Your Fat Baby Does Not Need To Diet

A recently published study in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine describes a correlation between babies whose weight-to-height ratios increased more than 2 percent in their first 2 years of life and obesity rates when the children were older. Babies who grew at such rates had twice the risk of being obese at age 5, as well as an increased risk of obesity at age of 10. Babies whose weight-to-height ratio went up more than 2 percent in their first 6 months were especially at risk of obesity in later childhood, says the study.

Researchers studied the medical records of 44,622 infants and children younger than age 11 in the Boston area; their growth measurements had been routinely taken during doctor check-ups from 1980 through 2008. Lead author Dr. Elsie Taveras, an obesity researcher at Harvard Medical School, describes such rapid growth as nothing less than a “red flag” for doctors to note, as well as a sign that parents could be feeding their children too much or not ensuring they get enough exercise, perhaps because the children are spending too much time in strollers instead of crawling. For babies, bigger is not better, says Dr. Taveras.

But other doctors expressed immediate concern about the public response to such findings: What if parents whose babies have such rapid growth put such young children on a diet?

Other scientists indeed say that doing so is simply a “bad idea that could backfire in the long run.” Dr. Michelle Lampl, director of Emory University’s Center for the Study of Human Health, and Edward Frongillo, an infant growth specialist at the University of South Carolina, voiced their concerns in an editorial accompanying the study. Says Dr. Lampl:

“It reads like a very handy rule and sounds like it would be very useful — and that’s my concern,” Lampl said. The guide would be easy to use to justify feeding infants less and to unfairly label them as fat. It could also prompt feeding patterns that could lead to obesity later, she said.

Lampl noted that many infants studied crossed at least two key points on growth charts; yet only 12 percent were obese at age 5 and slightly more at age 10. Nationally, about 10 percent of preschool-aged children are obese, versus about 19 percent of those aged 6 to 11.

Dr. Lampl and Frongillo write that more research is necessary to investigate the study’s findings, as “the potential to do more harm than good is actually very high.” Dr. Taveras emphasized that her study pointed to the risks of rapid weight gain in babies and is “not a reason” to put them on a diet.

Obesity in general, and obesity among children (which is currently at 17 percent among US children) are certainly public health concerns. But scientists need to keep in mind the potential for the public to misconstrue their findings and “stoke parenting fears just as much as body-image anxieties.” Putting such a young child — a baby — on a diet could be setting her or him on a one-way route to a “lifetime of unhealthy eating patterns.”

Of course parents want to do the best for their children to ensure they have happy, healthy, long lives. With so much more information about raising children available and so quickly via the internet, scientists must take especial care and caution in presenting their findings to the general public. Here in the US, we’re diet-crazed and body-image-obsessed enough as it is without parents starting to worry about how much their infant is eating and looking askance at a little guy with chubby cheeks.


Related Care2 Coverage

Unhealthiest Kids’ Meals in America

Fat Tax In Denmark – Should It Happen In The U.S.?

By 2030, Half of Americans Will Be Obese



Photo by mynameisharsha


Lika S.
Lika S5 years ago

Fat babies are fine, as long as you don't keep over feeding them. Once they begin to be more active and walking, try to ensure that you give them ample time and room to be up and about. Some are naturally more chunky than others, and offer foods that will be healthy.

That still won't fix everything. I've seen very skinny babies end up being super chunky by the time they're in 3rd grade, and chunky babies end up being painfully thin during high school. A well balanced diet is key, in which case it's more about health, not weight.

Ali S.
Ali S5 years ago

Fat babies are effing adorable and make me want to give them a squish and tickle. :D

Christine Stewart

Fat babies should be fed the correct amount and given exercise until they are at a normal body weight.

Alison D.
Alison Duncan5 years ago

Diet isn't a dirty word where kids are concerned, weight loss diet is.

All kids food intake should be well considered, it's what's building their bodies.

Being aware when it's time to ease back of treats and ramp up exercise is something we all need to learn, but until kids are older it's parents who need to manage this aspect of their health.

We don't want kids getting paranoid about their weight and set off unhealthy body image issues.

Parents know if their kids are developing a spare tire and if they are it's time to hit the park more and the sugary treats less.

It's not rocket science, it's obvious.

colleen p.
colleen p5 years ago

how much should they weigh? should a 1 year old weigh 20 pounds?

colleen p.
colleen p5 years ago

how much should they weigh? should a 1 year old weigh 20 pounds?

Diane L.
Diane L5 years ago

Angelique, I'm glad you are so healthy now at the age of 18. Just so you realize, what your mother ate would not have influenced your fetal weight/size but if she lacked in nutrition, it could have affected your health. If she didn't get ENOUGH nutrition, you COULD have been born with low birth weight, which is also not good, as unhealthy and potentially,if not more dangerous than being a bit too chubby. What crosses the placenta thru the umbilical cord are nutrients, and the fetus will take what it needs, but not MORE, and yes, will also be exposed to chemicals and drugs taken by the Mother.

Have you seen the documentary (I believe it was aired on Nightline) about the little girl who had so many food aversions? She was 5 or 6, hated almost everything, to the point of being physically sick. She wouldn't touch a hotdog, didn't like ice cream, wouldn't touch chicken nuggets (all of which is good), but she also refused to drink any milk, eat veggies and only would eat one brand of PNB (Jif) and was diagnosed with many health issues. She didn't want fruits, not even a banana. Now, what kid hates bananas?

Angelique C.
Angelique Cahill5 years ago

I was an incredibly big baby, people would say I was baby buddah, but I wasn't full of bad fat and sugar, as my mother was a vegetarian whilst pregnant so had no cholesterol coming into her system to fill me up with.
Now I'm 18 and not at all fat, I found a love in healthy food and exercise that would not have come about if my mother put me on a diet to lose weight (which children always know, their intuition is extraordinary). I think the key is for the entire family to eat a healthy, well balanced diet and participate in lots of physical activity with the family. In this way, children will be more inclined to eat healthy as they get older, and find exercising natural; they will never have a weight problem

Phil w.
Phil w5 years ago

A diet is exactly what kids should be on, not a fad weight loss diet but a healthy balanced diet. free from soft drinks and excessive salts, fats, and sugars. this is common sense.
As for formulas these should be avoided if at all possible - god gave women boobs for a reason and if you are physically able to breast feed and you don't you are a negligent parent.

Diane L.
Diane L5 years ago

Randi, I was a somewhat "chubby" baby, and looked a lot like Shirley Temple, just a "tad" chubbier as a toddler, even up to when I was about 5 or 6 years old. Then I slimmed way down, and going into high school, was stick skinny! I never was able t gain an ounce, no matter how much food and JUNK I ate. I was never FAT as a little girl, just "chubby". My former S.I.L. had a little girl that WAS FAT, and it wasn't just baby fat, or "chubby-cheeked". Everytime that baby whined or cried, she got a bottle. I used to cringe seeing her walking around with a bottle in her mouth, up even into the age of 2 and 3 years of age! Her parents split up by the time she was 4 and she moved away with her Mom, but last time I saw her, she was grossly overweight.

I wouldn't go so much by the photos used in Care.2 articles, as most of the time, they are "stock photos" and not very representative of the actual situation. I don't think any baby, or toddler or even a young child should be put on an actual diet "per se", just less food when it's not warranted (stuffing a bottle in a baby's mouth to stop from crying every time), or giving finger foods to a toddler for the same reason. Finger foods could be carrot sticks or celery instead of chicken McNuggets or french fries, as has been suggested. Skip the cookies and crackers and give a slice of apple.