Babies who reach two key growth milestones by the age of 2 are twice as likely to be obese by the age of 5, according to a new study.
Experts say that this rapid growth should be a “red flag” for doctors and parents, suggesting the baby could be overfed or not spending enough time crawling around and using up energy.
Fast growing babies continued to be more likely to be obese by the age of 10 and those who grew particularly quickly in the first six months were most at risk.
But researchers warned that this was not a reason to put any baby on a diet.
“It reads like a very handy rule and sounds like it would be very useful – and that’s my concern,” said Dr Michelle Lampl, director of Emory University’s Center for the Study of Human Health.
Instead, doctors said the research – which looked at the records of 45,000 children between 1980 and 2008 – reinforced suggested guidelines to feed babies breastmilk exclusively for the first six months. They also believe that these markers give parents an early warning to encourage healthy habits that will reduce their children’s risk of obesity before it becomes a serious problem.
“It’s not a life sentence,” explained paediatrician Dr Joanna Lewis. “There are steps parents can take to keep their babies at a healthy weight without restrictive diets.”
Find out how to keep your baby healthy and what he should be eating in our comprehensive feeding section.