Dear Doc | Can my baby be overweight?
Q Dear Doc, is there really something wrong with having a nice, chubby baby. I think my baby is quite cute with all his folds and round tummy, but I’m being told it isn’t healthy. Won’t he just outgrow this phase as he gets older? How can I know if he is fat, and what can I do if he really is fat?
A I do agree! A nice chubby baby is quite adorable. However, yes, there is such a thing as an overweight baby. How you can find out if your child is overweight is by visiting your child’s doctor. They will measure your child’s height and weight and use those measurements to calculate a number called the body mass index, or BMI.
The doctor will then compare your child’s BMI to the BMIs of other children of the same age and sex to determine if your child’s weight is healthy for his height. If your child’s BMI is high compared to other children, then he is overweight. When a child’s BMI is much too high, the doctors may consider him obese.
It is important for your child to have a healthy weight because children who are overweight can have:
- Liver problems
- High blood pressure
- Knee or back pain
- Sleep apnea – A condition that causes persons to stop breathing for short periods while sleeping.
It is also important that your child has a healthy weight so that he or she will have the appropriate weight later in life. Being overweight as a child, teen, or adult can lead to medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks, and some types of cancer.
To help your child get to a healthy weight, you need to help him eat healthy foods and be more active. Making these lifestyle changes can be hard, especially at first.
Here are some suggestions to help your child be healthier:
● Have your child eat five servings of fruits or vegetables each day. If your child does not like vegetables or fruit, start slowly. Eat these foods yourself to set a good example, and have your child keep trying them.
● Limit your child’s ‘screen time’. Screen time includes watching TV, playing video games, or using a computer or other electronic device for things other than homework. Experts recommend that young children (ages two to five) have no more than one hour a day of screen time. Older children should also limit their screen time. Spending too much time watching TV or using electronics raises a person’s risk of being overweight.
● Have your child do physical activity for one hour or more each day. This can include doing a sport, dancing, or playing outside.
● Do not give your child any sugary drinks. Sugary drinks include soda, sports drinks, and all juices.
You and your child may not meet all these goals. Choose one or two goals to try first, then you can try to meet all of these goals.
Also, work with your child’s doctor. Visit for regular check-ups so that your child’s BMI can be followed over time. Your doctor might also recommend that you talk with a dietitian (food expert). A dietitian can help you choose healthy foods and plan meals.