Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Non-Parent Care May Spur Infant Weight Gain

(previously published here at

Aspects of modern family life, from stay-at-home parenting to childhood obesity, are increasingly residents of the public awareness, spurring conversation, influencing decisions, and permeating how we manage time in the workplace.

It may come as little surprise, then, that a new report in the Archives of Pediatric Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals, has found a connection between child care by someone other than a parent and higher infant weight gain.

Nine-month-old infants regularly cared for by either a parent or a non-parent figure were observed during the study, conducted by researchers Juhee Kim, Sc.D., of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Karen E. Peterson of the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, over the course of one year, during 2001 and 2002.

During regular home visits, the infants were weighed and measured and each respective primary caregiver provided information regarding type and intensity of child care, which included feeding practices.

The increase in weight came from what the researchers noted were higher rates of unfavorable feeding practices with the infants by non-parent regular caregivers.

"Infants who initiated child care at younger than three months were less likely to have been breastfed and were more likely to have received early introduction of solid foods than those in parental care," wrote the authors. Early introduction to solid foods is considered in the study to be a risk factor for weight gain, and both the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the American Academy of Family Physicians support breastfeeding for the first six months of care by women who don't have health problems.

Compared to infants who were cared for by parents, those in part-time care gained 174 grams (around 0.4 pounds) more weight, while infants cared for by relatives gained 162 grams (or around 0.35 pounds) more weight, were less likely to begin breastfeeding and also had a higher rate of early introduction to solid foods.

Out of 8,150 nine-month-old infants evaluated during home visits over the study period, a total of 55.3 percent of the infants evaluated received regular child care from a non-parent figure. Of these, half received full-time child care, 40.3 percent began care before 3 months of age, 39.3 percent began care between 3 and 5.9 months of age, and 20.7 percent began care at 6 months of age or older.

"Our study results provide new evidence that child care influences both infant feeding practices and risk of [becoming] overweight at least during infancy," the authors wrote in their conclusion.

According to background info in the study, almost 75 percent of infants in their first year of life receive some form of child care by individuals not their parents. In addition, the authors describe how child care is often associated with positive cognitive and language development, as well as strength in the social, emotional and academic realms.

As the first available study into the relationship between child care, feeding practices and infants' weight, both Dr. Kim and Dr. Peterson consider their findings to be simply a first step in understanding at least some of the factors that may lead up to a child being overweight. "Child care factors were associated with unfavorable infant feeding practices and more weight gain during the first year of life," they said, "[and] the effects ... warrant longer follow-up to determine subsequent risk [of such increased weight]."

Heather Chin can be reached at

©The Evening Bulletin 2008

No comments: