Want to know if your child is on the path to a lifetime of obesity? Check their height and weight records from their 2-year-old checkup. Health experts now say that these numbers may help indicate whether a child is likely to become obese later on.
It was not that long ago that chubby babies were considered the picture of health. But now doctors are saying that toddlers who have surpassed milestones on growth charts by the age of 2 face double the risk of being obese at age 5, compared with children who grew more slowly. In addition, kids whose height and weight measurements were "off the charts" at the 2-year checkup were also more likely to be obese at age 10. Babies whose chart numbers surpassed milestones within their first six months of life faced the greatest risks of obesity.
According to Dr. Elsie Taveras, the study's lead author, a trained pediatrician and an obesity researcher at Harvard Medical School, these kinds of numbers should be a red flag to doctors, and a sign to parents that babies might be overfed or spending too much time in strollers and not enough time crawling around.
While I agree that the numbers might help to generate awareness, it makes me nervous to think that well-meaning doctors and parents would consider putting a 6-month old baby on a diet. Babies grow in fits and spurts. Some babies grow quickly for the first few months and then level off once they get up on their feet at the one-year mark. Others are tiny for months until they shoot up (and often off the charts) at two years.
If you had seen the size of my youngest daughter's belly when she was a toddler, you would have wondered if I were training her to become the next pie-eating champion of the world. It was a miracle that she could even stand and hold that thing upright without toppling face first into the ground. But now at 5 years old, even though she is the same kid with roughly the same appetite and diet, she grows up and not out and has settled into her slender and petite frame.
I think that raising awareness about childhood obesity is a good thing, but checking off boxes on a chart without looking at each individual child's health history and family history will give an incomplete reading into a child's actual chances of becoming obese later in life.