Reading Baby Growth Charts Wrong Can Lead To Childhood Obesity

Reading Baby Growth Charts Wrong Can Lead To Childhood Obesity

You've been told that your baby has to be chubby. So you are force-feeding them with Formula to make them grow fat. However, you might be setting them up for childhood obesity.

It is a bit ironic how for adults weight gain is not a good thing but for babies, it is a measure of how well they are growing. When the baby is gaining weight compliments flood in. You are lauded on how well you're doing in motherhood, feeding the baby and all that comes with it. Some people go as far as saying to your face that they like chubbier babies more. Consequently, parents tend to force-feed children in other to reach specific goal weights. But, this overfeeding leads to childhood obesity. In addition, they could struggle with being overweight later in life.

Apart from making mothers whose babies are not big on the scale feel like failures, the consequence is that this obsession with weight gain and chubby babies pushes the notion that more weight gain is better. But that is not the case. It carries its own risk. For over a decade, researchers have known that being big and growing rapidly makes infants more open to obesity during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. In the face of this evidence, it is worth noting that information has not been available to many health experts. Hence the advice given to parents. 

Why many parents get growth charts wrong? 

overfeeding leads to childhood obesity

This could be put down to most parents being unable to interpret the growth charts provided by the world health organisation. The WHO chart describes how the growth of a child should be from birth to five years. Therefore, the child's growth should follow the same curve on the chart provided. 

However, it doesn't always boil down to just the parents alone. It can be said that a lot of parents would stick to the chart if they know it. But most of them aren't taught how to correctly interpret the chart. What happens is that parents think that the baby tracking above the 50th percentile is good and below is bad. But the correct way to read the charts is that half the population has to be above the 50th and the other half below. 

What happens when parents interpret growth chart incorrectly?

The consequence of getting it incorrectly is that parents strive to feed children so they can go over the 50th percentile. And what going above the 50th represents is quick growth, which increases the chances of children being obese in their childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. 

One example of this is when mothers seem to not have enough breastmilk to give their babies. They are told to mix it up with infant formula. But the thing is that infant formula immediately increases protein intake, shoring the baby up with more weight. And the problem here is that intake of high protein during the first two years of one's life results in rapid weight and obesity risk.

What can be done to solve this?

overfeeding leads to childhood obesity

According to many scientists, discoveries made in research aren't broken down and provided for everyday use. And if findings are provided, when things change there's hardly a way to efficiently communicate this to medical practitioners who come in contact with mothers every day. 

What is important, is that you have a healthy child. As overfeeding leads to childhood obesity, it becomes a struggle to shed the extra weight. Having noted this, scientists need to find ways to share their discoveries. This may include online courses about infant nutrition. And for parents, when anyone says your baby is not chubby enough, ask them what criteria they used to arrive at such a conclusion.

Read more: Experts Issue A Guideline On Healthy Drinks For Kids To Curb Child Obesity


Written by

Lydia Ume