Rochester, N.Y. – Mothers of overweight toddlers don’t think their children are overweight and actually think their children are the perfect weight.
A new study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine showed mothers of overweight toddlers judged their toddler’s weight inaccurately 90 percent of the time. Mothers with overweight children overwhelmingly thought their children were the perfect weight.
The study surveyed 281mother-toddler pairs. A majority of the mothers were classified as low-income and were 70 percent African American.
Dr. Rae-Ellen Kavey is a pediatric cardiologist at Golisano Children’s Hospital. She says the study is not entirely surprising.
“Babies and young children have fat on their bodies so we expect to see fat in a young child,” Dr. Kavey says. “It's not surprising for a parent to have difficulty recognizing when that fat is normal versus when it’s abnormal.”
Also, Dr. Kavey says there is common misconception of how much food a toddler should have.
“Everyone wants to see their children with a healthy appetite and eating well and it can be misunderstood,” she says. “Some cultures value fat more than others. Sometimes we see hispanic and black families where they see a fat child as a healthy child, especially in infancy.”
Ena Dibiase is a mother of 2-year-old toddler and she says her son is in the 25th percentile for his weight. She says some people have considered her son too skinny, but she doesn’t agree.
“That's just stereotypical that every baby should be plump and that's considered healthy,” she says. “If they are a little bit skinny or underweight than it's not considered healthy.”
Dibiase also believes that people’s perception on what is considered overweight has also changed.
“Unfortunately now, I think it's a norm to be overweight and people just don't even realize it.”
Dr. Kavey agrees and says society’s views on what is a healthy weight is changing. She says that while there are no immediate health concerns for overweight toddlers, it can set them on a path to an unhealthy future.
“An obese child has an 80 percent chance of being an obese adult,” she says. “That begins in toddler life and extends into childhood and extends into adult life.”
Obese people are often diagnosed with heart disease and diabetes.
Dr. Kavey recommends parents to maintain the conversation with their pediatrician about their child’s weight.
“You have to rely on your pediatrician to help you. I think that the growth charts that show the normal heights and normal weight for age making sure that those things are proportionate to each other... that's the way for parents to know.”