Is Your Baby Overweight?

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When you have kids, it seems like everyone wants to put in their 2-cents about how to raise them. Usually you’ll encounter those people who feel the need to give their opinion about your baby’s weight. Various factors may be contributing to this indifference among parents. Some parents believe their child’s excess weight is just “baby fat” for instance, and some may simply be in denial.

Many children put on a bit of puppy fat before they grow up. Either he’s too small or too big, everybody loves a fat baby. You can’t help but pinch their cheeks, tickle their tummies, and grab a toe to play “this little piggy”. But babies who are chubby to the point of obesity represent an unhealthy trend in infants known as infant obesity.

Infants who grow the fastest, especially in terms of weight, are more likely to be obese in later childhood. Obesity in children is becoming more common and obese children tend to remain obese as they grow up and become adults.

Childhood obesity has been called one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century, “The percentage of overweight children in the United States is growing at an alarming rate, with 1 out of 3 kids now considered overweight or obese.”

Children grow at different rates at different times, so it is not always easy to tell if a child is overweight. Though overeating and unhealthy eating while pregnant may be an obvious path to obesity for the child, undernourished fetuses can also end up as overweight children or adults. But keep in mind that you may not be able to identify obesity just by looking at your child, as babies have different body frames and need varying amounts of fat for their stages of development.

Doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals can look to see whether your child is overweight or obese by calculating their body mass index (BMI). But before you assume the worst, keep in mind that your toddler’s BMI isn’t the only factor to consider. It’s merely a starting point, one way to gauge whether your child is overweight. However, the causes of obesity are well established and are typically a combination of dietary, exercise and genetic factors.

Excessive weight gain in infancy is associated with persistence of elevated weight status and later obesity. Although there are some genetic or hormonal causes of infant to childhood obesity, in most cases excess weight is due to overeating and under-exercising.

It’s not easy to work out if your child has a weight problem unless they are significantly over or underweight, computers, television, and video games conspire to keep kids inside and sedentary, which means they burn fewer calories and are more likely to gain weight.

Childhood obesity has important consequences for health and wellbeing both during childhood and also in later adult life. If your child is overweight or obese, they have an increased risk of developing various health problems. Children who are obese are more likely to get health problems such as asthma, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

For instance, when kids are overweight at any age, they’re much more at risk for diabetes. Additionally, Obese toddlers have shown metabolic abnormalities in their insulin, liver enzymes and cholesterol, usually problems detected as they grow older.

Traditionally doctors looked at the patient as the one in the family to focus on, but now they have to look at the entire family as the patient.

“The best way to fight or prevent childhood obesity and weight problems is to get the whole family on a healthier track. It is best to make small gradual changes to family behavior. Make a list of changes you think will be possible for your family to make.”

Making better food choices and becoming more active will benefit everyone, regardless of weight. These include advising families to limit consumption of sweetened beverages and fast food, limit screen time, engage in physical activity for at least an hour a day, and encourage family meals on most, and preferably all, days of the week.

“Governments, International Partners, Civil Society, NGO’s and the Private Sector have vital roles to play in shaping healthy environments and making healthier diet options for children and adolescents affordable, and easily accessible.” World Health Organization