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Worried your baby is fat? Don't.

November 11, 2011 - Betsy Bethel
I was a fat baby. The photos don't lie. Butterball, Buddha, Chunk ... I've heard them all. I wasn't born big — I was only 6 pounds something. But I had more blubber than a beluga by the time I was 6 months old. I would imagine I had trouble learning to maneuver my spherical shape into a sitting position at that age, but the pictures show me balancing pretty well on my hearty hams.

I don't have a record handy of my length and weight percentiles from birth to 6 months, but I would bet I would've qualified as an "obesity risk" according to a study released in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine on Monday. That's because they looked at how fast a baby grew in those first six months and determined the ones who grew faster than their peers were more likely to be obese than those who grew more slowly.

But I agree with Dr. Mark Wilson, a St. Clairsville pediatrician who told The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register for an article about the study on Wednesday that chubby babies are not a cause for concern. "There are a lot of chubby 9- and 10-month-olds." His own girls, he said, were "meatballs" at that age and now, at 6 and 10, are perfect on the growth charts.

Wilson and others are concerned that this latest study out of Harvard, titled "Crossing Growth Percentiles in Infancy and Risk of Obesity in Childhood Babies," will give parents the impression they should put their babies on diets, restricting their nutrition at the very age that they need it to grow healthy brains and bodies.

Parents, remember, you are the experts on your baby — not some Harvard researcher or even your pediatrician. But you also need to use common sense. If your 4-month-old is going through a period where he is a bottomless milk pit, he's probably about to hit a growth spurt. If you breastfeed, remember that breastfed babies usually need to be fed more often because breastmilk is metabolized faster than formula.

Still worried your baby might become a childhood obesity statistic? As long as you feed her healthy foods, you shouldn't fret. Note: Don't give your baby fast food, chocolate, chips or even much juice — if any. Wilson said in the article that he has seen parents give their children "a sip" of pop and those parents "need intervention." That's a strong statement, depending on the age of the child. If he's 1, I agree that parents needs to know pop is not a healthy choice. I remember seeing a kid not more than 12 months old in a doctor's office going to town on a lollipop. Really? Why set his little body up to crave sugar like that?

Most parents I know are hyper-vigilant about what they feed their children — not because they don't want them to get fat but rather because they want them to be as healthy as they can be. That should be the bottom line for all of us.


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