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American kids struggling with obesity

August 18, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The obesity epidemic in America is hitting kids before they even learn how to walk and talk. Statistics show one-in-five 4-year-olds is considered obese. As a grandmother, Kathy Magallanes is learning the ropes of motherhood for a second time.

"It's been a long time since I've been responsible for a little bitty baby, and I know things have changed," said Magallanes.

Kathy Magallanes is raising her granddaughter. Whenever Macie cries she's fed.

"Oh, that baby's hungry. I don't want her to be hungry, and I'll give her a bottle," said Magallanes.

"If you constantly feed babies when they're young, they actually lose their ability to sense fullness. They may become more likely to be an overeater as they get older," said Dr. Russell Rothman, MPP Assistant Professor in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

More than half a million 4-year-olds are obese. Weight in the first two years can be predictive of how much weight they'll gain later.

"The most common vegetable for the toddler is currently the French fry," said Dr. Rothman.

Babies don't need juice. If you give it to them, dilute it.

For solids: fewer crackers and cookies. Know when the baby is full. She may keep her mouth closed, push the bottle away or start falling asleep.

"Try to recognize what is their hungry cry versus when they're really crying because they're wet or for some other reason," said Dr. Rothman.

Babies can exercise. It's called tummy time.

"Learning to push themselves up. Learning to crawl and really get more mobile even at a young age," said Dr. Rothman.

For her granddaughter's sake, Kathy wants to change her habits.

"In my family we have a lot of diabetes. He said we have to watch for that, and we don't want to feed her too much," said Magallanes.

Web Extra Information: Overweight and Underage

BACKGROUND:

Obesity rates among children younger than 5 have doubled over the last two decades, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The prevalence of childhood obesity has prompted pediatricians to encourage parents to start monitoring their children's weight. Doctors say one of the biggest problems is parents don't know when their baby is full, or they overfeed the baby by giving a bottle every time he or she cries. According to Vanderbilt University doctors, your baby may be full if he/she:

  • Stops sucking
  • Starts falling asleep
  • Leans away from you
  • Does not open his/her mouth
  • Pushes food out of his/her mouth
  • Pushes bottle or food away
Doctors say most babies eat every two to three hours during the day and some babies will eat every four to six hours at night. Experts say you don't have to wake your baby up to feed him. Protect your baby's new teeth by not letting your baby go to sleep with a bottle in his mouth. If your baby wakes up at night, you may be able to get him back to sleep with a pacifier instead of a bottle.

Pediatricians say most babies under 1 year old only need breast milk or formula and don't need juice. Juice does not help a baby's health. If you choose to give juice to your baby, doctors advise to mix it with water, and don't give the baby more than one juice bottle per day.

Doctors say even infants and toddlers can exercise. They call it "tummy time." Pediatricians say lay on your back on the floor and place the baby on your stomach. When he can do this and not fuss, move him to the floor or carpet. Make sure he gets tummy time for two to five minutes at a time, several times a day. However, be sure to place the baby on his back to nap or sleep.

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