Parents, we have a problem! Obesity is a serious health concern in America, and it's a problem that can begin in infancy. About 15 percent of American children are overweight—almost four times the rate of 30 years ago. Twenty-five percent of all children who are overweight will grow up to be overweight as adults. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued this dire, but true, warning: Obesity is an epidemic, and if the current trend continues, one-third of children born in 2000 will become diabetic later in life.
In response to the epidemic, I—along with the entire Sears Family Pediatrics practice—have developed an obesity-prevention plan called the Lifestyle, Exercise, Attitude, and Nutrition (LEAN) Program. Our goal is to help children of all ages become lean—which means having just the right amount of body fat for their individual body size and type—rather than skinny. And that begins at babyhood.
The first three years of a child's life is an important time for learning lean ways of eating and living. The health habits you instill in your child in this early, impressionable stage can last a lifetime. Babies are naturally round and plump, of course—an adorably pinchable layer of fat insulates your little one's body from the cold and elements. Fat stored in the early months provides fuel for the toddler years, when children are often too busy exploring their world to stop and eat. In fact, many babies are quite chubby by 4 to 6 months of age, but for most this extra fat will burn off when they start to crawl and walk. Here's what you can do to make sure those cute rolls of baby fat are left behind as your tot becomes a toddler.
Contributing editor William Sears, M.D., is the author of 32 books on childcare, including The Baby Book.