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Parental Behaviors could be Setting up their Infants for Obesity

Update Date: Mar 18, 2014 11:02 AM EDT
Infant, milk, baby bottle
The researchers reported that around 40 percent of parents stated that they allowed their babies to sleep with their bottles. (Photo : Flickr/ nerissa's ring)

According to a new study, parental behaviors could greatly influence infants' future risk of obesity. The researchers reported that how parents decided to feed their infants can greatly affect the infants' weight and health.

In this study, the research team interviewed 863 low-income parents who had two-month-old toddlers. The researchers asked parents about their feeding behaviors. They found that only 19 percent of the parents reported breast-feeding their infants exclusively. 45 percent stated that they only fed their infants formula milk.

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"Breast-feeding likely lowers the risk of childhood obesity to some extent," explained lead researcher Dr. Eliana Perrin, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

The researchers also identified other behaviors that could increase the infants' future risk of obesity. Roughly two-thirds of the parents stated that they did not follow the "tummy time" recommendations set by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The academy recommends parents to allow their babies to play on their bellies for as little as 30 minutes per day. Instead of "tummy time," around 40 percent of parents stated that they allowed their babies to sleep with their bottles.

Roughly 12 percent of the parents stated that they introduced their children to solid foods at four months. 20 percent stated that they fed their babies every time the babies cried and 38 percent stated that they always tried to get their infants to finish the bottle. The researchers stressed the importance of knowing when an infant is truly hungry and when they are full. Parents should not turn to the bottle every time their baby cries.

When it came to TV exposure, the researchers found that 90 percent of the infants were in a room with a TV on for an average of almost six hours per day. Roughly 50 percent of the parents stated that their babies watched TV for an average of half an hour a day. The researchers stated that even though they are unsure whether or not TV time affects infants' health, they noted that there could be negative consequences. Parents should be more focused on building a bond with their children through interaction and conversations.

"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," said Dr. Perrin according to FOX News.

"Based on the outcomes of this study, more education is needed for parents, families and communities," said Kelly Pritchett, an assistant professor at the University of Georgia in Athens and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics according to Philly. Pritchett was not involved with the study.

The study was published in Pediatrics.

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