Lilly is chubby! She has chunky thighs, chunky arms, and folds on her neck. Her cheeks are a story for another day. Trust me I have heard more than a few passing comments about her weight. She simply looks like a mini sumo wrestler.
Baby fat in children can and often do disappear as they grow provided they eat a healthful diet. Excess fat and calories can still be a concern even though babies need a diet high in fat to support their growth during infancy, and a baby who is exclusively breastfed gets about half of her daily calories from the fat in the breast milk.
According to the World Health Organization Growth Charts, a baby with a weight-for-length greater than the 85th percentile is considered to have a high weight for length, while if she is above 95th percentile, she is classified as obese. As of 2003-2004, CDC reported that among kids 2-5 years of age, 22% are at risk of being overweight while 14% are already overweight.
In this article, we at 1happykiddo will help you, parents, to help your children develop healthily so that they won’t have to experience stigma and rejection as an overweight child and suffer the health consequences of being obese.
Table of Contents
What is baby fat?
These are deposits of fat present in babies and young children but usually will disappear as they grow older. There are two periods when the body makes new fat cells in the normal life cycle of a baby. The first is inside the uterus, and the second is around the age of six years old and lasts until puberty.
Outside these two periods, your baby’s body fat cells are fixed and shrink or sell out as they lose or gain weight. Fat cells in lean toddlers gradually shrink in the course of their early childhood, and by the time they turn six years old body fatness is at its lowest point and then start reproducing fat cells in the puberty stage when fat cells don’t foam anymore.
Is your baby fat or obese?
Formula-fed babies are known to have higher weight gain than breastfed babies, and you can’t count on pediatricians to bring up the subject of your baby’s weight always, nor can you tell just by looking at your baby.
In a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control in 2009, serious health problems such as depression, asthma, diabetes, and heart disease are associated with childhood obesity.
And data from the 2016 study found that there are several reasons why feeding your baby formula might cause a higher weight gain that is not obesity-related. These include…
- There is a higher chance of overfeeding your baby because it is readily available.
- Parents/caregivers are likely to keep feeding the baby just to empty the bottle even if the baby is already full.
- Parents/caregivers may add more formula powder or cereals than is recommended when preparing baby’s food.
- The use of a large feeding bottle to formula feed may lead to overfeeding hence weight gain.
- Sometimes the person in charge of the baby will use strict feeding schedules with the bottle instead of relying on hunger cues.
- The caregiver might give the bottle to the baby to self soothe.
Other factors to watch out for that can lead to your baby gaining weight include…
- The kind of snacks and food your baby is fed on.
- Giving your baby fruit juice or sugary things.
- If your baby or toddler is given a lot of snacks in between meals.
- If you feed your baby on fast food or processed food.
- How early your baby is introduced to solid foods.
- If your baby sleeps too little.
When will my chubby baby thin out?
Studies have shown that children who are heavy by the time they turn six-years-old should be screened for weight problems. Although some overweight children do outgrow their baby fat, roughly two out of three are likely to grow up to be obese grown-ups.
As a result, if your doctor recommends slowing down your baby’s weight gain, you should be hands-on and adopt habits that will keep your child healthy, as we will share with you below.
- If you are both breastfeeding and bottle feeding, try to breastfeed more often.
- Pump and store your breast milk if you cannot breastfeed for a long time or if your baby prefers the bottle.
- Try to breastfeed for a longer period as you can.
- Ensure correct measurements for formula powder when making baby’s food.
- Avoid the use of cereal to thicken formula.
- Choose a smaller feeding bottle.
- Avoid giving your baby the bottle to self soothe.
- Inquire from your pediatrician about the best formula for your baby.
- Instead of long feedings, interact with your child by playing, reading, or even a massage.
- Avoid processed foods like boxed sugary cereals and snacks.
- Avoid fruit juices and other sugary drinks, or wait until your child is a toddler. If you have to offer fruit juices, wait until your baby is six months and give not more than 4 ounces of 100% fruit juice daily.
- Limit media use. The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages the use of media by children younger than 2 years. The more TV they are exposed to, the greater their risk of becoming overweight. Video games fall into this category also and should be eliminated.
- Offer more fruits and vegetables, not cereals and grains, and continue as finger foods are introduced.
- As a parent, eat well and stay healthy. Your child will copy what they see you do.
- Unless your child’s healthcare provider instructs so, don’t encourage your baby to finish every bottle.
- Exclusively breastfeed only for the first six months and then continue breastfeeding along with supplemental foods until age one or longer. This is because breastfed babies only feed when they are hungry, and they tend to be leaner.
Baby fat: When is it a source of concern?
There is a downside to too chubby a baby. Too much fat can hinder your baby’s ability to reach crucial developmental milestones like crawling and walking. More than that, studies show that children who grow too big in their early infancy stage could be compromising their future Body Mass Index and that ratio only gets worse the longer the fat sticks around.
Known as Brown Adipose Tissue, or BAT has very little to do with making your baby look cute. It all hangs out around your newborn’s spine and shoulders and is specifically linked to protecting your baby from cold and not meant to make them beautiful.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are skinny babies healthy?
Yes. Situations exist where babies need to gain more weight but that doesn’t mean that lack of squishy cuddly cheeks is unhealthy. Factors such as low birth weight, breastfeeding vs bottle feeding, and genetics may make an otherwise healthy baby look unhealthy and that should give you peace about the number on the scale.
Other signs that may reassure you that your slender little person includes regular wet diapers, consistent soiled diapers, and happy alert temperament.
Are fat babies healthy?
Yes. Most of those adorably chubby babies with chunky thighs are perfectly healthy. Newborns grow quickly especially in their first year of life and how they gain and carry the weight depends on many factors that help determine whether the folds on their thighs and neck are a course of concern or simply adorable.
Babies can double their birth weight in less than six months and triple it by the time they are a year old. They all need a high-fat diet to support this rapid growth and development that is why your little one always seems hungry.
What happens if a baby loses weight?
Almost all babies lose weight after birth and those who are breastfed lose even more. Weight loss in babies is not a problem but excess weight loss is an indicator of an underlying problem, such as breastfeeding isn’t working out successfully.
In the womb, your baby is getting the crucial nutrients through the umbilical cord, but once they are out they have to figure how to eat and it could be complicated for both mother and child as you might not have enough milk, putting your baby at risk of dehydration.
Baby’s come in all different shapes and sizes and often, baby fat is healthy and normal for your little one. Most babies are not overweight even if they look a little chubby and round, but if you think your baby’s weight is a source of concern, it won’t hurt to check with their pediatrician.
Other factors such as genetics, formula feeding, and the environment around your home may also lead to your baby gaining and retaining their fat. Share with us your struggles, worries, and triumph with your tiny chubby person in the comments section down below.