Four Early Steps to Decrease your Baby’s Risk of Childhood Obesity


You’ve undoubtedly heard that childhood obesity is fast becoming a national epidemic. Today, more than one-third of American children are overweight, and about one-fifth are obese. Childhood obesity increases risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, chronic pain, and social & psychological problems, as well as decreasing life span. As a mom, you will have a powerful impact on your children’s health as they grow by modeling and cheerleading for healthy habits and healthy body image. Below is a list of four steps you can take from the very beginning to lower your baby’s future risk of childhood obesity.

1. Prevent or treat gestational diabetes. Having untreated gestational diabetes during your pregnancy doubles your baby’s risk of childhood obesity. Luckily, research indicates that early detection and treatment of gestational diabetes to return blood sugars to the normal range (less than 96 mg/dL before a meal or less than 120 mg/dL after a meal) normalizes baby’s risk of childhood obesity as well. Make sure you’ve talked to your midwife or doctor about testing for gestational diabetes during your pregnancy and that you follow all treatment recommendations if you are diagnosed. To lower your risk of developing gestational diabetes in the first place, limit sweets and sweetened beverages, increase your intake of non-starchy vegetables, and get regular exercise.

2. Aim for a healthy pre-pregnancy weight. If you’re thinking of starting a family soon, reaching a healthy weight before you become pregnant can lower your future children’s risk of childhood obesity. Research estimates babies born to individuals with a pre-pregnancy BMI between 25-29.9 have a 50% increase risk of childhood obesity, while those born to women with a pre-pregnancy BMI above 30 have a two-fold increased risk compared to babies born to moms with a pre-pregnancy BMI between 18.5-24.9. (Find out your BMI here.) Being overweight before pregnancy also increases your risk for developing gestational diabetes, so it’s worth implementing healthy eating and exercise habits to reach a healthy weight before pregnancy whenever possible.

3. Know the right amount of weight to gain during your pregnancy. If your BMI is between 19.8 and 26.0, the Institute of Medicine recommends you gain 25-35 pounds during your pregnancy, or about a pound a week during your second and third trimesters. For women with a pre-pregnancy BMI of 26.1-29.0, aim for 15-25 pounds, or about 2 pounds every 3 weeks during trimester 2 and 3. If your pre-pregnancy BMI was 29.1 or higher, total pregnancy weight gain should be 15 pounds or less. Gaining more weight during your pregnancy than these limits is linked to a 23% increase in childhood obesity for your baby.

4. Breastfeed your baby for at least six months. Exclusive breastfeeding of your baby for the first six months of life lowers his or her risk of childhood obesity by 24%. This is true for all babies, regardless of a mother’s pre-pregnancy weight, gestational diabetes or amount of weight gain during pregnancy.

By Nutritionalist Lindsay Pasdera

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