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Baby Fat: October 6, 2011

Those little rolls and chubby cheeks, parents love to dote on. It’s great when they’re an infant, but as they grow the baby fat should melt away.

“There’s that beautiful baby fat that the children have as little infants and we do expect that baby fat to go away - I think sooner than most people expect,” says Dr. Nancy Witham, a pediatrician with Lee Memorial Health System.

Growth charts show both boys and girls start accumulating baby fat at birth. Then they’re expected to spend a period of time gaining weight and storing fat, but only for a limited time.

“Those rolls start to disappear around the age of one and by two they start to go, and they continue to go through the preschool years,” says Dr. Witham.

Evidence points to key timeframes very early in life that can set children on a trajectory for obesity and all the health problems that come with it. Statistically, one in ten children under the age of two are already overweight.

Lee Memorial Health System pediatrician Nancy Witham sees it in her own practice.

“We’ve seen an increase of a variety of complaints pretty much anything you’ve been seeing in the adult population we’ve been seeing down into the pediatric population.”

That includes type 2 diabetes and elevated cholesterol. It has doctors intervening at an early age.

“We think about preventing obesity in the youngest of children, the babies, toddlers, 2 year olds, 3 year olds. We start following closely with the child’s growth potentially bringing your child back more frequently than the normal routine visits to monitor the growth,” says Dr. Witham.

The subject of obesity is a tough sell at any age.

“We’re not saying that there’s anything socially unacceptable or unappealing or unattractive about their child. We’re looking at it purely from a medical point of view,” says Dr. Witham.

Doctors hope to deflate the notion that an extra pound of baby fat is a sign of good health.

“What we realize as pediatricians is that folks are accepting a certain amount of chubbiness on their children,” says Dr. Witham.

The idea is to balance the scales and give parents the proper perspective about weight.