Your Baby is Overweight in the First Year – When to Worry and What to Do

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There is no need for you to fixate on your baby’s weight over the first year or so but there are some factors that can influence whether or not a child will suffer from obesity in later life which are worth being aware of.

Why do I worry about my baby’s weight?

It is part of modern day living that parents worry about obesity and it is a justifiable concern. The percentage of childhood obesity is rising and with obese children, even as young as two (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) being more likely to become obese adults it is evident that early eating habits weight management are increasingly important. No parent wishes to increase the chance of diabetes, cardiovascular disease or other possible physical, social or emotional consequences of obesity for their child.  In recent history it was the reverse of this concern where people wanted their children to be chubbier and it was considered a sign of being well-nourished, and yet today parents are wondering how much is too much?

When should I worry about my baby’s weight?

Reassuringly, in most cases it is misguided to worry about a baby’s weight in the first year. Babies are meant to be chubby and it is usual and right for them to store up fat during year one which they will soon use up in year two and their energetic toddler years. Newborn babies are routinely weighed in their first few months of life and particularly in the first few weeks to make sure they are feeding and thriving properly. Beyond this it is un-necessary to continue weighing your baby all the time. Babies grow in fits and starts, with periods of little change or sometimes even weight loss.

What factors should I be aware of that may affect my baby’s weight

If the mother or both parents are significantly overweight there is a significantly greater chance of a baby being overweight as it grows up. This is both a nature (genetics) and nurture (habits and lifestyle) issue.

Birth Weight

A baby born at a higher than average weight, will not necessarily grow up to be a large child, nor will a low birth weight baby necessarily remain smaller than average. Interestingly however both very high birth weight but also low birth weight can have some influence on future health weight. The best chance of having a baby of a healthy size is when a mother gains a healthy amount of weight in pregnancy. This will depend on the weight the mother is when she becomes pregnant and should be discussed with her healthcare provider.

Feeding

It is considered that the single best protection against is breastfeeding. Breastfed babies tend to regulate their own milk intake. It is easier to over-feed a baby when the baby is formula fed. It is a common mistake for mothers to decide to turn to bottle feeding in the first couple of weeks when they notice a dip in their baby’s weight gain, however this is quite natural. Whilst expert advice should always be sought, it is not necessarily the right answer to turn to formula milk.

Hunger cues

It is also important for parents to learn to identify their baby’s cries as not all will be because they are hungry. However because feeding at breast or bottle will comfort the baby it is often mistaken that the cry was hunger and the feeding can soon become a form of comfort rather than sustenance which can set up lifelong habits of food equals comfort.

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