Being Overweight Could Put Your Baby at Risk for Developmental Delays

In recognition of Health Weight Week, an article by Caroline Picard on the groundbreaking study that shows the link between obesity and developmental delays for infants provided by Redbook.

Losing weight is at the forefront of most people’s minds come January 1, but shedding extra pounds could primarily benefit growing families. A new study published in the journal Pediatrics reveals that children of obese parents are more likely to have developmental delays.

Using data from more than 5,000 surveys, researchers from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development measured both parents’ weight and their children’s development. The questionnaire asked moms to perform simple tests with kids up to 3-years-old along with information about themselves and their partners. Putting the pieces together revealed some pretty alarming results.

Toddlers of obese moms were almost 70% more likely to fail a test measuring fine motor skills, like stacking blocks or turning pages of a book. Moreover, the research indicated that both Mom and Dad’s health could impact little ones. Children of obese fathers were 75% more likely to struggle with relating and interacting with others. Since very few studies look at the paternal side of things, this connection especially stood out. When both parents were obese, another area of developmental delays appears: Kids were almost three times more likely to fall short in a problem-solving test.

While the results suggest an important link, don’t jump to big conclusions just yet. “Our study wasn’t designed to prove cause and effect. At this point, we only have correlations between parents’ BMI and children’s scores on a screening questionnaire,” co-author Edwina H. Yeung emphasized.

As a for a potential “why’s” the researchers believe obesity could set off some changes before or during pregnancy. In moms, the extra weight might promote inflammation, affecting the fetal brain. As for dads, obesity may alter the genes in their sperm.

While the are lots left to be learned, the study authors hope that their research can still help physicians right now. Since more than one-third of American adults meet the criteria for obesity, doctors can take parents’ weight into account when screening for potential developmental delays. And happier, healthier babies is always a good thing.

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