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Healthy Growth, Happy Kids

July 19, 2023 Children

“I worry Kimmy will get fat, so I try to get her to not eat so much,” one mom confided. The next mom shared, “I let Mika watch TV when he eats so I can get a couple more bites in. He’s too skinny.” It’s natural to compare your child to others, but how can you know if your child is growing in a healthy way, and what can you do to support healthy growth?

Children come in all shapes and sizes. Unfortunately there is a lot of confusion about growth. If your child is bigger or smaller than average and has always been that way, that’s reassuring. Your child may be the smallest or biggest in their day care or playgroup and still be healthy. The numbers on a growth chart are not like a report card. It’s not better to be 75th% than 25th%, or the other way around.

However, if your child isn’t gaining or is losing weight, your doctor and nutrition expert will want to be sure there isn’t a medical problem. They’ll want to be sure that your child is getting a good balance of foods and activity — something that’s good for all kids! Your health care team will also want to take a closer look if your child is gaining weight quickly or their growth is suddenly different than usual.

childrens are playing
childrens playing

Feeding for Healthy Growth

mom and child

Trying to make your child eat more or less to make them gain weight faster or slower can backfire. If Kimmy’s mom tries to make her eat less, Kimmy may whine for food, eat quickly, get food on her own and eat more than she needs. If Mika’s mom tries to make him eat more and they battle over it, Mika can’t tell if he’s hungry or full and chances are he won’t eat or grow any better, either!

Thinking about what your child eats is important, but research shows that how you feed also matters. A way of feeding that helps children grow well is called the “Division of Responsibility,” where parents and children have divided jobs. You decide what, when and where your child eats, and they decide how much to eat or whether to eat at all during meals and snacks. Remember — sitting down at the table is the healthiest and safest place for your child to eat. They learn by watching and you can make sure they don’t choke.

What Else Affects Growth?

If your family tends to be short and stocky, or tall and lean, your child will likely be too. But that’s only part of the puzzle. Research tells us that not enough sleep, skipping meals, too much TV or screen time, and stress can interfere with healthy growth.

Tips to Support Healthy Growth:

children Healthy Growth

With small children and the demands of work and daily life, there can be a lot of stress. Having a routine can go a long way to ease stress for you and your child. Not fighting over how much your child eats will make meals a time to connect and enjoy each other. Although Kimmy and Mika are different sizes, they can be fed the same way and grow up healthy and happy.


Side-Lying Hold

  1. For the right breast, lie on your right side with your baby facing you.
  2. Pull your baby close. Your baby’s mouth should be level with your nipple.
  3. In this position, you can cradle your baby’s back with your left arm and support yourself with your right arm and/or pillows.
  4. Keep loose clothing and bedding away from your baby.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:


Cross-Cradle Hold

  1. For the right breast, use your left arm to hold your baby’s head at your right breast and baby’s body toward your left side. A pillow across your lap can help support your left arm.
  2. Gently place your left hand behind your baby’s ears and neck, with your thumb and index finger behind each ear and your palm between baby’s shoulder blades. Turn your baby’s body toward yours so your tummies are touching.
  3. Hold your breast as if you are squeezing a sandwich. To protect your back, avoid leaning down to your baby. Instead, bring your baby to you.
  4. As your baby’s mouth opens, push gently with your left palm on baby’s head to help them latch on. Make sure you keep your fingers out of the way.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:


Clutch or “Football” Hold

  1. For the right breast, hold your baby level, facing up, at your right side.
  2. Put your baby’s head near your right nipple and support their back and legs under your right arm.
  3. Hold the base of your baby’s head with your right palm. A pillow underneath your right arm can help support your baby’s weight.
  4. To protect your back, avoid leaning down to your baby. Bring baby to you instead.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:


Cradle Hold

  1. For the right breast, cradle your baby with your right arm. Your baby will be on their left side across your lap, facing you at nipple level.
  2. Your baby’s head will rest on your right forearm with your baby’s back along your inner arm and palm.
  3. Turn your baby’s tummy toward your tummy. Your left hand is free to support your breast, if needed. Pillows can help support your arm and elbow.
  4. To protect your back, avoid leaning down to your baby. Instead, bring your baby to you.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:


Laid-Back Hold

  1. Lean back on a pillow with your baby’s tummy touching yours and their head at breast level. Some moms find that sitting up nearly straight works well. Others prefer to lean back and lie almost flat.
  2. You can place your baby’s cheek near your breast, or you may want to use one hand to hold your breast near your baby. It’s up to you and what you think feels best.
  3. Your baby will naturally find your nipple, latch, and begin to suckle.

This hold is useful when: