My baby boy is seriously small

I’m bursting with love as I write this.  My hands have been hovering over the keyboard, not sure where or if to begin.  But I have scoured the net myself for the past year at least, searching for similar stories to mine, searching for advice, positive outlooks, some sort of kinship.  I certainly found some common ground along the way, but usually in the form of tedious forums which made me want to top myself…online forums often make me feel like I have just subjected myself to hours of daytime TV whilst polishing off an entire chocolate cake and a paper bag full of dripping fish ‘n chip shop floor scrapings; self-loathing.  And so, my hesitation in writing about our journey thus far with our little boy, is transformed into resolve.  Perhaps another mum or dad, dealing with the very stressful situation where a wee bambino fails to gain weight, might do a search on this here interweb, and find my blog post, and bam!  We meet here, and identify and assist.  So here we go.

My boy’s birth weight was very standard; 3.26kg.  He latched on to the boob extremely well (and still does at almost eighteen months).  In the first three or four months, his weight gain was fine, even great.  And suddenly, at around the five month mark, maternal health nurses started tutting and looking sorry for me and lowering their very silly lower lips as though they might cry like a baby.  On one such occasion I said:

“Look, do I need to panic or can we dispense with the amateur dramatics?”

She carried on with the performance and in a baby voice said: “We get a little bit sad when the dots go down the percentile curve.”  I nearly slapped her.  Zeph gradually slid down the percentile charts and then fell off the bottom you see.  Hence the drama.  He hit the 5th percentile at this particular appointment.

“Is this helpful? Do I need to go to a pediatrician or don’t I?”

“Oh no, he still has a good amount of fat around the bottom.  He passes the bottom test.”

Oh whatever, you tedious, patronising, painful, pitying pain in my ass.

Zeph had acid reflux for the first five to six months of his life.  He was pumped full of Zantac from the word go and hated every forced gulpful.  It was awful and it felt like it would never end, and then it just did.  Maternal health nurses and doctors encouraged me to introduce him to solids at four months because this might help with the reflux.  In the UK where my daughter was born, I didn’t consider solids until around the six month mark and only really started them in earnest around seven months.  Anyway, at four months my son was not interested.  He momentarily took some pureed veg from a spoon, but his interest was desperately short lived.  I had promised myself not to get stressed out if my son was a fussy eater.  My daughter had been too for the first year or more, and then suddenly ate brilliantly.  So I tried not to force the issue, but everyone was on my case, encouraging me to try this, try that…I tried everything.  The bottle?  Not a chance.  He still won’t drink from one.  I did what I had also done with my daughter, which was to dive into baby led weaning (BLW); very common in the UK but not so well-known here in Australia.  He refused to be spoon fed, and so I put lamb chops, pasta, chunks of veg, chicken, cheese, savoury muffins, prawns, fish fillets and so on, on his tray and let him feed himself.  Sometimes he’d nibble, but more often than not it ended up on the floor.  Now this would have been a perfectly acceptable situation if it were not for the fact that, despite my huge milk supply and my son’s voracious appetite for boob, his weight gain was truly dreadful.  Let me really highlight how bad; he is now approaching eighteen months old and he weighs 8kg…just.  Yup, he’s the cutest, tiniest, most delicious child you will ever encounter….don’t argue…he is!

He has been in and out of doctors’ rooms since he was born with acid reflux, eczema (disappeared as quickly as it came), croup, tummy bugs, puke bugs, hand foot and mouth and so on.  He has had too many doses of antibiotics and has had a bad run.  He has been tested for allergies (none), tested for coeliac, parasites, intolerances, liver issues, bowel issues and on and on it goes.  All tests came back showing a great big nada.  Save to say, my very jolly, hilarious wee quirky madman, loses his shit whenever we go to a medical clinic…even when the appointment is for me.  He is conditioned to think that he’ll be stripped naked, have his bollocks squeezed, have cold, sharp things pressed into his stomach, his back and his ears and be placed, butt naked into a freezing metal bowl to gauge his weight.  He’s over it.  So am I.

