How can I help my baby avoid weight problems later in life?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Here are four ways to improve your baby's odds of not having weight problems. They begin with a healthy pregnancy, of course. Some of this new research may surprise you, and scientists don't totally understand all of it yet, but not doing these is strongly associated with childhood obesity by age 7.
  1. If you smoke, stop today. It's important for weight problems as well as for many other medical reasons. Don't go near anyone who smokes either. Secondhand smoke is just as bad.
  2. Limit how much "baby weight" you gain. The healthier your weight during pregnancy, the better for both of you. Extra fat cells in your body teach the fetus that extra fat cells are essential for survival. Also, the more you weigh now, the less you should gain during pregnancy. If you're overweight, gain 15 to 25 pounds tops; if you're obese, 11 to 20 pounds. During the first trimester, a typical mom-to-be needs only 100 extra calories a day (a glass of skim milk); during the second trimester, 250 calories (10 walnut halves and an apple); during the third, 300 calories (three pieces of fruit).
  3. Breastfeed for 12 months. It's what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends for multiple health reasons. Not only will it help your baby avoid obesity later, it will also help you lose weight after pregnancy.
  4. After your baby is born, be sure she sleeps at least 12 hours a day. Not getting this much sleep early in life is strongly associated with childhood obesity later.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.