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There's a saying among older generations that a baby can never be too fat, which couldn't be further from the truth. Being overweight or obese brings many difficulties and health complications, not only to adults, but to children as well.

When will my baby take her first steps?

You moved away the furniture, purchased a baby walker, and perhaps even got some push toys for your toddler to walk with, and all this to help him master the art of walking sooner. Perhaps he is a bit overweight and you’re afraid that this might be the reason he’s not walking independently?

Most children take their first individual steps around their first birthday, and walk well around 14 or 15 months of age [1].  You shouldn't get worried if it takes a bit longer for your little one; it’s perfectly healthy to start walking with 16 or even 18 months if everything else is okay. Some children are plain lazy.

This is why most pediatricians recommend monthly checkups until a child’s first birthday. The doctor can rule out all the possible health-related reasons why your little one might not be walking yet, and react in time if there’s any reason for concern.

Chubby babies are indeed more likely to have motor delays

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five children are currently obese in the United States, and to be exact — that's 18.5 percent of children. [23]

Roly-poly babies look adorable, but according to the team of researchers from the University of North Carolina, their cute, rounded tummies and double chins may delay the ability to roll over, crawl, and even walk. [4]

Not much research has been done on the consequences of pediatric obesity and motor development, but all the studies that we were given so far concluded that motor delay was likely to occur in overweight or undernourished children, compared to non-overweight and healthy babies.

Children with lower amounts of subcutaneous fat are less likely to have difficulties reaching developmental milestones. [4] Neck and neck with overweight children are iron-deficient and anemic kids — toddlers whose weight is within a healthy range are 66 percent times more likely to walk. [5]

An interesting fact: Newborns show stepping movement against the surface when held upwards. This reflex disappears when a baby is around three to six months of age, and comes back again when the baby reaches the age when she is ready to learn to walk.

According to Esther Thelen, an expert in developmental psychology, this pause is due to the weight that the baby has put on rapidly. To support her theory, she attached leg weights to children that were able to move the legs, and as soon as she did it, they couldn't move anymore. The point is that regardless of the skill that a child has, some other factors — in this case extra weight — may affect the end result. [6]

 

How to prevent childhood obesity?

  • Take care of yourself — and this means your health above all. Overweight and obese women tend to give birth to large babies that are likely to become overweight as well [7].  Be a good example to your children! The way you live your life affects them as well, and what you preach in their young years will probably stuck with them forever.
  • Breastfeed your baby if possible — Breast milk is the best nutrition for infants. It has all the necessary nutrients to help them grow and strive, and eventually become healthy individuals.
    The World Health Organization (WHO), American Academy of Pediatrics and the majority of pediatric workers across the world recommend exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months of the child's life, and to keep breastfeeding until the second birthday. [89]
  • Avoid putting him to bed with a bottle — Putting baby to bed with a bottle puts her at risk of childhood obesity, as well as tooth decay, wheezing, asthma, and even choking. [1011]
  • Don't give solid foods too early There’s a reason why it’s recommended to exclusively breastfeed a child for six months. Most solid foods are hard to digest for babies.
  • Choose food wisely Teach children to eat fruits, vegetables, legumes, and lean meats. Babies will try almost anything that you offer. Don’t let them become picky eaters — whatever you want them to eat, offer it while they’re too small to refuse. It is possible to shape a child’s taste and form his palate even before birth.

 

The bottom line

Being overweight can cause delayed motor skills in toddlers, and this makes perfect sense — extra weight makes us slower and sluggish. Most toddlers that are overweight or obese can’t move around as well as children within a healthy weight range simply because they are not strong or fast enough.

Of course, this doesn't have to be the rule for all overweight toddlers. There are chubby children who are fast and strong on their legs. Even if your little one is still not walking around her first birthday, it is recommended to avoid using a baby walker, as they might get her to dangerous object around the house easily.

If you think that your toddler might be overweight, never limit their food intake because it can lead to more problems; just offer better food choices such as cooked meat and vegetables.

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