The Institute of Medicine is warning America’s pediatricians, parents, and policymakers that:
- Obese babies often become obese adults, but
- With a few simple lifestyle changes, pot-bellied Chicken McNugget eating infants can quickly & easily become buffed, one-armed push-upping super toddlers.
Here are the tips:
Identifying At-Risk Children
Studies show that many parents do not understand the consequences of excess weight in infants and young children or are not concerned about early excess weight or obesity, the committee found.
- Health professionals should measure infants’ weight and length and the body mass index of young children as a standard procedure at every well-child visit.
- They should identify children at risk for obesity and discuss with parents their children’s measurements and the risks linked to excess weight.
Evidence points to a relationship between insufficient sleep and obesity. Data indicate that over the past two decades there has been an overall decrease in the amount of sleep infants and children get, with the most pronounced declines among children less than 3 years old.
- Regulatory agencies should require child care providers to promote healthy sleep durations in their facilities, the report recommends.
- Pediatricians, early childhood educators, and other professionals who work with parents need to be trained to counsel them about age-appropriate sleep times and good sleep habits.
Physically Active Play and Sedentary Activities
- Agencies that regulate child care facilities should require child care providers and early childhood educators to create opportunities and environments that encourage infants, toddlers, and preschoolers to be physically active throughout the day.
- Child care providers should engage children in physically active play for a cumulative average of at least 15 minutes per hour spent in care, joining children in their activities, and getting children outdoors to play when and where possible. They also could avoid using restriction of play as a disciplinary measure.
- Infants should be allowed to move freely with appropriate supervision.
- Potential steps to achieve this goal include using cribs, car seats, and high chairs only for their intended purposes and limiting use of strollers, swings, and bouncing chairs.
- Child care providers should limit television viewing and use of computers, mobile devices, and other digital technologies to less than two hours per day for children ages 2 to 5.
- Child care facilities and preschools could advance this goal by restricting screen time of any form to 30 minutes in half-day programs and one hour in full-day programs.
- Health care providers could counsel parents on the benefits of restricting screen time.
- The appropriate federal agencies — including the Federal Trade Commission and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — will need to monitor industry compliance with voluntary national nutrition and marketing standards for children, which are currently being developed by an interagency task force.
- Given that only 13 percent of mothers breast-feed exclusively for six months after birth, and only 22 percent continue breast-feeding up to a year, health care providers and organizations should step up efforts to encourage breast-feeding.
- All hospitals should adopt the World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes and the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, which limit samples and depictions of formula and help mothers initiate and continue breast-feeding.
- All child care facilities and preschools should be required to follow the meal patterns established by the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), which reflect age-appropriate amounts of sugar, salt, and fat and necessary nutrients. CACFP standards promote fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and provide guidance on appropriate portion sizes for children at different ages.
- The U.S. departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture should establish dietary guidelines for children from birth through age 2. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines currently apply to age 2 and up.
- Government officials should take steps to boost participation in nutrition assistance programs. More than one-third of those eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and 40 percent of those eligible for WIC — a nutrition program aimed at women, infants, and children — do not take advantage of them.