Let's downsize our babies

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D.

July 2011

We are overfeeding our children. The Centers for Disease Control reported that in 2008 nearly one-fifth (19.6 percent) of children between the ages of 6 and 11 years were obese. Note: that is obese, not simply overweight. The number is mind-boggling, nearly a five-fold increase from 1970. More than half of overweight children will become overweight adults.

When adolescents become overweight or obese we can blame the sedentary lifestyle; electronic games and TV replace physical activity. Among children who aren't even walking yet, it's hard to argue that lack of exercise is the reason for their weight gain.

In a study of children born in 2001, nearly a third were obese or overweight at 9 months of age. These are not fast-food junkies so there must be another reason for their weight gain. It could be because it's so easy to give an infant plenty of calorie-laden baby formula by bottle. Bottle fed babies should decide when to stop; they know better than their mothers when they've had enough. Babies that haven't given up the bottle into the third year are much more likely to be overweight.

The opposite is true for breastfed babies. Those that are exclusively breastfed, who receive no other food but mother's milk for at least six months, are much more likely to be of normal weight until the age of 4 or 5 years. Unfortunately, by the time they get to kindergarten they catch up to their overweight peers, probably because they acquire similar eating habits.

In a perfect world all infants would receive only breastmilk for at least their first half-year and would not be completely weaned until some time in their fourth year of life. The Stone Age was perfect in this way. Grandmothers and healthcare workers should encourage breastfeeding.

Beyond the breast, water was the only beverage available during the Stone Age. There's no need to call for a socioeconomic earthquake by suggesting that we totally eliminate baby formula, cow's milk, fruit juice, soft drinks, coffee, tea and adult beverages but cutting back on all of these and drinking more water are certainly possible.

Limit children's daily fruit juice intake as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends: none for the first 6 months, up to 4 ounces until 1 year, 6 ounces to age 6 and 12 ounces thereafter. Absolutely no junk fruit drinks and only occasional sodas.

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D. is the author of Health Secrets of the Stone Age, Better Life Publishers 2005. Contact him at drphil@stoneagedoc.com.