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A Chubby Baby Is Not a Sign of Obesity

With childhood obesity on the rise, should parents worry about the weight of their babies?

Experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) say parents should ask their pediatricians to keep tabs on children's weight from birth on up. But parents shouldn't obsess about the weight of a child younger than 2 years.

"Children in this age group who are overweight absolutely are not more prone to be heavy later. There's no data to support this," says Frank R. Greer, M.D., who chairs the AAP Nutrition Committee.

No BMI for infants

For kids this young, doctors don't rely on the body mass index, which relates weight to height. Instead, pediatricians use weight-for-length charts.

"Height is difficult to measure in these kids, and length and height are not the same," says Joseph Hagan, M.D., who cochairs an AAP Bright Futures initiative on children's health guidelines.

"The best predictor of an overweight child is, number one, whether both parents are overweight, and number two, whether the mother alone is overweight," Dr. Greer says. If parents weigh too much and feed the child a poor diet, chances of an overweight child rise sharply.

Babies breast-fed for the first six months tend to be leaner. One reason: Breast-fed babies only eat when they're hungry. They don't eat when prompted by parents.

More fruits, veggies

Most babies need more fruits and vegetables, says Dr. Greer. Parents should feed babies less rice and cereal, too. "We're giving kids a taste for these things and promoting bad habits," he says.

"Parents should watch the sugar-containing juices they give kids, even in this age group," Dr. Hagan adds. Limit kids this age to 4 to 6 ounces of 100 percent juice daily. Avoid all fruit punches, sweetened soft drinks and other sweetened beverages.

Babies stay active naturally as they learn to roll over, move their heads, crawl and walk. Don't confine them to a crib or rein in their activity. "When a child is tired, he or she will stop and go to sleep," says Dr. Hagan.

Growth slows between 12 to 15 months. "Parents often think there is something wrong with their baby, but this is normal," Dr. Hagan notes.


Online Resources

American Academy of Pediatrics: Children's Health Topics, 2006  http://www.aap.org/healthtopics/overweight.cfm
NCHS Growth Curves for Children Birth-18 Years, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_11/sr11_165.pdf
American Academy of Pediatrics  http://www.healthychildren.org/english/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/pages/how-often-and-how-much-should-your-baby-eat.aspx

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