First week of weight gain sets lifelong weight patterns? I don’t think so.

Another news entry from the hall of mirrors today. The story is Baby’s First Week May Set Lifelong Weight Patterns wherein they state:
“The first week of life may be a critical period for establishing lifelong patterns of body weight. Infants who gain rapidly in those first seven days may be more likely to develop weight problems as young adults, suggests a new study published in the April 19 issue of Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association.
“Researchers from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Iowa studied 653 adults, ranging in age from 20 to 32.”


Certainly interesting data if you only read that far into the article, but it’s important to proceed so you can find out how weak the research methodology was:
“The subjects, all of whom were white, had been measured as newborns while participating in infant formula studies in Iowa. Those who had gained weight more rapidly during their first week were significantly more likely to be overweight decades later.”
Got that? The subjects were all born in the same geographic region, all had the same racial background, and were all fed infant formula (and further, I’ll bet that they were all fed the same infant formula and that the original research was funded by a formula manufacturer).
More from the story:
“It suggests that there may be a critical period in that first week during which the body’s physiology may be programmed to develop chronic disease throughout life,” Dr. Stettler added.”
Ah yes, so being overweight is a chronic disease? And that being overweight is out of the person’s control? And that there aren’t any other environmental factors that could be involved, like activity or inactivity levels? (I’ve been to Iowa, it’s not the most physically active state in the Union)
“Our findings also point toward new potential targets for preventing obesity,” he said. “If these results are confirmed by other studies, they may lead to interventions in newborns to help prevent long-term development of obesity.”
“After adjusting for other factors, Dr. Stettler’s team found that each additional 100 grams of weight gained during the first eight days increased a baby’s risk of becoming an overweight adult by about 10 percent.”
That’s what bothers me about this article too: I can just see how this is going to be skewed in some stupid parenting book now…

Skinny Babies are Skinny Adults!
It’s critical to keep close tabs on your baby’s weight gain in the first week of their life. Clinical research shows that too much weight gain in those first seven days makes your baby more likely to be overweight as an adult, and more prone to chronic diseases too. Avoid this by not feeding your baby when they cry. Seems heartless, but you want the best for your child, and no kid wants to be overweight.

Oh, and the question of whether breastfed babies might see the same correlation (not causation, correlation. These researchers — and reporters — all need to go back to Understanding Research Reports 101 too) between weight gain in the first seven days and later weight problems as an adult? A passing mention at the end of the article notes:
“Given that participants in the current study all received infant formula, Dr. Stettler says, it may be relevant that exclusive breastfeeding during early infancy is known to be associated with a slower rate of weight gain, and possibly with a lower risk of overweight in childhood and adolescence.”
Yeah, it “may” be relevant, Dr. Stettler. It “may” be.

11 comments on “First week of weight gain sets lifelong weight patterns? I don’t think so.

  1. I read the article about this study and was a little bit skeptical as well. Only the first week? Really? That’s a bit narrow, isn’t it?
    My general impression of mothers who breastfeed, and fathers who support it, is that they are more concerned about the child’s health and diet than people who don’t. Not to discount those mothers who can’t breastfeed for some reason (I recently read it’s about 5 percent), or to say that formula-fed babies can’t be healthy (I’m one of them). The lifelong patterns leading to obesity begin with breastfeeding, and continue throughout childhood. Kids eat what the parents eat, and if your diet is bad, so will your kids’ be. Some parents think it’s OK to feed junk food all the time to children, or just don’t think about it, preferring to feed fussy children what they want, rather than what the need to stay healthy. I read another study that showed that parents often give soda to babies as young as 4 months, and that the most commonly consumed vegetables are french fries.
    This study really may obfuscate something that isn’t as measurable – parent’s attitudes toward the care of their children. Despite all the studies to the contrary, including this one (skewed as it may be), the majority of parents in Western countries still formula-feed because it’s viewed as “easier” and for some, because breastfeeding is “icky.” Honestly, parents need to clean house first and realize that eating healthy is going to rub off on your kids.
    Breastfed or not, until parents start to take an active interest in everything their child eats, we’re going to have more obese children.

  2. When I saw that article on Yahoo news, I actually searched on the web and read the scientific journal article. Interestingly enough, the entire followup study was just from a phone interview, and the current height and weight was collected over the phone. It was noted that the percentage of those in the overweight/obese ranges was much less than the national numbers. The authors reasoned that was from not actually measuring the numbers and people were optimistic in reporting their numbers. So the people in the study were either in better shape than the rest of the country, or the study was seriously flawed due to the measures (current weight/height) were not accurate.
    I don’t think the study was worth much.