Just before Zeph turned one, we went to a pediatrician.  He took one look at my son pushing toy cars around his room, pulling himself up on furniture, squealing and babbling and said “he’s fine.”  Apparently he had the necessary amount of subcutaneous fat for everything to be considered ok.  He was meeting all the relevant milestones and we were told to return in three months.  Shortly after this, Zeph started sleeping through the night (coinciding suspiciously with me putting a baltic amber necklace around his teeny neck) without a 10pm top up and seemed to start eating with some level of consistency.  We went to Vietnam for two weeks and the sleeping and eating continued and we thought we might be turning the corner.  But then an appalling tummy bug and a disasterous case of hand, foot and mouth and for the first time, my poor boy actually lost weight. Not good.  Not good at all.  For the first time in his short little life, I actually started to panic.  I felt utterly helpless. He went off food again and was all about boob…four feeds a day still (none through the night).  We saw the pediatrician again.  In my mind, Zeph now looked malnourished.  He had lost the modest juicy bot and little folds of fat on his legs and arms, his stomach was distended and his ribcage protruded.  Could somebody please fecken tell me what to do?  My partner and I also agreed that he seemed to have lost his mojo.  By this time Zeph was running about the place and when we arrived at the pediatrician appointment, the doctor saw Zeph in hysterical laughter running away from me in the waiting room, flirting with other people and generally having a blast.  He was obviously unimpressed by his weight but was convinced that his time would come, and he would suddenly start eating and gaining weight.  He put some of this down to Zeph not eating enough, and our genetic make-up; neither I nor my partner are big, and I was pretty late on the puberty front…so perhaps it all contributes.  The doc said that early on in his lengthy career he would submit patients like Zeph for all the necessary tests, but he could count on one finger the number of times these tests had revealed anything interesting.  So he discouraged me from testing for anything and said to return in three months.

This was shortly followed by a six-day puke bug which wiped out my little boy.  No eating and endless puking and he seemed to waste away in front of our eyes.  Our family doctor suggested that it was time to see a pediatrician she knew who specialised in gastric issues…so off we went.  Now this pediatrician was actually very friendly with the ex-pediatrician and confirmed his excellent reputation.  But she agreed, upon examination and a weigh-in that my little boy had finally (at sixteen months or thereabouts) deserved some tests to be done.  I think she got a far worse impression of Zeph than was necessary.  Because of his pathological fear of doctors’ rooms he wailed from the moment we arrived until the moment we left when he then danced around the waiting room as though nothing had happened.  However, I took the horrible poo and wee samples in to pathology and Zeph screamed his way through the blood tests.  And….they came back all clear.  Nada.  I had mixed feelings about the nada. I felt utterly helpless.  I had kind of hoped that something insidious might be detected so that we could deal with it and it would make sense of this very weird situation.  However, the pediatrician sounded extremely relieved, told me to make an appointment with the dietician to assist with upping Zeph’s calorie intake, and assured me that Zeph would eventually catch up in the weight stakes over time.

Around this time, Zeph suddenly became interested in food again.  It seemed that he was interested in earnest.  And things started to turn around for him at childcare as well where he was eating as much as anyone else, sleeping well and playing like a loon all day.  He was properly chowing down on his nosh; prawns, fish, chook, sausages, pasta bolognese, fried rice, risottos, yoghurt, mac cheese, veg…it was all starting to happen.  We could see on our very unreliable scales, that he was gaining a wee bit.  Also, around this time, we suddenly saw some normal poos.  Up until around 17 months, probably 80-90 percent of Zeph’s poos were explosive or just runny affairs; never a good old-fashioned nugget!  Probably indicative of an unsettled tummy, a passing intolerance or a troubled lining of the tummy from too many antibiotics.  Dunno, but we have been enjoying some sort of improvement on this front.

