Is a chubby baby a healthy baby?

Childhood obesity is increasing in the United States and this trend can begin early in life. A study by New York University School of Medicine indicates that stressed new moms are more likely than non-stressed mothers to add cereal to their baby’s bottle prior to the recommended age of 4-6 months. Stress can be related to issues like money, depression, or single-parenting.

Over-stressed mothers may seek ways to help babies sleep longer. Dr. Elizabeth Jesse, a certified nurse-midwife at ECU, notes that it is not unusual to hear mothers say that they add cereal to bottles due to the challenge of feeding around the clock.

Another reason mothers may add cereal to bottles is to increase the time between feedings to reduce formula cost. The cost savings may be dangerous for a new baby’s digestive system. Infant digestive systems are not ready for cereal prior to 4-6 months. The risk of allergies and digestive problems increases when babies are exposed to cereal and solid food before their bodies are mature enough to process the food.

Maternal depression and stress have a significant impact on how babies are fed. Dr. Jesse’s work also suggests that women who are at risk for depression during their pregnancy are almost half as likely to begin breastfeeding when they leave the hospital as women with minimal or no depressive symptoms.

Health-care providers urge new parents to follow feeding recommendations for the baby’s health, but a round, chubby baby is still the stereotypical image of a healthy baby and this image is deceiving. Overweight babies often become overweight children and, then, they become overweight adults.

Obesity begins early in life and new moms need support to make good decisions for their babies. Health-care providers can give new moms material about the recommended feeding stages. New moms should discuss feelings of sadness and despair with their doctors and nurses at their post-delivery follow-up appointment. If you feel down or blue before your appointment, call your health-care provider right away.

Preventing obesity begins during the first months of life. Remember, give your baby only breast milk or formula for the first 4-6 months of life.

–ECU College of Nursing