Overweight Children

We know the problems that can come from being overweight or obese (a more extreme form of being overweight):

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease with increased cholesterol
  • Strokes
  • Liver disease, even cirrhosis
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Some cancers (breast, colon, uterus, kidney, liver)
  • Pain and poor functioning
  • Depression

But these and other problems often don't begin until later, though more diabetes and liver disease are now developing in children from obesity.


There aren't many symptoms other than seeing that the child is gaining too much weight, or looking "fat." But what you can’t see from the outside is that in overweight or obese children their blood tests of the liver and the Hemoglobin A1C for diabetes slowly increase. And there may be darkening and thickening of the skin on the back of the neck. But often the first sign is that kids begin to lose their self-esteem and have a crushing blow to their relationships with other children.

What is Obesity?

  • A child is overweight when they are at unhealthy weight for their size. So it's often measured by comparing it to their height. This can be done with growth charts or a BMI (for those over 2 years old). BMI stands for the body mass index. This doesn't work well for muscular athletes, but for others, a BMI over the 85th percentile for their age means that the child or adult is overweight. And that means they are much heavier than most of the children their age and are at a greater risk of being obese as an adult--so it should be addressed.
  • A child is obese (which means "fat") when their BMI is over the 95th percentile and at greater risk of the problems that can come from carrying that excess weight.Sadly, once children are obese, it is harder to lose the weight and to exercise. That's why it is important for parents to get involved as soon as they can.

Overweight Babies

Racehorse thin babies look, to some, like they are underweight or unhealthy--especially since we see so many big cheeked, smiling babies in the streets and on advertisements, and because breastfed babies tend to be bigger during infancy and easily lose their extra weight when they become toddlers. But that doesn't mean those chubbier, angelic looking babies are healthier--some are overweight.

The tendency to be overweight can actually begin during infancy or sometimes, even when they are still inside their mothers. That's the reason women are cautioned about gaining too much weight when they are pregnant. Mothers who develop Type 2 diabetes when they are pregnant often have heavier babies who remain overweight during childhood and are 4 times more likely to develop diabetes themselves.

Babies who are overweight have no symptoms. But sometimes, babies who have reflux are started on cereal to thicken their formula --and those extra calories can contribute to gaining more weight that's harder to lose later.

The good news is that we can monitor weight gain and make sure babies aren't overfeeding or introduced to solids too soon. We can also encourage breastfeeding, since that tends to lessen later obesity and diabetes (as well as other problems) later.And parents of bottlefed babies can adopt an on-demand schedule where babies drink what they want and aren't encouraged to drink as much as they can.