“Dr. Linda, my 3-year-old niece is very overweight. I’m pregnant and I was wondering if there is anything I can do so my baby doesn’t have a problem with her weight too ?”
This week, I am sharing a study done on the prevention of overweight in children. It’s so much easier to prevent your child from becoming overweight than to try to treat it after it’s happened.
Overweight and obesity affect more than just your child’s appearance. In addition to its physical effects, it has emotional consequences and negatively affects children’s’ quality of life. I know it does from my own personal experience!
Over 4 million children in the United States between 2-19 years are overweight or obese.
8-14% of preschoolers are obese. If the problem is not dealt with these kids are 5 times more likely to have weight issues as preteens and teenagers.
One-third of school-aged and teenaged children are obese or overweight; 50% of these kids will continue to have issues with their weight as adults.
Given the difficulty of losing weight at any age, it’s much better to focus on prevention and this can start even before your baby is born, while you’re still pregnant.
While you’re pregnant:
- Make sure that you have healthy eating habits because your eating habits will teach your children how to eat. Babies learn by watching you, not by what you say.
- Eat a healthy diet with a good variety of fruits and vegetables.
- Eat breakfast.
- Avoid junk food.
- Avoid sugary drinks.
- Maintain a healthy weight gain and do everything you can not to gain too much weight. If you’re having difficulties with this don’t be shy to ask your doctor for help.
- Strongly consider breastfeeding your baby. Breastfeeding has been shown to protect against overweight and obesity in babies and children up to 5 years of age.To maximize your chances of success:
- Take a breastfeeding class.
- Talk to your friends who are breastfeeding to learn their ‘secrets’ to success.
After your baby is born:
- Breastfeed as long as you can.
- Even babies who get a combination of breastfeeding and bottle feeding seem to get some protection against overweight.
- Learn your baby’s hunger cues so you only feed your baby when he/she is hungry.
- Learn your baby’s fullness cues so you stop when your baby is full.
- Trust your baby to eat only as much as he/she needs. Babies are very smart and know how much they need. They don’t eat because they’re sad or mad or bored unless we teach them to do so.
Once you introduce solid food:
- Know your child’s hunger cues. Use them to guide you when to offer meals and snacks.Don’t ask your child to eat when he/she isn’t hungry.
- Know your child’s fullness cues and allow your child to stop eating once you see them or when your child tells you he/she is full.
- Always offer your child breakfast.
- Some children may want to eat breakfast later than others. My son never wanted to eat before 10 am!
- Offer your child a wide variety of foods to eat every day. Healthy proteins, whole grains, healthy fats, and 5 servings of vegetables and fruits a day will start you off on the right track. When you offer your child healthy choices you don’t have to worry about restricting what they’re eating which can also lead to problems with their weight.
- Avoid sugary, sweet foods with little nutritional value.
- Avoid juice till your baby is a year old unless you need to use it for constipation.
- After a year of age restrict juice to 100% juices with no sugar added and only offer 4 ounces a day.
- Instead of the juice offer the whole fruit.
- Make mealtimes media free zones.
- Encourage your child to move around and exercise at least an hour per day. Do it with them!
- Use hugs, kisses, clapping, and praise and not food as rewards for accomplishments.
- Watch your own eating habits.
- If you are not eating in healthy ways try to get into better eating habits because your child learns by watching you.
- Notice if you eat when you’re bored, stressed, or worried. If you do, there’s a high chance your children to do this too.
As always, I would love for you to share this blog with whoever you think may benefit from reading it.
To your holistic health,