Is Baby Fat on Babies Bad?

By Charlotte Hilton Andersen, REDBOOK

Diapers, bottles and... obesity? Being a new parent was hard enough before the once-charming baby fat became a medically recognized health risk. Robert Duffy, president of Marc Jacobs, encapsulated our societal confusion when he talked about parenting in a recent interview:
"Our biggest fight was that she was getting really heavy," says Duffy. "I'd say, 'She is being overfed.' [Alex] would say, 'No she's not, all babies are fat.' Then I took her to the park one day and had her on a swing, and this lady said to me, 'Why don't you let your baby walk?' I said that she can't walk yet and she was like, 'Oh, I am so sorry.' The lady thought she was two years old. I came home and was like, 'Alex, she is eating too much.'" They consulted her pediatrician and stopped feeding Victoria milk at night. "I keep saying childhood obesity starts in infancy, and Alex says, 'So does anorexia.'" Obesity and anorexia, all in the same breath... and their baby is only 6-months old.

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I have a lot of experience with fat babies and what people say about them. After all, my three babies weighed in between 9 and 11 pounds each. Here's a brief rundown of the arguments:

1. "Babies are supposed to be fat!" And yet babies and young children can be too fat to the point it harms their development.

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2. "Babies are naturally good at self-regulating food intake; they're the gold standard of intuitive eaters!" But only when they're being fed properly. Who knows if this is true for scientifically proven addictive foods like Girl Scout cookies?

3. "Bigger babies tend to be healthier babies, the babies with the worst health outcomes are the teeny tiny ones!" But there is a difference between a baby chunked out on breast milk and one sucking down French fries as a first food.

4. "And let's not forget how squishably fun dimply chubby baby thighs are!" There is no retort to that: Baby thighs are a work of art. As are baby tushies.

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So what's a parent to do, especially when pediatricians are sounding the alarm at new-parent visits? Mathew Gillman, a Hardvard pediatrician and epidemiologist, says, "Excess or accelerated weight gain even in the first four or six months of life may be setting up kids for overweight, for higher blood pressure, maybe even for asthma over the first years in childhood." Yet no one is advocating baby diets, either. Most pediatricians these days are keeping an eye on the child's growth charts (are their height and weight staying proportional?) rather than going by weight alone. Should parents worry about their babies' weight, then?

Is baby fat on babies now a bad thing?

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