Statistics for 2008 show that an estimated 10 percent or more of children aged 2 to 5 years old are obese. (1) Infants and children with overweight or obesity issues are at increased risk of growing into adult with overweight or obesity issues.
With overweight and obesity comes the added risk for developing Type II Diabetes (insulin dependent), high blood pressure, asthma, obstructive sleep apnea, and several other weight-related conditions.
Since the CDC does not have overweight and obesity body mass index guidelines for children under the age of two, doctors use those developed by the World Health Organization.
Facts about Obesity and Overweight in Infants and Toddlers
• A child is considered obese when his/her body mass index (BMI) is at or greater than the 95th percentile on his/her growth chart. (2)
• 9.5 percent of children under the age of two are considered obese. (2)
• 1 in 5 (20 percent) of children 2 to 5 years old is overweight or obese by the time they enter kindergarten. (4)
Risk Factors for Obesity and Overweight in Infants and Toddlers
• A recent study has shown that nearly twice as many formula-fed babies were considered obese compared to babies who were breastfed (13 percent versus 7 percent). (5)
• Introducing solid food before 48 months of age in formula-fed babies can lead to a six-fold increase in the risk of becoming obese at 3 years old, compared to formula-fed babies who didn’t eat solid food until they were between 4 and 5 months old. (6)
• Pre-pregnancy or pregnancy-related overweight, obesity, blood pressure or gestational diabetes history in the mother can be a factor.
• Overeating during pregnancy may contribute to childhood obesity.
• Not enough sleep can be a factor.
• Not enough physical activity can help cause childhood obesity.
• There is an increased incidence of overweight and obesity in American Indians, Mexicans or non-Hispanic blacks. (7)
Prevention of Obesity and Overweight in Infants and Toddlers
So, what can you do to prevent your infant or toddler from becoming overweight or obese?
• C-sections should be avoided unless there is a medical reason to have one. A recent study published Archives of Disease in Childhood determined that “[i]nfants delivered via cesarean section may have about twice the risk of becoming obese as infants delivered vaginally.” (8)
• Breastfeeding seems to protect babies from becoming overweight or obese. (9) The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively to 6 months of age. (2)
• If your child is formula-fed, do not give him/her solid foods until after 48 months.
• You and your infant need to get at least 60 minutes of vigorous exercise each day according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.
• Don’t overfeed yourself or your baby. “[T]he size of a young child’s fist is an appropriate portion size for that child.” (11)
• Limit your child’s fruit juice intake to between four and six ounces a day. (11)
• Limit TV watching and other screen-oriented activities to two hours per day and leave it off during mealtimes.
• Monitor your child’s sleep habits. Studies have shown that children who got less sleep were heavier than children of the same age who were of normal weight. (13)
Click here for more information on how not getting enough sleep affects your child’s body and can lead to obesity.
• You need to decide when your infant/toddler eats and what is available for your child to eat. Parents need to teach their children about when to eat (when they’re hungry) and to stop when they feel full. This can be helped by establishing healthy, regular eating patterns.
• Set a good example for your children by making simple lifestyle changes, now. It is much easier to establish good, “normal” habits now than it is to try to unlearn bad habits later.
(1) AADE Position Statement: Addressing Obesity via Diabetes Self-Management Education and Training. American Association of Diabetes Educators. Web. July 18, 2012.
(2) Childhood Obesity: Assessment, Prevention, and Treatment. American Academy of Family Physicians. Web. July 18, 2012.
(4) How does a baby get to be obese? Park, Madison. CNN Health. Web. July 18, 2012. http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/06/27/obese.toddlers/index.html\
(5) Obesity Risk for Infants Fed Solid Foods Early. Corbett Dooren, Jennifer. Wall Street Journal. Web. July 18, 2012. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704570104576124632441136032.html
(6) Childhood Obesity Linked to Cesarean Deliveries. Carollo, Kim. ABC News. Web. July 18, 2012. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/cesarean-delivery-linked-childhood-obesity/story?id=16413001#.UATKb_Wbxns
(7) Childhood Obesity: Assessment, Prevention, and Treatment. American Academy of Family Physicians. Web. July 18, 2012. http://www.aafp.org/online/en/home/cme/selfstudy/cmebulletin/Obesity/objectives/article.html
(8) Childhood Obesity Linked to Cesarean Deliveries. Carollo, Kim. ABC News. Web. July 18, 2012. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/cesarean-delivery-linked-childhood-obesity/story?id=16413001#.UATKb_Wbxns
(9) Does breastfeeding reduce the risk of pediatric overweight? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web. July 18, 2012.
(11) Prevention of Overweight and Obesity in Infants and Toddlers: News You can Use – And Interview with Dr. Rachel Téllez, Medical Advisor to the Head Start Bureau. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Web. July 18, 2012.
(13) Lack of Sleep Linked to Childhood Obesity. Neporent, Liz. ABC News. Web. July 18, 2012. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/lack-weekend-catch-sleep-risk-childhood-obesity/story?id=12743677#.UATRbfWbxns
Reviewed August 22, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith