New Parents, Beware: Certain Behaviors with Infants Can Lead to Obesity Risk

I remember when I was a new parent being terrified and overwhelmed at all the advice people threw at me. Don't pick him up when he's crying.  Do pick him up.  Don't feed him formula, breast milk is better.  Do feed him formula, it doesn't matter.  And my favorite, let him cry it out at night.  Which, I never did, anyway. (New parents: maybe that's why he's such a poor sleeper now.)

Except for the last, I learned what to do over time, as I got to know my infant.  But now researchers are back to scaring parents again.  A new study has found that many parents have infant-feeding TV and activity practices which may promote a risk for obesity in their offspring later in life.

According to, "Black parents were more likely to put children to bed with a bottle and report TV watching, while Hispanic parents were more likely to encourage children to finish feeding and to report less 'tummy time' – when a baby lies on her belly to play while a parent supervises."

I can't believe white parents did nothing wrong but the study did not report on this.

“These results from a large population of infants — especially the high rates of television watching — teach us that we must begin obesity prevention even earlier, ” the Web site quotes Eliana M. Perrin, MD, MPH, lead author of the study, associate professor of pediatrics in the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and UNC-Chapel Hill's associate vice chancellor for research. 

The study included a large, diverse sample of 863 low-income parents participating in Greenlight, an obesity prevention trial taking place at four medical centers. Fifty percent of the parents were Hispanic, 27 percent were black and 18 percent were white. 

Researchers found that exclusive formula feeding was more than twice as common (45 percent) as exclusive breastfeeding (19 percent). Twelve percent had already introduced solid food, 43 percent put infants to bed with bottles (which can harm teeth), 23 percent propped bottles instead of holding the bottle by hand (which can result in overfeeding), 20 percent always fed when the infant cried, and 38 percent always tried to get their children to finish their milk. 

Ninety percent of the infants were exposed to television and 50 percent put their children in front of the television in order to watch, themselves.
“What this study taught us is that we can do better. While we don’t know the exact causes of obesity, families of all races and ethnicities need early counseling to lead healthier lives. That counseling should be culturally-tailored, and we are hoping our research sheds light on the best ways to do that,” said Dr. Perrin, who is a practicing pediatrician, at
It's not hard to see how income may enter into this.  If you're working two jobs, or three, you may be too exhausted at night to hold the bottle for your baby, or do much more than watch television with him.  I feel this unfairly singles out parents who are doing the best they can under very difficult circumstances.
But I guess the point is that, if we want healthy kids, we may have to adjust our behaviors somewhat, to pass on to them a way of living that benefits us all.


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