Dieting Babies -- Yes, They Actually Exist

Childhood obesity rates and a rash of alarming new studies have parents working hard to ensure their tot doesn't become yet another statistic. But are some going too far?

By Kaitlin Stanford for

The U.S. has always laid claim to some of the most staggering obesity rates in the world. And our childhood obesity rates are no exception -- in fact, the latest stats show that the number of obese children has actually more than tripled in the past 30 years (though it's finally leveling off) and that one in ten babies under the age of 2 is clinically overweight. (Kind of makes you look at those adorable leg rolls a little differently, huh?) But if you think most newbie parents these days are just sitting by idly, think again.

After a wave of recent studies have cited a growing number of ways a child can end up obese -- claiming that both infant weight gain and Mom's pregnancy weight gain can lead to childhood obesity a few years later -- panicked moms seem to be doing their best to make sure their baby doesn't wind up, well, fat. Some are taking the route of keeping their tots away from the TV and making sure they stay active (take one emerging new trend: toddlers on sports teams); others are taking things to disturbing extremes.

Use this handy tool to track baby's feedings!

According to recent reports, some parents are putting their babies on diets (yes, we did just say "babies" and "diets" in the same sentence). And no, we're not talking about those supermoms who take the time to make their own organic baby food, or even those who pay attention to portion control and nutritional value. We're talking about the growing trend of parents who obsess over their baby's weight so much that they are determined to keep them within a certain weight percentile. Good Morning America recently reported that the main reason these parents are so fixated on their babies' weight is that they have their own body issues. And in a Time magazine article, Dr. Jatinder Bhatia of the American Academy of Pediatrics notes that he has seen many parents put their kids on diets before they've even hit their first birthday -- all in an effort to avoid any weight problems that may have plagued their own lives or those of other family members.

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To be fair, monitoring your kid's health closely -- especially if you have a family history of obesity -- is understandable. But when it becomes more a matter of wanting to raise "thin" kids because of your own body image issues and obsession with being thin... well, that's a different story. Especially since you're now passing on your own issues to your kids. An eye-opening stat: A study led by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) earlier this year found that eating disorders among children under 12 have spiked dramatically in the past 11 years, with the number of kids hospitalized for related issues more than doubling between 1999 and 2006. Pretty scary, huh?

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So how should parents deal when their tot is overweight? According to Dr. Alanna Levine, pediatrician at Orangetown Pediatric Associates in Tappan, New York, and a designated spokesperson for the AAP, the first step is to talk to their pediatrician. Solving the problem may be as easy as paying closer attention to baby's natural feeding cues (if you've got a newborn on your hands), which can naturally help avoid overfeeding. Dr. Levine also notes that once baby hits that six-month mark, he'll most likely be sleeping through the night, which will cut out nighttime feedings. For parents of toddlers, Dr. Levine suggests focusing on giving your tot a diet rich in fruits, veggies and lean proteins. "Avoid giving high-carbohydrate foods and snacks, which are always readily available," advises Dr. Levine. "And try to change your thinking of what constitutes 'kid foods' like mac and cheese, pasta and French fries, and instead offer foods that are nutrient-rich and healthier." (For more meal ideas based on your baby's age, check out our nutrition tracker.)

The point is, there's really no need to put a baby on a serious diet. Or buy Baby Spanx. That's just crazy talk.

Weigh in: Do you ever find yourself worrying too much or even obsessing a little over your baby's weight?

Photo: Shutterstock / The Bump

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