With childhood obesity on the rise, should parents worry about the weight of their babies?
Experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) say parents should ask their pediatricians to keep tabs on children's weight from birth on up. But they shouldn't obsess about the weight of a child younger than 2 years.
Members of the AAP Nutrition Committee say there are no data to support the belief that children in this age group who are overweight are more prone to be heavy later.
For kids this young, doctors don't rely on the body mass index, which relates weight to height. Instead, pediatricians use weight-for-length charts.
According to the AAP, height is difficult to measure in infants and very young children, and length and height are not the same as in older kids. Instead, the best predictors of an overweight child are first, whether both parents are overweight, and second, whether the mother alone is overweight. If parents weigh too much and feed the child a poor diet, chances of an overweight child rise sharply.
Babies breastfed for the first six months tend to be leaner. One reason: Breastfed babies eat only when they're hungry, not when prompted by parents.
Parents should feed most babies more fruits and vegetables and less rice and cereal.
Experts also recommend that parents give babies and toddlers at most 4 ounces to 6 ounces of 100% juice daily. Juice isn't a necessary part of a child's diet and isn't as healthy as the actual fruit. Avoid all fruit punches, sweetened soft drinks, and other sweetened beverages.
Babies stay active naturally as they learn to roll over, move their heads, crawl, and walk. Don't confine them to a crib or rein in their activity, as children will stop and put themselves to sleep when they are tired.
Children's growth slows between the ages of 12 and 15 months, so parents should understand this is normal and it doesn't mean there is something wrong with their baby.