First, check with your doctor to find out if your child has a medical problem that interferes with comfort during eating (for example gastroesophageal reflux can lead to heartburn or a fear of food), or any other medical condition that interferes with hunger or weight gain.
If nothing is medically wrong, the next question is whether you’re giving calories that don’t promote weight gain or that decrease baby’s appetite–the worst culprit being juice. It’s filling, not necessarily caloric, and can stall a baby’s progress with weight gain and appetite.
If you’re breastfeeding, talk to a lactation consultant about ways to increase your milk supply, such as drinking more water, trying fenugreek tea, or using a breast pump to stimulate more milk. If you’re formula feeding, make sure you mix your formula correctly (typically one scoop powder added to two ounces water) so that baby receives 20 cal/ounce of formula given. Don’t dilute formula with more water to stretch your dollar, as that can become dangerous for baby and lead to nutritional deficiencies.
And if your baby is eating solid foods, sometimes you just need to experiment. When I run into situations where babies turn down jarred food, I encourage parents to offer pureed table food, which often has more flavor. You can also try increasing the fat content/caloric content in your baby’s diet with the addition of olive oil, other healthy oils, avocado, and other caloric foods – just make sure you do it with the guidance of your pediatrician.
In addition, remember to feed your baby like you feed yourself. Babies will eat better when they have adequate practice, so three meals per day are fine.
Dr. JJ Levenstein is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics with a thriving private pediatric practice in Encino, Calif. She serves on the clinical staff of two hospitals and has been consistently voted one of the Best Doctors in America® from 2003 through 2010. Drawing from her experience as a pediatrician and mom, Dr. Levenstein serves as president and co-founder of MD Moms, makers of Baby Silk, the first personal care line for babies developed by pediatrician moms.