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When Chubby Isn't Cute
When Chubby Isn't Cute
Those round cheeks in babies and toddlers are very cute, but with the childhood obesity epidemic on the rise, paying attention to those few extra kilograms is more important than ever, advises registered dietician Lindsay Archibald-Durham
Lindsay Archibald-Durham

A RECENT EDITION of the South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey has shown that nearly 23 percent of South African children aged between two to five years are either overweight or obese. The local prevalence of overweight children is more than twice the global average of just over 6 percent.

The toddler years are an ideal time for families to make healthier lifestyle choices to prevent obesity in childhood as well as into adulthood. Overweight children are five times more likely to become obese adults, putting them at risk of heart disease and strokes.

Medical causes of obesity are very rare, and most children become overweight because they eat more than they need to. Some babies who are overweight slim down once they become active toddlers, while others are simply born big.

The best way to assess this is by looking at your baby’s growth curve. If your baby’s weight suddenly increases from their existing curve, it’s time to address the issue.

Most overweight children may not need to lose weight. Instead, if their weight remains the same as they grow taller, they will steadily get closer to a healthy weight for their stature. If you’re concerned about your baby or toddler’s weight, here’s what you can do:


Your child’s GP or pediatrician can look at the growth chart to make sure weight gain is occurring on a consistent basis. It’s also a great opportunity to chat about your child’s diet and activity – and make changes if necessary. If further assistance is required, seek support from your local pediatric dietitian.


Breastfeeding protects against obesity, whereas formula-fed babies can easily be overfed.

When an infant has had enough, they will signal they are full by stopping sucking and turning their head away.

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January/February 2020