I realise this is a sensitive topic, as many parents wouldn’t like to be told their child is unhealthily overweight, however I think it’s something we need to start discussing openly for the sake of our children. I personally as a mother would hate to think I’m doing anything to negatively impact my child’s health and development.
Are our children really overweight?
1 in 4 Australian children aged 2-17 were overweight or obese in 2014-15. In the USA, 30% of babies are above the 85th percentile on the growth charts, when statistically it should be about 15%.
When it becomes common to see children who are larger in size, it is so easy to think it’s the new normal. But the thing is, in the last 20 years with escalating overweight and obese adults, we need to start looking at why our children are also getting bigger.
Research suggests it is more common for a mother to be concerned about her child being too small rather than too big! And with the growing number of children who are too large for their age, becoming the new norm, it creates anxiety for mothers of children who are otherwise healthy but relatively smaller.
How to know if your child is overweight
BMI is often used in primary school aged children. And while it can be helpful as a guide, it isn’t 100% accurate (same with adults!).
Using growth charts gives you an idea of how your child is tracking using percentiles. The World Health Organisation charts use breastfed babies as their baseline, so under 5 years of age these are the charts you’d want to use. Research has shown that formula fed babies grow in a completely different trajectory than breastfed babies, and while the advent of formula is incredible, using formula fed babies in growth charts create a skewed result.
There is a difference between chubby babies and overweight babies
I’m not saying that all chubby babies are overweight. After all, babies need a certain amount of fat on their bodies to be able to grow. However, when the number of babies above the 85th percentile is double what it should be, there is a definite problem.
What does it mean if my baby is overweight?
The effects of having an overweight or obese child can extend through their entire life. Unfortunately, overweight children are at higher risk of chronic diseases of childhood. In a similar way that overweight adults are at risk of metabolic disease. Diabetes, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, and more. Plus research has shown that obesity during infancy and childhood significantly increases the risk of obesity during adulthood.
I know this topic can be difficult to read, but I hope it helps you take action if you know your child is overweight.