The Kid’s Doctor: New study finds striking link between infant weight gain and childhood obesity

The Kid’s Doctor: New study finds striking link between infant weight gain and childhood obesity

By Sue Hubbard, M.D.,

A new study out of Harvard University, published recently in Pediatrics, looks at infant weight gain and links to childhood obesity. This is an interesting study, as previous research had typically looked at weight alone as a predicator for future problems with obesity. In this study, the authors looked at both weight and length as a measure of fatness.

Researchers also looked at weight as a dynamic process, in other words, it was not how much you weighed, but how quickly you gained the weight in infancy. The authors found that the correlation between rapid infant weight gain and later obesity was striking.

Other studies have also looked at the relationship between infant and childhood weight but this study makes a compelling argument that early rapid weight gain, even in the first months of infancy, could have long term health consequences.

So, armed with this knowledge, what can a parent do? Follow the guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics to exclusively breast- or formula-feed your baby for the first six months of life. If your baby is formula fed, limit daily intake to an appropriate amount for age.

Many parents, for a multitude of reasons, decide to add cereal to their baby’s bottle in hopes that this will “make their infant sleep through the night.” To my knowledge, there’s never been any data to confirm this (except, perhaps, the Mommy network) and additional calories in infancy may lead to long-term consequences.

Juices and early introduction of baby foods may also add unnecessary calories. This study points out the need to modify weight gain in infancy in a manner that will balance the needs of an infant’s brain, as well as their body, during this time of rapid development.
(Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award-winning pediatrician, medical editor and media host. “The Kid’s Doctor” TV feature can be seen on more than 90 stations across the U.S. Submit questions at The Kid’s Doctor e-book, “Tattoos to Texting: Parenting Today’s Teen,” is now available from Amazon and other e-book vendors.)