Study: Childhood obesity linked to mother’s perception of child’s weight

childhood obesity

Babies with chubby cheeks are rarely considered “fat” — they’re just babies, after all. But now that we know a child’s weight matters as early as age two, infant and childhood obesity is worth serious consideration.

In a recent study, more than half of mothers with overweight babies perceived their children as healthy. The University of Houston Department of Health and Human Performance found a link between the mother’s perception (or misperception) of her child’s weight is tied directly to the child’s risk for obesity.

Dr. Dirk said he is not surprised by these results. In the past, an overweight child was often considered healthy, because most would grow out of their “baby fat.” This simply isn’t the case today.

“In the past, the overweight child would then be sent outside to play and burn lots of calories, which, combined with a growth spurt, reduced obesity,” he says. “In today’s American culture, outdoor play has all but disappeared. Children spend more time inside watching TV or looking at devices and eating-calorie dense food.”

This means parents need to pay close attention to their baby’s weight, and even closer attention if their pediatricians aren’t bringing it up. The study authors recommend public health nurses begin engaging mothers in conversations about their children’s health and nutrition. They also recommend having a conversation about the mothers’ own weight, as the study showed links between the mother’s perception of her own weight and her perception of her child’s weight.

It can be hard for doctors or nurses to bring up these kinds of topics. “Prior science has clearly pointed out that healthcare professionals do not talk to parents about weight or obesity issues regarding their children for fear of offending parents,” Dr. Dirk says.

This may be the worst part of all. Childhood and teenage obesity is a serious issue that can cause a wide range early-onset health problems, and it needs to be addressed by parents and healthcare professionals as soon as possible.

So next time you look at your child and think the “baby weight” will fall off one day, it may be time to start thinking about a nutrition plan to make sure it does. Learn more about our Dallas, TX Weight Loss Surgery Procedures.