If you weren’t shocked by this week’s announcement from the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine about one-fifth of American 4-year-olds being obese, I’m not sure what it would take to freak you out. How about the fact that obese kids are developing type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease and musculoskeletal problems (their tiny bodies can’t handle all that weight)?
I’m not a scientist. I’m not a doctor. But I can add. And by putting two and two together, I’ve come up with a plausible hypothesis as to why 1 in 5 four-year-olds in this country are obese.
Dr. Tom Robinson, from the Center for Healthy Weight at Stanford University School of Medicine, commented in a CNN interview, “It’s a very bad sign if we see obesity at a young age. When we see children obese at age 4, we’re likely to see complications – high blood pressure, abnormal lipids – which can lead to heart disease and stroke…”
Take this research and add another new study by Elsie Taveras at Harvard Medical School that shows that fat babies are at an increased risk of becoming obese toddlers and you can’t help but ask yourself if maybe feeding on demand isn’t such a good idea after all.
I know the story, your baby’s rooting. He’s crying. He’s obviously hungry. Never mind the fact that you fed him 20 minutes ago and your nipples are raw and chafed from these absurdly short feeding intervals. Guess what? Rooting is a natural instinct. It doesn’t indicate hunger. And those tears you interpret as a sign that baby wants more food, they’re probably due to reflux. The fact that your baby stops crying when you feed him is likely because it feels good and temporarily stops the reflux. But wait a few minutes after the feed, and the crying will return. I know you want to feed your baby. It feels right. It feels nurturing. But have you ever thought that maybe you’re overfeeding?
Oh no, not you. You’re certain your pudgy, ballooning babe is healthy and happy. He just has an insatiable appetite. Well, the truth is that research shows that babies who gain a lot of weight quickly in the first 6 months of life, are more likely to become part of that new obesity statistic we cited at the top of this page.
Babies need no more than 20 to 30 ounces of milk (breast or formula) during those early months. If you’re a die-hard “feed-on-demand” proponent, do you know how much milk your infant is actually ingesting in a 24 hour period? And frequency matters also. While it’s unpopular to even suggest regimented feeding periods in most mom circles today, there’s a lot of evidence that supports spreading out feedings by at least two to two and a half hours.
I know, you’ve got to go because the little one’s screaming and it’s time to feed again. So I’ll wrap it up by saying; just think about it. Baby fat may be cute, but it’s also a key indicator of toddler obesity, which leads to a host of other serious health issues. Maybe that whole moderation thing isn’t such a bad idea after all.