How to Protect Your Baby from Childhood Obesity

Learn how to protect your baby from childhood obesity from pediatrician Dyan Hes, M.D. in this Howcast video about newborn and baby development.

So, as a childhood obesity specialist, I get referrals all the time about childhood obesity and infants who have parents that are worried they might be becoming obese. So, there are certain ways to protect your child from childhood obesity. The first and easiest is to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is protective against childhood obesity. Most breastfed babies do not overfeed, they autoregulate, and they pop off the breast when they’re full.

Often times parents who are giving formula feel that they’ve paid for that formula, and that you have to finish what’s in the bottle. So whereas a breastfed baby might feed for 10 minutes on the breast and then be done, and not need to go on the second breast because the baby’s full, a baby who drank 2 oz. of formula, that parent might be a little insistent on giving that full 4 oz. bottle because they bought that formula, and they don’t want that formula to go to waste or to go into the garbage.

There is something protective against obesity from breastmilk, besides autoregulation, we just don’t know exactly what is in the breastmilk that does prevent babies from becoming obese later on. That being said, there are breastfed babies who may become obese later on, but it’s very rare. Another way to protect your child from obesity is not to give juice. Juice is probably the number one cause of childhood obesity in this country.

Up to a few years ago, even the WIC program, the Women, Infants, Children program for people living under the poverty level, would give juice for free to families. Juice gives children a lot of sugar, and not any of the fiber from the fruit. So the children are consuming a lot of extra calories from a sweetened drink, and even if it’s marketed as natural, it’s still sugar. So it doesn’t matter if it’s high-fructose corn syrup or natural fructose, it’s still sugar, and it can still increase the caloric intake in your baby, and instead of eating solids, or fruit with fiber or vegetables with fiber, they’re filling themselves up on juice. After 2 years of age, your child can decrease to low-fat milk.

If your child is showing signs of being overweight before 2 years, your doctor might recommend switching to a low fat milk before then. Also, simply avoiding junk food, common sense parenting. Not giving your kids junk food all the time, limiting snacks, that being said, you can give your child a snack every once in a while, but it shouldn’t be a regular part of their diet.

Eliminating fried foods, in this country, the most common vegetable fed to a baby after 9 months old is a french fry, which I don’t even consider a vegetable. So, we have a long way to go to educate our population about healthy eating in children.