In this piece, NPR’s Barbara King speaks with medical professionals from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to find out if babies can be born obese. In short, yes they can. A baby at or over the 95th percentile is considered obese, but doctors don’t usually intervene unless a high BMI is sustained as the infant grows in length. There are numerous, complex reasons why an infant may be obese. The 2015 Institute of Medicine report states:
“Recent scientific evidence points to the origins of childhood obesity as an outcome of the dynamic interplay of genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors, with a compelling body of evidence suggesting that both maternal and paternal nutritional and other exposures affect a child’s risk of obesity.”
According to the Health Ministry, more than half of Brazilian mothers breastfeed exclusively at six months, while under 16% of mothers in the United States are breastfeeding exclusively by the six-month marker. Why? Brazil bans the advertisement of infant formulas, businesses can be fined if they prevent a woman from breastfeeding in public, and there are “milk banks” for women who can’t breastfeed. Let’s take note, US!
The Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and most respected medical journals, has published a concise and poignant article on the state of the world’s attempt to curb obesity. Public health experts around the globe have been tackling the complex factors that contribute to obesity for years, and there’s still such a long way to go. This quote captures the exasperation that many health professionals feel as they navigate a system that undermines healthy decision-making at nearly every opportunity:
“We know obesity is the result of an obesogenic environment maintained by large global food and drink companies with a vested interest to provide ultra-processed, energy-dense, nutrient-poor food as cheaply as possible, and of an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. And we know that obesity prevention and treatment needs urgent, serious, and multifaceted action, beyond just a sugar tax. And yet, even that small and insufficient step is hotly debated and governments are dragging their feet.”