Don't let a child's outward appearance fool you. All internationally adopted children--even "chubby," "stocky," and "solid-looking" ones--are at risk for malnutrition!
Sometimes, it's quiet obvious; they come home in bodies that are clearly aching for food.
Wasting typically results from acute malnutrition that occurs due to a calorie deficit (low calorie intake and/or poor quality of food). When a child experiences a severe calorie deficit, the first body compartment to be affected is fat stores, before length or head growth. This results in a child who is much too light for his or her frame and obviously undernourished-looking.
Sometimes adopted children are "stunted," a condition in which insufficient nutrition, often combined with chronic infection and/or stress, impacts their length more than weight. In these cases, kids will be small but might look chubby because their low weight is distributed across an even shorter body frame. In other cases, a lack of vitamins and minerals may not impact outer appearance but can have significant impact on brain development and long-term cognitive functioning.
WHAT TO DO
At least 1/3 of all adopted children are deficient in key nutrients necessary for healthy physical and cognitive development. In addition to general lab tests that should be completed at a child's first doctor's visit once home, a specific battery of nutrition tests should be completed, even if a child shows no outward signs of malnutrition. Even if initial testing uncovers no problems, the nutrition tests, especially iron and Vitamin D, should be repeated 6 months after arrival home as growth spurts can deplete children's limited micronutrient stores, leading to anemia or other micronutrient deficiencies.
For more nutrition tips specifically for adopted children, visit AdoptionNutrition.org.