiddle with when she gets too fidgety.

I do try and make her milk shakes for afternoon tea sometimes, maybe I could step that up.


    Bookmark   September 18, 2006 at 7:56PM
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It sounds like your daughter is just a naturally small child. What matters is her height/weight ratio and the grow pattern/curve she has followed since birth. Has it been consistent? Talk to your pediatrician about her growth, see if there are any labs they need to check, or any physiological reasons for her small size. If she is an energetic, happy child and you know that she eats three varied meals and snacks each day, don't worry about it. How do you feel about her overall dietary intake? Is she a picky, fussy eater?

No need for milkshakes, etc. She will gain weight at her own pace as she grows. Unless she has lost weight due to an illness or some other physiological reason, it is unlikely that you will be able to "force" the pounds on her with excess calories that she probably won't e able to eat. Don't make an issue of her weight to the point that she will worry about it. It's likely her genetic make-up to be small.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2006 at 6:40AM
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Different children have different growth patterns. Kids growth is typically not consistent. They will stretch, fill out, rest and then grow again. It is not a straight line from infant to adult.

Some kids such as my nephew, will be the shortest and skinniest kid in their class, until they are in their late teens when they suddenly spurt up and grow to over 6 feet. Others, like one of my daughters will be on top of the growth charts from the time they are born and top out at 6 feet when they are 12 years old. Still others are small to start and stay small and that is right for them.

What is important is that she is active and healthy and that you patiently watch for any signs of a developing problem. Other than that, I don't think you need to do anything. Let her appetite determine what she needs to eat. When she needs the calories, let her body tell her to eat them. It knows what she requires far better than you or a doctor.

By letting her listen to her body you will be giving her a resource that will keep her healthy and at a good weight for a lifetime. By feeding her calories at a rate her body says is unneccesary, you will be teaching her to ignore her appetite and just eat. This practise is what has led to the millions of fat people on this continent.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2006 at 7:25AM
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One weird problem I have with her is clothing. She is not even remotely a child size 8. Infact, she is more like a size 5. Lengthwise, she wears 'ankle and wrist freezers' because the pants that fit her leg height fall off her, and the long sleeved tops that fit her arms look like she's borrowing her big sisters top widthwise!

I have worried about her weight for years, but she has always remained at roughly the same proportion. Probably worried at the moment because she seems to be gaining height but no weight.

Exactly what you said Sharon- I have always fed my child based on their appetite. That said, she eat a good variety of foods but small quantities. She eats about 3 tablespoons of main dinner meal on a good day. Luckily she is a breakfast eater and will eat cereals and toast. Lunch is hit and miss, sometimes she won't eat her sandwich, but usually eats the fruit.


    Bookmark   September 19, 2006 at 8:10AM
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"I find it interesting that folks who would never go up to an overweight person and make a rude comment think nothing of doing so to me."

You've obviously never been overweight! I gained a lot of weight in grad school and then lost it (and then gained it again, sigh). It is night and day different how people treat you "average" vs. "heavy". People are much more polite to you (in every way) when you are thin. Old people are the worst with the comments. People have "offered" (forced?") advice on doctors, diets, exercise, stomach stapling, etc. "You be such a pretty girl if you'd lose some weight". Blah, blah, blah. They can't shut up.

Unless the doctor says there is a problem, I wouldn't try to get her to gain weight. You never know what her metabolism will be like later, and learning to eat more than she really wants could set her up for problems later. DH was super-skinny as a kid and learned to eat two sandwiches at lunch, drink whole milk, snack when he was bored, etc. He is now middle aged and 270.

Some people are just not that food motivated. My mother wasn't. She'd pick, but she didn't eat very much. She was always small.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2006 at 1:33PM
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FWIW, Mudd and LEI jeans are cut slimmer than most, and Old Navy and probably The Gap sell slim sizes. My daughter, most inconveniently, is half-way between Slim and Regular!

Keep those slender kids away from air bags, especially older ones whose friends may be big and heavy enough for the front seat. As car pools load up, those light kids may be tempted to sit in the front seat.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2006 at 1:39PM
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Sue36, you're right. Rude people are rude to everyone!

    Bookmark   September 19, 2006 at 2:18PM
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The car seat issue has been a big one. DD was MORTIFIED because I made her stay in her toddler booster seat until last year. Infact she is still light enough for it, but is now too tall for it.
In my area she is legally not heavy enough to sit in the front seat. Which she is often miffed about- but safety is safety.

She has sat in the front seat ONCE her entire life on a five minute trip as the backseat was loaded, the whole trip my mind kept guilting me "What if I have an accident? What if she dies because I let her sit there? etc". Her weight is too low to effectively activate the inertia belts in an accident.

I remember seeing an article on Oprah about a lady who 'just that one time' held her toddler on her knee and let her older son ride without a belt in a friend's car- resulting in disaster. During the ride the car was involved in a car accident- both of her children were flung from the car over an overpass bridge leaving her daughter dead. What a tragic sad story it was... But what a lesson to learn from another's anguish.


    Bookmark   September 21, 2006 at 2:38AM
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