So we went to the dietician, and predictably she provided no ground-breaking suggestions to improve my chances of increasing Zeph’s calorie intake.  She confirmed that I was doing all the right things; cooking everything in oodles of butter, cream, milk.  She wrote me a list of the foods I ought to be focusing on which i have posted below in case it is of any use to anyone out there.  She insisted that Zeph should have iron-rich protein at least two meals a day, aiming for two tablespoons per meal.  Sometimes this is achieved and sometimes not.  But that’s all I can do – keep offering, making it as goddam tasty as I can and make mealtimes a light, fun affair.  I steam or boil veg, and then fry them in butter and lemon juice with a splash of tamari and they go down a treat.  Prawn and fish with loads of butter and lemon juice.  Chicken risotto, scrambled eggs or French toast for breakfast.  Always trying to get him to drink milk when his sister does at night (he happily drinks an entire sippy cup full of cold milk two days a week at childcare but not for me!) but he flirts with it, makes a performance of it but drinks sod all.  I have cut back boob, trying for just the one breastfeed before bed at night in the hope that he will eat more but I haven’t truly noticed any difference so I worry that I could be filling him with more milk.  Nonetheless, some days this works brilliantly, particularly on nursery days.  But when I have to put him to bed at home without boob during the day, shits are trumps!

Dietician - High Energy/High Fat dietI forgot to mention that I started taking Zeph to a cranio chiro early on in his little life.  She was great but it was very costly and not something I could keep doing on a regular basis.  She made a big deal out of probiotics but I had no success with the powder probiotics which you have to mix with water, as the boy refuses anything on a spoon.  I wonder if I had persisted if this might have helped out a little.  I think possibly that medications caused some distress to the lining of his tummy which led to a lack of absorption and endless runny poos.  I’m just guessing, but something went wrong at around five months, and I’m clawing at things which might be responsible.  Now he takes half a chewable probiotic tablet daily and vitamins with iron.

So look, I’m wittering now.  The point is we’re still very much in the middle of it all.  We are by no means through all of this.  Teething sets us back on the eating front, as do colds and general illness.  Zeph is a titch and will be for some time but he is all the cuter for it!

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11 Responses to My baby boy is seriously small

  1. Another Kate says:

    We “crossed several percentile lines” with our girl who is now 2.5 years. She was born at 75th percentile, but once she started moving more (particularly once crawling) she dropped to well below 25th. She later didn’t gain any weight at all for many months but then picked up a bit. Bugs from daycare (6months onwards) and her general disinterest in food/sitting still hadn’t helped. We’ve noticed a slight creep up over the last 6 months since a few less daycare bugs, developmental milestones and changing our approach to food at home to make it less pressured (we fake disinterest if she refuses). She is now offered the same food as us, praised for trying things that are new and offered a dessert if finishes her plate. Also, her improved language means she can let us know what food she likes and she sometimes joins in food prep (peeling corn etc) to get her more familiar with new foods. Also she can communicate if foods bother her (cows milk seems to give her a sore tummy/runs a bit later and she has naturally learnt to avoid it.) I hope you find things get easier with your boy too as he gets older.

    The growth charts they are using are probably based on the UK WHO charts, I.e. on studies of healthy, breastfed babies in 6 countries from non-deprived mothers. It is not comparing your child to pre-term babies or deprived starving children in developing countries. It’s just a standard spread of healthy, term, non-deprived babies. Like you said- if you as parents were light, you might have light kiddies too. Our health visitors suggested that some babies shift to their true place on the charts once they start being more active. Your health visitors sound infuriating!

    P.s that list of recommendations looks stressful! We’d have no chance of meeting that per meal. I think it’s more realistic to look at intake over a week with toddlers. Some days our girl eats loads of meat and not much else at dinner, others she goes for cheese, pasta or bread etc. it’s very rare that we get a balanced intake from a single meal. Over the week it does probably balance out okay. If you haven’t already then you could consider supermarket full fat probiotic yoghurt instead of tablets, cheaper etc. It sounds like you are doing a great job (hats off to you for breastfeeding still. I was totally exhausted by one year!)

    • Sweet Mother says:

      Hi hun, thanks for your brilliant response. And how are you coping with number 2? I’m presuming s/he has arrived? Full on eh? How’s your daughter coping?

