Some influences on a child's future weight begin very early:
Heavier mothers have heavier babies who are more likely to be overweight when they become adults, according to a large, long-term Finnish study. In the U.S., the average weight of moms—and infants—has been rising for decades.
What to do:
If you're overweight and planning another child, consider an eat-right-and-exercise program for six months to drop 5 to 10 percent of your weight before you try to conceive again. And if you smoke, quit. Babies born to smokers are also more likely to grow up overweight.
WEIGHT GAIN DURING THE FIRST FOUR MONTHS
Babies are supposed to be chubby ó but a slow, steady weight gain may be best. Newborns who gain more than six pounds in the first four months are 30 percent more likely to be overweight at age 7, finds a major American study. And overweight 7-year-olds are more apt to stay so into adulthood.
What to do:
Breastfeed, if you can. "It reduces the risk of fatness in a child," says Tufts University nutrition professor Susan Roberts, Ph.D., coauthor of Feeding Your Child for Lifelong Health. "Breastfeeding lets an infant regulate how much he eats—and the milk itself may help control appetite." Doctors advise nursing for a year.