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Day Care Feeding Adds To Infant Obesity Risk

July 23, 2008

Parents who give feeding control of their newborn infants to people outside of their household may be adding to their children’s risk of gaining more weight during their first year of life, which eventually leads to childhood weight problems, according to a new study.

“Parents may want to have enough communication with child care providers about when, what and how to feed their babies during their stay in day care, which is important to avoid potential risk of overfeeding or underfeeding at home,” said Dr. Juhee Kim of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Alongside Dr. Karen E. Peterson of Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Kim collected and analyzed data of feeding practices and weight gain for 8,150 infants who were 9 months old.

More than half of these children received regular child care from someone other than a parent.

Roughly 40 percent of infants placed in child care when they were younger than 3 months of age were less likely to have been breastfed and were more likely to begin to eat solid foods earlier than infants cared for by their parents.

Previous studies have revealed that breastfeeding may lead to a lowered risk of becoming overweight, while premature introduction of solid foods may add to that risk.

They also found that infants in part-time child care (about half of the group) gained 175 grams (approximately 0.4 pounds) more weight during 9 months than infants who were cared for by their parents.

Infants who were cared for by relatives gained 162 grams (roughly 0.35 pounds) more weight, had a higher rate of early introduction to solid foods and were less likely to ever be breastfed.

“Overwhelming and consistent data support the notion that early weight gain during infancy is a strong risk factor for (becoming) overweight in childhood and adulthood,” Kim and Peterson note.

What’s more, Kim and Peterson said, the number of working mothers of infants in the U.S. doubled from 24 percent in 1970 to 57 percent in 2000.

A separate study revealed that 72 percent of infants were in some form of child care during their first year of life. During this same time, the prevalence of overweight children ages 6 to 23 months increased from 7 percent to 12 percent.

“This study is the first to report the potential influence of infant child care on infant nutrition and growth,” Kim added.

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