Killing our kids with calories - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Killing our kids with calories

By Brandi Hodges - bio | email

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) -It's been said chubby cheeks are cute, when they're on a baby but new numbers indicate that chub may be leading to a rise in the obesity rate for all Americans.  According to a new Health Affairs study, one in three U.S. children and adolescents, more than 23 million, are considered overweight and many doctors say that trend begins in the crib.

The new numbers are startling.  Another example shows nearly 32% of nine month old babies are already considered obese.  Doctors say this should be a wake up call for parents everywhere.  Babies come into this world weighing, on average, 7 or 8 pounds.  Doctors say that weight should double by six months, but for some it's more than that.

"Obesity in children is a little different," said Dr. Shane Speights.

Now doctors are noticing more and more cases of it in younger children.

"What's happening is just purely over feeding," said Dr. Brannon Treece.

Treece said eating too much and not exercising leads to obesity.  Babies have no control of what they're eating or how much of it they are given and have limited mobility.

"Babies don't do much they tend to just lay there," said Treece.

"These aren't kids that you can say, ‘Get off the couch and go outside and play'.  These are kids that are solely dependent on their parents," said Speights.

When parents are feeding their babies things they shouldn't have, it is leading to more calories than they need and is packing on the pounds.

"These children don't need to walk around with a sippy cup of sweet tea, they don't need to be walking around with juice, they don't need to have a lot of table foods," said Speights.

"Are you feeding your baby off the table?  Are you giving him french fries, are you letting him have some bites of chicken nuggets?  All those things are very high in calories, very tasty and they make them smile but they're not the right kind of calories," said Treece.

Things Delores Martinez, mom to 9-month-old Camilla was surprised to learn.

"I would give her juice every once in a while and Dr. Speights said, ‘Lets pull back on that'," said Martinez.

When your baby goes in for checkups, your doctor will check the weight and take other measurements to make a "growth" chart to track development.  Dr. Speights said Camilla has been "bouncing" around on the growth chart and he talked with her mom about things she was feeding her baby.

"It was something that I wasn't real concerned about until he told me what the problems were with childhood obesity," said Martinez.

"We as doctors have been seeing it in our clinics thinking, ‘This is probably not a good idea', and we try to get the parents or the caregivers not to feed so early," said Speights.

For their first year, Dr. Shane Speights said babies should only be given formula, some rice cereal, and some stage one baby foods.  Giving your baby "table foods" is not helping.

"A lot of times they'll sit there and they'll stare at you and they'll want whatever you're having and it's hard not to say, here, here's a taste," said Martinez.

"Formula tastes really, really bad.  Baby foods don't taste that good either, so the deal is they don't really have anything to compare to, babies don't," said Speights.  "So, if you start feeding them table foods what do you think, because they have taste buds just like you or I do, what do you think they're going to want."

The doctors say there are also times where food is used to quiet a crying baby.

"A baby will be happy if we put a bottle in its mouth and so we see a lot of that it's a pacifying king of maneuver," said Treece.

Babies should be given two ounces of formula for every pound they weigh and no more.  The average weight for a healthy nine month old is anywhere from 15 to 20 pounds any more than that and you're getting into the "overweight" territory

"If your child is already overweight or obese when he is nine months old you're setting it up for a hard lifestyle," said Treece.

Doctors with NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital have been working to fight childhood obesity for several years.  Folks with The Center for Healthy Children, located inside the Wellness Center, work with overweight children.  They teach the kids about food and exercise and how becoming healthy can help lead them on the best path.  There are more than 12 million children in the United States who are obese.

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