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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 12/ 2/2010

Babies on diets? Now I've heard it all.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget

Yes, childhood obesity is a big and growing problem.

But putting babies on diets is not the solution.

Recent news stories have called attention to a phenomenon -- without saying how widespread it is -- in which parents restrict their babies' diets to ward off chubbiness. Apparently for some it's a matter of aesthetics; one story cites a father who raves about how skinny his infant daughter is. Others, though, restrict their babies' food intake so the children won't go on to be chubby children -- or overweight adults.

There is some cause for concern, according to a study published in March 2009 in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers at Harvard University found that babies who rapidly gained weight (out of proportion to how their length increased) during their first 6 months were at dramatically increased risk of being obese at age 3. The study further found that the rate of early weight gain might better predict future obesity than weight at birth does.

But the American Academy of Pediatrics maintains that babies need extra fat and calories in their early months; their physical and mental development depends on it.

If you're concerned about your baby's weight, you should talk with your pediatrician. The doctor will tell you whether your concerns are well-founded and steer you toward a feeding regimen that makes sense for your child.

As that Harvard study noted, birth weight can be deceptive. I was an enormous infant: I weighed -- are you sitting down? -- 10 pounds, 8 ounces when I was delivered. Yes, I have struggled with a few extra pounds (but not obesity) for most of my life, but today I'm five-foot-four and weigh 133 pounds. I'm sure my size shocked my poor mom, but I'm also sure she never considered putting me on a diet.

We parents are bombarded with news, some of it seemingly conflicting, about kids and their weight. We're told that childhood obesity is widespread, but we also hear that eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are growing more prevalent. It's a terribly tricky thicket to navigate, and all any of us can do is our best.

"Our best" should, of course, include modeling good eating, exercise and sleep habits for our kids and making sure they have access to healthful food, opportunities for physical activity and sound medical care. After that, we should probably just try to relax and enjoy them, wherever they may fall on the skinny/chubby scale.

(While we're talking about enjoying babies, I can't resist mentioning one of the cutest kids on TV right now, baby "Hope" on Fox's "Raising Hope." That baby has an adorable fold of fat or two, which is exactly as it should be.)

Readers, care to share your insights on chubby -- or less-chubby -- babies? Please leave a comment, and don't forget to vote in today's poll!

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  | December 2, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Childhood obesity, Eating disorders, Family Health, Infant health, Kids' health, Me Minus 10, Motherhood, Nutrition and Fitness, Obesity, Parenting  
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When learning lifespan and development, we were told not to restrict an infant's diet, especially the fat content because it's essential for proper neurological development. The vast majority of infants and toddlers really don't need weight management. They should naturally eat when they're hungry and refuse food when they're not. Parents need to follow those cues and provide consistent meal and snack times as the child gets older, limiting junk food and encouraging fruits, veggies and whole grains. If a parent is concerned about their child's weight and health, they should always talk to their child's physician before starting any diet. Too much or rapid weight loss could also be damaging to the child's health.

Posted by: Sanura1333 | December 2, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Giving away freebies and free samples is the best way for companies to introduce their products to you. Best place is "123 Get Samples" Best of all, there is no obligation on your part.

Posted by: kathrynmerry | December 3, 2010 4:15 AM | Report abuse

Unless the doctor gives me a reason to be concerned, then I do not worry about my son's weight (he is 11 months old). One thing to mention is that babies and young children chane their look constantly, so a child that is chubby today may or may not be the same in a couple of months. If we teach them healthy habits to begin with, then we are less likely to have issues with this later on. It is called being a parent.

Posted by: zeptattoo | December 3, 2010 8:26 AM | Report abuse

My son has been in the 90+ percentile in height and weight for his entire 22 mo lifespan. He started out long and a little chubby, turned super chubby, and has now stretched out to be really tall and muscular but not particularly fat. We listen to his cues on hunger and fullness, and frankly some days, he eats like a horse and some days, he eats like a bird. As long as he continues to listen to his hunger cues and continues to exercise as much as he does, hopefully he'll turn out tall and slender, like his Papa.

Posted by: newmom2009 | December 3, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Newmom2009, our son was just the same- a super-chubby baby always in the 95th percentile or above for weight. And we certainly were not feeding him ho-hos as a baby! He grew out of it and is now a slim 6-year old.

Posted by: bubba777 | December 3, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

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