Babies rely heavily on breast-milk and other food items that they are given, for development. They contain necessary amounts of essential nutrients like fat, carbohydrates, and proteins. Hence, a strict caloric restriction to keep the baby’s weight in check is not advised.
Research has shown that obesity in an infant does not only set in post-delivery. Prenatal conditions also determine the baby’s weight.
Obesity has long been seen as a genetic trait. Some people are prone to putting on weight much faster, even with a much lesser appetite. Their metabolism rate is much lesser and hence the fat in the foods tend to affect the body much more.
Some prenatal conditions that determine a baby’s weight are:
- Smoking habits of the pregnant mother: apart from slowing down the rate of foetal growth, it is also known to cause obesity in new-born infants.
- Gestational weight gain: Some women binge-eat during pregnancy under the logic that they need to eat for themselves as well as the growing baby inside them. As a result they gain excessive weight during pregnancy. Also there is an increasing trend for women to begin pregnancy, overweight or obese.
- Gestational diabetes: Weight gain during pregnancy is often accompanied by a state of relative insulin resistance during mid-pregnancy. This adaptive response allows for more efficient transfer of glucose across the placenta. But it may also subject the foetus to periods of high blood glucose and elevated insulin. This can lead to increased body fat, which leads to larger size of the baby at birth, and eventually obesity.
Post-natal conditions like the following can also affect obesity in infants:
- How rapidly an infant gains weight: Consult a child specialist or paediatrician, maybe on a monthly or even a weekly basis, to supervise and monitor the rate at which your baby is gaining weight and height, so as to ensure a commensurate growth rate.
- Breastfeeding: A largely debated topic, with many opining that breastfeeding does actually, apart from nourishing the baby through and through and developing his immunity, also manages to keep obesity under check.
- Infant sleep duration: Research has shown that there exists an inverse relation between sleep duration and the chances of developing obesity.
Babies with irregular and punctuated sleep patterns, tend to be more prone to being overweight.
Some common tips that can be followed to keep the baby’s weight healthy are:
- Monitor the mother’s weight during pregnancy: It is natural for mothers to put on some kilos when they are nurturing the womb inside them, but excessive weight gain during pregnancy can increase a baby’s birth weight. With increase in birth weight, research shows, the likelihood of developing childhood obesity also goes up.
- Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding is known to keep childhood obesity at bay and the baby’s weight under check
- Encourage physical activity: It is a widely-accepted fact that obesity is also caused due to lack of physical activity on the part of the infant. As your child grows up, it is hence advised to encourage him to venture out and engage in sports or other physical activities, rather than staying indoors all the time.
- Ensure that your infant gets adequate sleep during the first few years of life.
- Do not smoke during pregnancy
- Choose good fats like the ones enriched with DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid) and ARA (an omega-6 fatty acid). Stay away from packaged low-fat foods.
- Also give your baby fibre- and protein-packed carbohydrates found in whole-grain bread, cereals and fresh fruits, and not the empty carbohydrates found in sweetened beverages and packaged foods
Obesity has for long been seen as a failure of will and self-restraint. In children, especially, it has been forever dismissed as a sign of harmless indulgence. But it is a serious threat that can increase manifold, unless checked right from the initial days.