      Yes, Zeph started around the 50th on those stoopid charts and he gradually slid down, down, down until he toppled right off.Everybody gets themselves in a stitch when that happens. Yes, the disinterest in food was and sometimes still is utterly infuriating, stressful and all the rest. Keeping mealtimes light and stress free is sometimes so tricky I feel that I’m losing my mind, particularly when my daughter is having one of her “I don’t want to eat this mummy” days…all perfectly natural. I have days like that too. But when you’re trying to stuff a tiny toddler full of all the good stuff, and have an attachment to the end result, gawd it’s hard. When I watch him playing with a wee morsel, waving it around in front of his face, popping it slowly, slowly, slowly into his mouth, I feel my own mouth drop open willing it to happen.

      The recommendations are guidelines and I agree with you, if my life and Zeph’s life depended on him consuming an entire two tablespoons of iron-rich protein two meals a day, I’d be in an asylum. I nearly am as it goes.

      Loads ‘a love hun,

      Miranda x

  2. Martha Prideaux-Brune says:

    Hi M…
    So… I just wanted to let you know, in brief, my story with nell as it might shed some light. She was born on 95th percentile, healthy weight and a v happy baby. She had a bit of reflux, nothing too bad- then around five months started becoming more and more unsettled. She began to lose weight and she had mammoth screaming episodes that went through most of the night, sometimes hours at a time. She had all the allergy tests and everything came back negative. Finally at our wits end we took her to a paediatrician in Harley street- who said to us, cut out dairy altogether for one week and see how she goes. (She had been poo-ing up to nine times a day up to this point.) We had to cut out everything- butter, cheese, goats products, whey protein, lactose. Every label needs to be checked… Anyway… Despite the negative tests, sure enough after a week her poos calmed down, became a more normal colour and smell(!) and her screaming episodes dramatically diminished. A year and a half later it is completely and utterly clear that she cannot tolerate dairy at all in any form. So we now give coconut milk as substitute (delicious and v healthy). If she ever has the tiniest amount of dairy her poos go crazy and she is now old enough to say ‘my tummy hurts’. OH… And the most important thing I forgot to mention- before discovering this, she had dropped from the 95th percentile to the 2nd. Yes… The SECOND percentile. (Because she hadnt been absorbing any nutrients due to poo-ing too much). She really was tiny! And now is pretty much normal since cutting out dairy.
    So… Maybe it is worth just trying to cut out all dairy for a week and see if you notice a dramatic difference? The dietician and paediatrician over here both said that many dairy intolerances cannot be picked up from tests. And that the best way to find out is by fully eliminating the product and then slowly reintroducing to see what happens.
    Good luck.. Such a journey for you all… I really hope you get to the bottom of it!
    Ps I think weak digestion is a big issue for the next generation- for many different reasons- the paediatrician also noticed that since vaccinations have become more prevalent, so too have allergies and intolerances- including eczema/ asthma / food issues etc. he still thinks vaccines are necessary, but interesting to know- because maybe there are other ways to build up their gut- probiotics I think really can help. The latest I’ve discovered is making your own kefir. Will let you know how that goes!

    • Sweet Mother says:

      Wow Martha, what a journey. What a shame we’re no longer in the same city (country even!) so we could meet up and share the common ground. So stressful. 95th percentile down to 2 is certainly a massive drop. Zeph feel off into negative percentiles a long time ago so I try not to have anything to do with them! Did they say that the weight decline was because of the excessive pooing, or Nell’s intolerance to dairy meant she wasn’t absorbing nutrients? Zephy doesn’t seem to produce this level of excessive pooing anymore – he never did 9 poos a day but certainly three runny poos a day wasn’t unusual. Now we have far more ‘normal’ poos and still a smattering (sorry!) of runny nasties. Neither the ped nor the dietician has recommended cutting anything out of Zeph’ diet at the moment. But I’m intrigued to know how a week off dairy might go. It’s just that I’ve been told to drown everything in butter and add cream and cream cheese to everything to fatten the wee thing. I guess I need to investigate substitutes. Any clues guys n gals? Thanks so much for this contribution Martha. Invaluable. xx

