Fighting childhood obesity begins early

By Karen Abernathy - bio | email

We've all heard about the obesity epidemic in America, and it's not only affecting adults. Unfortunately, it is hitting kids before they even learn how to walk and talk. But parents can start early and make a difference later.

Doctors say parents can turn the trend around by knowing how much is too much, when it comes to feeding, from the very beginning.

Kathy Magallanes is learning the ropes of motherhood for a second time. She hopes to make some changes to help her one-year-old granddaughter, Macie.

"It's been a long time since I've been responsible for a little bitty baby, and I know things have changed."

This grandmother admits whenever Macie cries, she thinks, "Oh, that baby's hungry. I don't want her to be hungry, and I'll give her a bottle."

But she's learning from experts, that those actions aren't always best.

Internal Medicine and Pediatrics physician Dr. Russell Rothman said, "If you constantly feed babies when they're young, they actually lose their ability to sense fullness. They may become more likely to be an overeater as they get older."

He said it's not only how much they're fed, but what they're being fed.

"The most common vegetable for the toddler is currently the French fry."

Dr. Rothman said more than half a million four-year-olds are obese. He said weight in the first two years can be predictive of how much weight they'll gain later.

Some more tips: Rothman said babies don't need juice. If you give it to them, dilute it.

For solids, feed fewer crackers and cookies and more veggies and natural fruits.

He said it's important to know when the baby is full. Signs they are full may include keeping the mouth closed, pushing the bottle away or starting to fall asleep.

"Try to recognize what is their hungry cry versus when they're really crying because they're wet or for some other reason."

Also, babies can exercise. It's called tummy time.

"Learning to push themselves up, learning to crawl and really get more mobile even at a young age."

Kathy is working to change her habits.

"My family, we have a lot of diabetes, and he said we got to watch that, and we don't want to feed her too much."

She hopes by starting off on the right foot, her granddaughter will live a healthier life.

Overweight children aren't only a problem in this country. A report in the International Journal of Pediatric Obesity shows that nearly half of the children in North and South America will be overweight by next year.

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