It used to be common (and in some circles it still is) to adoringly comment on a "juicy baby," as if it was a positive attribute. These days, a chubby baby can, unfortunately, be a clear sign of obesity in the making. Experts in pediatric medicine are sounding the alarm, alerting parents that certain milestones or events in the early life of a child can be worrisome warning signs of impending obesity. Not every "chubby baby" becomes an overweight child, teen or adult, but with soaring rates of pediatric obesity, weight gain in infancy and childhood has to be looked at a bit more closely these days. Findings that clearly show an alarming obesity trend:
Large babies that continue to gain significant amounts of weight rapidly
Babies that continue to fall into the 95% or higher percentile in weight
Babies whose mother's smoked during pregnancy (at risk for later-in-life obesity)
Babies who at very young age, do not sleep for 12 hours a day. If they also watch 2 or more hours of TV daily, they are at even higher risk.
So how do you identify these kids at risk and what can you do to minimize their obesity risk? Experts say an intervention in infancy (or even earlier on) can help. If you are even considering pregnancy, find out if you need to lose weight and at the same time, begin an exercise program. That way you enter pregnancy with a healthier profile and healthier habits. Breast feeding for a minimum of 6 months is another habit that can help reduce your child's risk of obesity. That includes not introducing solid food too prematurely and understanding the best food selections to introduce to baby when it's appropriate.
If your baby or child is already overweight, then a diet is not necessarily appropriate. What doctors may recommend is changing food choices and portion sizes, limiting juice (in favor of water), switching to 1% or skim milk from formula (not whole milk) and getting those babies moving, a lot!! It also means steering clear of processed food, fast food, caloric beverages and TV time. The idea is to help your child possibly lose belly fat, or keep weight stable as height growth occurs. Remember that chances are if you, as a parent, are overweight, the risk to your child is significant. So you may have to commit to a serious lifestyle change as well.
One important take-away message is that the environment you provide in utero to your growing baby is of paramount significance when it comes to preventing childhood obesity. If you get diagnosed with gestational diabetes, the risk of your baby being overweight and developing diabetes rises significantly. So abandon the notion that an extremely chubby baby is a healthy baby. And don't immediately assume that a crying baby is a hungry baby.
Next up: More tips to stop obesity before it occurs