Aside from a slight drop in weight that practically all newborns experience in their first five to seven days of life, healthy infants gradually tick up the scale. And to be sure, baby weight gain varies widely, with most weights considered to be healthy.
But when a baby's weight steadily falls in the percentile chart—and not for medical reasons such as digestive disorders or cardiac issues—it may be because they are simply not consuming enough fat.
Jill Castle, Parents advisor and a registered dietitian in New Canaan, Connecticut, has seen this phenomenon in her practice with parents who have mistakenly thought a low-fat, high-fiber diet was appropriate for all ages, including young babies.
"If you look at breast milk and infant formula, about half the calories come from fat. Babies and young children have a greater need for fats," says Castle. Fat not only helps their brains and nervous systems develop normally, it also helps their bodies absorb important vitamins like A, D, E, and K.
We've rounded up a hearty selection of nutritious foods filled with healthy fats and calories that can help add bulk to your baby.
Olive oil: Compared to the four calories found in a gram of protein or carbohydrate, each gram of the plant-based fat found in olive oil contains about nine calories. Try drizzling a teaspoon of olive oil on pureed vegetables for an extra boost.
Nut butters: Nuts are not only densely nutritious and chock-full of healthy fats, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology now recommends they be introduced to babies as young as 6 months old to help prevent food allergies down the road. Castle suggests swirling a bit of peanut, almond, or cashew butter into your baby's morning cereal.
Milk: Since infants should be drinking breast milk or formula for the first year of their lives, this is a no-brainer next step. Between ages 1 and 2, offer whole milk to encourage baby weight gain.
Avocado: Its creamy consistency and mild flavor make avocados an easy addition for babies in the early stages of eating solid foods. Some store-bought baby foods even feature blended avocados with other fruits, like Beech-Nut Naturals Pineapple, Pear & Avocado jar.
Bananas: Not all fruits are created equal when it comes to their calorie content. Bananas have far more than, say, watermelon, apples, or strawberries. They're also packed with potassium and fiber.
Hummus: Rich in protein and fiber (from chickpeas) along with healthy fat (from olive oil), this Mediterranean staple has a smooth consistency that makes it a baby-friendly addition to your household.
Cheese: Start your child's love affair with cheese early by adding grated cheeses to purees or offering mashed up full-fat cottage cheese.
Oatmeal: A sprinkle of oatmeal cereal makes any baby food puree heartier, and it also provides necessary nutrients, such as iron and zinc.
Pear: Like bananas, pears have a higher calorie content than other fruits. If you don't want to crack open a jar of the pureed variety, steam a ripe pear to easily mash it up with a fork.
Yogurt: Choose full-fat yogurts geared specifically for babies, and steer clear of those laden with sugar.