  3. Just wondering what your views are on Montessori preschool education in regards to attachment parenting? I understand that Dr. Sears (the younger) sends his children to a Montessori school.
    Sandra Langstaff

  4. Thanks for your note and question, Sandra. I am very impressed with what I’ve read of Maria Montessori, and know of a lot of very nice, well adjusted children who have attended or are currently attending a Montessori school.
    However, for my children, I don’t know if it would work. I like to think of the main difference between Waldorf and Montessori as being encapsulated in the difference in how children from the two schools approach a coloring page in a restaurant. A Montessori child would color neatly, imaginatively, and create something quite attractive. A Waldorf child, however, would flip the coloring page over and create their own drawing before they started coloring, because it’s their own picture they want to draw, not one given to them by someone else.
    I hope that’s not too ‘Zen’ an answer for you!

  5. I’m interested in responding to both Sandra who had a question about Montesssori and Dave’s response about Waldorf.
    Sandra–go forth and find yourself a Montessori preschool! Our now 6-year old daughter started at 3 and it was been a wonderful experience! Montessori and Waldorf educations may have similarities but they are vastly different education methods and it would worth your while to check them both out completely.
    Maria Montessori was a brillant educator and her Montessori Method has even found its way into mainstream public education because it works.
    Montessori children love going to school! When my daughter was in preschool her 9-12 day included activites such as painting, counting or other math activity, washing dishes, bubble blowing, reading with her teacher, making a bead necklace, group singing or dancing, outdoor exploration for ladybugs, making cupcakes, music, sweeping, feeding the class pets, matching the plastic animals in the wooden farm barn with cards with the same pictures and other activities like that, banana work (cutting a banana up, inserting toothpicks and serving her classmastes), playground time, snack time, puzzles, coloring flags from different countries, creating mosiacs, pouring and measuring water, and so many more I can’t remember them all—the rooms have so many “works” for the children to choose.
    She was reading by age 4 and is now reading on grade level 3 and is an avid reader! Remember she just turned 6 in May. She can do double digit addition and subtraction as well as multiplication, and loves it! All this has been accomplished by the end of her Kindergarten year! Not any schools I know of can boast that kind of achievement.
    The Montessori child, given the freedom in her classroom to explore and learn at her own pace, with guidance from the teacher, develops a absolute ZEAL for learning. They enjoy doing a task, not for completion as we adults do, but for the sheer act of doing it. They develop their minds and spirits by accomplishment and enjoy being part of a school classroom community where they feel safe and loved. A Montessori teacher is nurturing and wonderful. Our daughter’s teacher Miss Ann is like a member of our family, we adore her!
    I cannot say enough good things about Montessori.
    By the way Dave, my Montessori daughter would definately imaginatively color the picture on the front of the restaurant sheet, and then draw her own original one on the back as yours would, and then she would write a story to accompany her original picture as well, because along with reading comes writing.
    With best regards,
    Gwynne Elliott

  6. Hello to Gwynne Elliot!
    I love how you describe Montessori education! Your daughter obviously loves spending her day in such a creative and stimulating environment. I didn’t mean to mislead any readers in any way, as though I know nothing about the Montessori method, since I am in fact a trained Montessori teacher, and I definitely believe that it is the best environment for children to develop their potential, and also to enjoy themselves while in school. My question was about how a person (Dr. Sears) who is such a strong proponent of attachment theory feels about Montessori education, primarily because those beliefs (in attachment theory) often seem to lead to the idea of home schooling, and staying with the mother / primary caregiver as long as possible.
    If anyone has any insight into this, please post a message.
    Also, I think I have seen more agreement with Waldorf education among attachment parenting advocates.
    Thanks,
    Sandra Langstaff

  7. I have a question on the montessori method, I have read montessori’s books, and understood the method of learning to write and read involved only sandpaper letters (followed by sandpaper letters in blends for english) and colouring in. My son has been at a montessori pre-school, he is now 5, and is struggling with learning to write. His pre-school is using, as far as I can tell, a blend of the montessori method and other methods of visual regognition of letters and blends on cards coupled with tracing pre written letters on paper. He is sent home with ‘homework’ of visual letter and now whole word recognition. His montessori teacher tells me this is the montessori method, and I wonder if some montessori association has decided to add these to maria montessori’s original method. I dont think it works, at least not for my child, and I am wondering if this statment that ‘this is the montessori method’ is correct??

  8. One of the reading exercise when my son was in pre-school is called the sand paper alphabet (or something like that).
    before starting to read / right he would trace the letters out by hand. Montessori to me seemed a little odd with reading although I really liked them numeracy approach.

  9. I’m a Montessori toddler teacher and expecting my first child in a few months. In a Montessori nursery or toddler classroom, we do not hold the children and our every decision is aimed at fostering independence, from 3 months. I too wondered about conflict between AP and Montessori philosophy. Can an infant (0-3 years) from an AP home cope in the school enviroment
    An infant teacher at our school practices attachment parenting at home and her daughter spends full days in the nursery next to her mother’s classroom. According to mom, there is no conflict. The child adjusts to each environment. She wants to be held and close to mom at home, and is independent at school. On the flip side, I’m working with a 2 1/2-old who is not adapting or coping well. She is extremely timid, sensitive and sometimes cries all day long while at school.

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