Gotta Fatten Up This Baby: Sweet Potato Milk Shake

NOTE: This recipe is made with my daughter's failure to thrive in mind, as an alternative to pediasure, but it tastes like a sweet potato custard without all the work and time of an actual custard (and it's egg free!) so I can say confidently that it's a dish the whole family will enjoy - not just the baby!  

I haven't talked about it much on here yet, but my daughter, Sage, has a weight problem.

At first I wasn't that worried about it - I'm petite and my husband is not a big man either. I have had friends who's kids have been on the very low ends of the growth charts and struggled to put on weight, and I, myself, remembered being told by my son's pediatrician that he also was too small and needed to gain weight. With Thaddeus I had a slight panic and re-evaluation moment and then I did a bunch of research and realized that if the child is developing normally and reaching all landmarks, and as long as they are still growing (even if slowly) then it isn't something to panic about.

So, because of my previous experience, when we were first told that Sage had fallen off the growth curve I was calm and perhaps a bit too relaxed. Sure, I couldn't say that she was developing normally so I couldn't really say it was nothing to worry about, but with the changes in her brain she wasn't suppose to be developing normally, so I still felt like her small stature wasn't anything to worry about.

And then she went months (that's right months) without gaining more than a few ounces. In medical terms she has failure to thrive. Feeding her was an ordeal. A long drawn out ordeal that sometimes took as long as half an hour to get her to eat only a few spoonfuls of mush. I already knew that with her muscle tone, her difficulty in picking things up, concerns about her ability to swallow correctly,  and her strong tongue thrust reflex, we wouldn't be able to let her self wean onto table foods like we had with Thaddeus (for the most part). And I had made my peace with giving her purees. But, getting her to actually take the purees was an ongoing struggle.

I feel like I have a comfortable amount of knowledge on nutrition and even weight gain and I knew I was giving her good high calorie foods, but it still wasn't enough. Her weight stayed almost stagnant for months. Until this month. Last week, when we went to our follow up with the GI clinic at Seattle Children's hospital, we learned that Sage had gained about 1/2 a pound in this one month, which is truly amazing for her.

So, what had changed? What did we do differently this past month? One thing in particular stands out: blended drinks. We recently found these great cupswith soft plastic tops - the hard plastic sippy cups required too much muscle strength in her mouth for Sage to master, but these have been quite easy for her from day one.

After Sage's last appointment at the beginning of the month the doctor really recommended starting her on pediasure or carnation breakfast cereal. Being who I am and believing what I do about processed foods I wasn't so keen on these ideas, but a quick google search informed me that there are plenty of recipes for homemade pediasure using real food. So, I jumped in, and, with a whole lot of gratitude for the Vitamix that my in-laws blessed us with for Christmas, I started playing around with my own versions of these "pediasure recipes".

And you know what? Sage loved them! She'd regularly drink almost the whole cup in one sitting - which meant that she was getting a far larger portion of food per sitting then she ever had before. And a very high calorie portion at that!

So, I figured I'd start a new little series here on the blog. I'm gonna call it Gotta Fatten Up This Baby and it will just be my place to share our favorites of these pediasure alternative recipes. So, here's the first one:

Sweet Potato Milk Shake:


  • Insides from one cooked sweet potato
  • 1 or 2 scoops of natural vanilla ice cream
  • Milk (enough to get the consistency you want - less milk and you get more of a custard consistency  more milk more of a drink or shake)
  • 1 teaspoon ground flax seed
  • 5 to 10 cashews (a small handful)
  • 1 tablespoon butter (I prefer to use Kerrygold butter because the cows have been grass fed and it tastes SO GOOD!)


Throw all ingredients in a blender and blend till a smooth and silky texture is achieved. If you are using the vitamix, start at variable one and slowly work up to variable 10, then switch the machine to high for a few seconds until everything is well blended and smooth.

Enjoy! And share some with your baby too!

Rejoicing in the journey, Bethany Stedman