If you were a fat baby, the lifelong implications may not be as cute as your chubby thighs were: infants with high body mass indexes are more likely to develop obesity as they grow older, according to research published in Paediatrics.
In the study, nearly a third of all two-month-old babies with a BMI at or above the 85th percentile – meaning their BMIs were the same or greater than 85 per cent of other babies their age – met the guidelines for obesity by the time they hit age two
Unlike adults, there isn’t a BMI marker for obesity in toddlers aged two or younger. Instead, it’s gauged by percentile: falling in the 85th to 95th percentile is considered overweight, and anything above that range counts as obese.
While a pudgy kid may not seem like a huge problem, a 2014 Danish study published in PLOS ONE found that children who were at or above the 95th percentile for BMI at age two were more than twice as likely to be obese by the time they hit their thirties than those whose BMIs were between the fifth and 50th percentiles.
High-BMI babies were also 30 per cent more likely to develop metabolic syndrome – a constellation of heart-unhealthy factors like an increased weight circumference; low HDL, or “good” cholesterol; high triglycerides, or fat in the blood; high fasting blood sugar; and high blood pressure.
There are several reasons why an infant might be overweight, says Dr Stephen Pont, medical director of the Texas Centre for the Prevention & Treatment of Childhood Obesity.
These can include the child’s genes, overfeeding – often from formula – and even exposure to high blood-sugar levels while still in the womb, he says.
Now, you can’t go back in time and make yourself a thinner baby. But you can make sure your own children don’t follow in your path.
At your child’s next checkup, ask your doctor or health worker to check your child’s BMI.
If your baby is in the 85th percentile or above, talk about what you can do to get him or her to a healthier weight. Ask your doctor how often – and how much – your child should be eating, says Pont.
And when your kid is ready to consume real food, make sure you introduce healthy options like whole grains, vegetables, fruit and lean proteins. You don’t want to get him or her started on high-kilojoule, heavily processed staples like chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese and soft drinks.
Just stay away from fad diets, especially plans that eliminate major food groups, says Pont. These diets could be harmful for a child’s growth and development.