Parents should allow underweight children to be messy with their food, experts have said
New guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said families should encourage “relaxed and enjoyable” mealtimes.
Eating together as a family could also help.
The health body issued new guidance on the recognition and management of slow weight gain in infants and children, also known as faltering growth.
According to the guidance, where there are concerns about faltering growth, GPs and health visitors can talk to an infant or child’s parents or carers about: encouraging relaxed and enjoyable feeding and mealtimes; eating together as a family or with other children; encouraging young children to feed themselves; allowing young children to be “messy” with their food; making sure feeds and mealtimes are not too brief or too long and establishing regular eating schedules such as three meals and two snacks a day.
Parents should also be advised that drinking too many energy-dense drinks, including milk, can reduce a child’s appetite for other foods.
According to data collected from primary schools in England as part of the National Child Measurement Programme, in 2015/16, 1% of children starting school were underweight.
The guidance states that “simple interventions” can increase nutritional intake and may be effective in improving weight gain
The cause of faltering growth can be difficult to determine as there may be a range of contributing factors.