Baby Fat: Too Much of A Cute Thing Can Slow Baby Down

by Ann Douglas

Fat BabyThe number of overweight kids in the United States has almost tripled since the 1980s. That's disturbing. Now, the Institute of Medicine says that we need to pay more attention to an even younger group: kids under five. Almost 10 percent of babies and toddler carry too much weight for their height.

"Contrary to the common perception that chubby babies are healthy babies and will naturally outgrow their baby fat, excess weight tends to persist," says Leann Birch, chair of the IOM's childhood obesity committee.

Obese babies are more apt to grow up to be obese kids. By the time children leave elementary school, one in three are classified as clinically obese.

"Obese children have a 70-80 percent chance of being overweight for their entire life. They face other health risks such as increased chance of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Additionally, there is an increased rate of certain types of cancer," says Dr. Tamara Sheffield, creator of the LiVe Program. "Childhood obesity can increase the severity of common childhood health problems such as asthma."

The negative effects of obesity don't wait until later to crop up. Even overweight babies show adverse affects, according to a study conducted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and published online in the Journal of Pediatrics.

It has revealed that overweight infants are nearly twice as likely as non-overweight infants to experience motor skills delays; and that overweight babies tend to be slower to learn how to crawl or walk than their leaner peers.

"There are a number of studies that show that weight status during infancy and the toddler years can set young children on an obesity trajectory that may be hard to change," says Meghan Slining, a nutrition doctoral student at UNC's Gillings School of Global Public Health and lead author of the study. "Our study shows that there are actually immediate consequences as well."

The Institute of Medicine suggests was that you can keep baby fat under control and help your baby grow into fit kids.

More sleep: Evidence points to a relationship between too little sleep and obesity. Data indicates an overall decrease in the amount of sleep babies and children get.

More play time: Allow and encourage babies to move around. The IOM suggests using cribs, car seats and high chairs only as intended and limiting the use of strollers, swings and bouncing chairs.

Less formula: Breastfeed when possible. If your baby has formula, delay introducing solids at least four months. Starting them sooner is associated with an increased risk of obesity in formula fed babies.

Once your baby begins eating, promote fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Try to limit sugar, salt and unhealthy fats. Do you know how much a typical serving should be?

Less TV time: Every hour your child watches TV increases the risk of obesity by 12 percent. The AAP suggests that kids under two watch no TV. Guidelines for children ages 2 to 5 in daycare suggest limiting television viewing and the use of computer, mobile devises and other digital technologies to less that two hours a day.

What do you think?

Medical references:
- Slining, M. Bentley, M et al. (July 2010) Infant Overweight Is Associated with Delayed Motor Development". Accessed May 2012. The Journal of Pediatrics. Volume 157, Issue 1 , Pages 20-25.e1, July 2010