Mums incorrect take on their toddler’s weight may be inadvertently leading to their toddlers overeating and getting heavier, say nutrition researchers.
The research, being presented this week at the International Congress of Dietetics in Sydney, found many Australian mothers were unable to correctly identify their child’s weight, especially if their child was overweight.
Researcher Rebecca Byrne and her colleagues asked 276 mothers to describe their 12-16 month old toddlers as either underweight, normal weight or overweight. The researchers then measured the children’s heights and weights.
According to Ms Byrne, the mothers thought twenty-seven children were too thin, but only one of these toddlers was actually underweight, with the rest a normal size.
And while 32 per cent of the toddlers in the study were overweight only four per cent, or 12 of the 276 toddlers, were perceived as too heavy.
‘Mums who are worried their child is not eating enough, and not gaining enough weight, may pressure their kids to eat more by making them eat everything on their plate or bribing them with dessert or treats,’ said Ms Byrne, an Accredited Practising Dietitian.
She said this teaches children to ignore their own cues of hunger and fullness, inadvertently promoting overeating, which can lead to excess weight gain.
‘Being a chubby baby is often seen as healthy and something children will grow out of. This can mean parents are less likely to seek support to prevent further excess weight gain,’ said Ms Byrne.
She said parents aren’t being given the support they need to understand normal child growth and how to pick up weight problems in their children.
‘Serious prevention efforts need to start early in life to turn around the trend of increasing childhood overweight and obesity, and set kids up for life-long good health,’ said Ms Byrne.
She called on health professionals to use any contact with families as an opportunity to give information about the child’s weight and general health, in a sensitive way.