  3. Nichola says:

    This parenting thing is a blast, isn’t it?!
    Re: Zeph’s weight. Has anyone talked to you about excluding foods for a period of time to see if there are improvements? It’s not so much his weight that is a concern, but the continued mess coming out the back end! That’s not right and does indicate a stressed gut. When the gut settles, weight gain will improve.
    One of our kids is intolerant to cow’s milk dairy products. We removed them from the house and he improved. However, another of our kids slowly developed nasty rear end ejections. Turns out he was calcium deficient (which you apparently need to form lovely logs) and was put onto yoghurt. One week later, normal poos again. They are all individual!
    Soooo, I guess what I’m saying is that you are the expert on your son. Find someone who can help you through the ‘big offenders’ – eliminate them one at a time for a period of time and see what happens. No, these things do not always show up on tests at that age. Yes, probiotics are a must.
    It will be much easier when he can talk. He’ll tell you when his stomach is sore. One kid we know really well is intolerant of chicken, salmon, tuna and a whole stack of other stuff. He’s now 10 and they only worked this stuff out 6 months ago. Skinny as a rake and he’s been complaining of stomach pains after dinner for a VERY long time. Now eats from the wide range of foods he does tolerate and EVERYTHING has improved – school, friends, weight, height etc.
    If you ever wanna talk, you know where to find me! Nxo

    • Sweet Mother says:

      Hi love, I have discussed eliminating various things with Zeph’s dietician and pediatrician, but because all poo tests etc have come back showing no fat globules, it is presumed that everything is being processed/absorbed. The pediatrician doesn’t see any benefit at this stage in denying Zeph anything. And it seems that for the most part, apart from teething and illness, we are getting largely normal stools, which is a real first for us, and has been going on now for a wee while. So perhaps there were intolerances passing through?

      He is still utterly tiny though and an imminent follow-up should helpfully give us some direction. You’ll meet him tomorrow!

      Love M x

  4. Victoria says:

    Hi Miranda,
    Amity shared your blog with me. We live in the British Virgin Islands too. She has been sharing your tales as we have waded through similar issues with Eli. He is now 19 months old and turned our lives upside down from the first day he arrived! I had this bizarre notion that he would just fit right in with our lives when I found out I was expecting him. His sister had reached a comfortable 2 yrs and was eating everything in sight, loving broccoli even, sleeping through the night etc. Wow did we have that nice dream shattered. Eli screamed from birth continually until he fell into an exhausted sleep. I cut out gluten and dairy when he turned one month old in desperation and he stopped screaming that next day. He then started with acid reflux so I spent the next 6 months sleeping up right in a chair holding him up. He also projectile vomited daily, so whenever I left the house I needed towels and a change of clothes for everyone. At 5 months he started to slow down in weight gain, and dropped from 50th% down to 0.2%. The poor kid has had a ridiculous number of tests, I had just decided enough, no more when he threw another spanner at us…… the meantime he slowly progressed with all of his mile stones other than eating solids. Short of writing a novel he is now 19 months, still hovering just above the 0.2% line, walking, talking and very cute and cheeky. He certainly works the cute factor. He seems to be allergic to nuts, eggs and intolerant to squash, carrots, orange etc. He eats tiny amounts of nothing, still nurses through the night, waking me every 90 mins to 2 hours!!!! How sleep deprived am I?????? Nurses 2-3 times daily. He can tolerate gluten and dairy now, he seems to have grown out of those issues. His latest is he has failed the hearing screen for the 6th time! He has passed a behavioural test and an ABR, so we know his ear drums are good and his nerves, but there is some disconnect in the middle, so although he can hear it is all yet another Eli enigma! We have been asked to follow up at a Children’s Hospital this summer, but we are feeling pretty exhausted about even the thought of this!

    One nurse said to me some kids live to eat (our 4 year old and my husband and myself) and some kids eat to live (Eli) I do not know how Eli has so much energy based on the tiny amount he eats.

    That is probably a rambling message, but over the last 19 months our little guy has gone through so much, dragging us along for the ride. I keep setting these metal goals, I am sure by the end of the summer he will be eating and sleeping better! Hahaha, it is the sleep deprivation speaking!

    Good Luck, I know these kids will grow up to be big, strapping men ready to look after us in our old age, oh and by then they will probably eat anything put in front of them.

    It is nice to know we are not the only ones out there!

    • Sweet Mother says:

      Victoria, I just popped on to my blog having been utterly neglectful, and realise that I read your post to my partner and talked about it at great length, but I do not seem to have responded to you, which is utterly appalling.

      I cannot tell you how much I wish you lived around the corner and could be my wine buddy, my coffee buddy, my goddam-anything you like buddy. I think half the battle dealing with bubba who are not on the ‘normal’ scale, is when it feels like everyone else’s children are. We seem to be surrounded by friends with children on the 90th percentile…seriously…massive, giant babies. They make Zeph look like a newborn. They are proper boys running about.

      So you have had your share of it. The works. I am now wondering how your ear testing follow up went? Any news? I know nothing about the ear business, though I am certain my daughter is developing a very acute sense of selective hearing. That much is for sure.

      I totally get the ‘some kids eat to live’. Zeph. We go through phases where he seems to have nailed it, and even gives his sister a run for her money; determined to do absolutely everything for himself, he uses a spoon or fork and sometimes incredibly deftly feeds himself, and other times it is excrutiatingly slow, but he is dedicated to the task. And the food goes down and a fair amount and we think, here we are! But then we turn yet another corner…illness, teething, whatever it might be, and he goes on strike. And he is so fecken tiny, that these strikes are a massive deal. I always said I wouldn’t stress out if my second child was fussy because my daughter was and still can be from time to time. But when they are not on any kind of normal scale (he dropped off the bottom many months ago), it causes untold stress.

      He is due to return to the pediatrician in a couple of weeks. Our bathroom scales are so dodgy that I really can’t be sure what he weighs, but I am certain he weighs more than when we visited her at the beginning of April. I would love some assurance that all is well. All tests have returned with nothing to discuss and like your Eli, he is a scallywag, with boundless energy and cheek, addicted to his ukulele, singing at the top of his voice, splashing about the pool, hurtling around the skatepark, the smallest ever creature on a scooter and wandering up to me demanding to be read books. All the developmental milestones appear to be on target, but his size is just extraordinary. I mean, people constantly comment. Drives me nuts but I can’t blame them.

      Hold tight girl. I know I need to be told that on a regular basis. Isn’t it funny…if Zeph was a girl I probably would be far less concerned. There’s just something about wanting him to be a strong, strapping lad. Gawd, I love him. And you, for your comment.

      Miranda x

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  6. Sophie Haslem says:

    Hi Barbs,

    I am thinking you must have thought of this…but just in case….any chance he is lactose intolerant?

    It took me a year to work it out with my second little man – but when you said he hadn’t had a decent poo…that was so the situation with my fella. Skinny as and susceptible to all tummy bugs – we did a 16 day stint in hospital when he was 2 and they were just about to open him up when a neonatal nurse suggested we use a really gentle formula that was lactose free that they use on tiny tiny babies…they dripped it through his nose super slow and it sorted him…now we are really strict on the lactose free and he is great (still skinny) and full of zooms. As a bub he was either full of smiles or a total grump…now we know it was tummy pain – much guilt about that!

    • Sweet Mother says:

      Hi Sophie, thanks for your thoughts and experience. Our pediatrician tells us that his blood and poo tests showed up no absorption issues or fat globules which would have been an indicator of intolerances. He has never taken a bottle and is still totally focused on boob. At childcare he’ll drink a cup of milk with everyone else, but at home we labour for a good 40 minutes or more to get him to drink 150ml each night before boob is on offer! M x

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