Fussy infants are more likely to be put in front of a television in a parent’s attempt to calm and occupy them, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found. The finding is despite the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation that children not be shown television until age 2. More from Time.com:
In the study, published in the journal Pediatrics, the researchers analyzed data from 217 African-American mother and infant pairs from the Infant Care and Risk of Obesity Study. At 3, 6, 9, 12, and 18 months after birth, the infants’ mothers reported on their babies’ temperament—how fussy or complacent they were—as well as their own TV viewing habits, including how long the TV was on during the day and how often they fed their babies while watching TV. Overall, mothers spent a significant amount of time watching television, and reported that they spent quite a bit of time feeding their infants in front of the TV as well. Infants just 3 months old were exposed to an average of nearly three hours of TV or videos daily, and nearly 40% of the youngsters were exposed to three hours of TV every day by the time they were a year old.
More active and fussier infants were more likely to spend extended periods of time in front of the TV. The exposure was also higher among obese mothers, especially those with the fussier kids, leading the researchers to suggest that the television may serve as an easy entertainment strategy.
The scientists were also able to find some factors that contribute to fewer hours in front of the screen, however. Moms with a high school diploma or any additional education were less likely to have TVs in their infants’ room, and less likely to keep the television on during meals.
“In the last decade or so there has been a lot of attention paid to parenting style and care giving. One component has to do with feeding and focus placed on the feeding environment,” says Margaret E. Bentley, Associate Dean of Global Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health and the principal investigator of the study. “Half of the time, infants are being fed with the television on, which is a feeding strategy we do not recommend.”
Eating in front of the television can lead to unhealthy dining habits that linger into childhood and adulthood, Bentley and her colleagues say, since mothers feeding infants while watching TV might be distracted and not as alert to subtle cues babies send when they feel full, which can lead to overfeeding.
The study, by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drew on the height and weight measurements of 27 million children who were part of the federal Women, Infants and Children program, which provides food subsidies to low-income mothers and their children up to the age of 5.
The study was based on data from 30 states and the District of Columbia and covered the years from 1998 to 2010. The share of children who were obese declined to 14.9 percent in 2010, down from 15.2 percent in 2003, after rising between 1998 and 2003. Extreme obesity also declined, dropping to 2.07 percent in 2010 from 2.22 percent in 2003. The study was published Tuesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
The report defined a 3-year-old boy of average height, almost 3 feet 2 inches tall, as being obese when he weighed 37 pounds or more. The same boy was categorized as being extremely obese when he weighed 44 pounds or more.
“The declines we’re presenting here are pretty modest, but it is a change in direction,” said Heidi M. Blanck, one of the study’s authors and the acting director of the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity at the disease centers. “We were going up before. And this data shows we’re going down. For us, that’s pretty exciting.”
The childhood obesity rate–still believed to be a nationwide epidemic–is actually dropping in some major U.S. cities, a new report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has found. More from The New York Times:
“It’s been nothing but bad news for 30 years, so the fact that we have any good news is a big story,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, the health commissioner in New York City, which reported a 5.5 percent decline in the number of obese schoolchildren from 2007 to 2011.
The drops are small, just 5 percent here in Philadelphia and 3 percent in Los Angeles. But experts say they are significant because they offer the first indication that the obesity epidemic, one of the nation’s most intractable health problems, may actually be reversing course.
The first dips — noted in a September report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation — were so surprising that some researchers did not believe them.
Deanna M. Hoelscher, a researcher at the University of Texas, who in 2010 recorded one of the earliest declines — among mostly poor Hispanic fourth graders in the El Paso area — did a double-take. “We reran the numbers a couple of times,” she said. “I kept saying, ‘Will you please check that again for me?’ ”
Researchers say they are not sure what is behind the declines. They may be an early sign of a national shift that is visible only in cities that routinely measure the height and weight of schoolchildren. The decline in Los Angeles, for instance, was for fifth, seventh and ninth graders — the grades that are measured each year — between 2005 and 2010. Nor is it clear whether the drops have more to do with fewer obese children entering school or currently enrolled children losing weight. But researchers note that declines occurred in cities that have had obesity reduction policies in place for a number of years.
At 9 years old, Breanna Bond weighed 186 pounds, a number that had her doctor and her family alike worried for her health in an age of childhood obesity and rampant Type II diabetes that affects an estimated 12.5 million U.S. children. As CNN.com reports, the involvement of the whole family was the key motivating factor that helped Breanna shed 65 pounds:
“Conversations about a child’s weight can be fraught with psychological landmines, says Dr. Denise Wilfley, director of the Weight Management & Eating Disorders Program at Washington University School of Medicine.
“Mainly what we suggest is actually having the whole family take on a healthier lifestyle — for everybody to eat as well as possible, as nutritiously as possible, so the overweight child is not singled out,” she says.
Wilfley encourages parents in her programs to “walk the walk” and be a role model for their children. She talks about food as energy for kids’ bodies — eating better will help them think harder, jump higher, play more.
Her families try to follow the traffic light diet, with green-light foods such as vegetables, yellow-light foods such as lean protein and red-light foods such as sweets or simple carbohydrates.
“We focus a lot on not defining self-worth by the number on the scale,” she says. “The best way to prevent eating disorders is having very healthy eating patterns.”
[Heidi] Bond realized that in order to get [her daughter] Breanna to exercise regularly, they would had to make it a family activity. The Bonds started walking four miles, four days a week, on a trail near their home in Clovis, California.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” Bond says. “There were times where she refused to move.” But in the end, “a little tough love to save the rest of their life” was worth it, she says.
It’s best to avoid a power struggle when it comes to exercise and healthy eating, according to Jelalian. She says it’s easy for parents to become the “food police” without getting at the deeper issues. Parents should ask why a child wants a certain food or doesn’t want to work out and problem-solve with them to find a healthy alternative.
She recommends parents give their kids a choice as much as possible — not about being active or not active, but about what activity they want to do.
“It really takes that balance in parenting of being firm — this part is not negotiable, but being warm, caring in how you do that.”
Identifying your child’s motivation for losing weight is key, Wilfley says. Do they want to be able to run faster? Play football? Avoid teasing at school? Combining that goal with incentives such as sleepovers or family outings should help to keep a child motivated.”
A new national “movement” called “Too Small to Fail” launched Wednesday, pledging to use the power of media and advertising to raise awareness of the growing needs of children in a nation that is, organizers say, too focused on the big problems of the economy and not focused enough on the consequences of that economy for its smallest citizens. More than 16 million kids now live at or below the poverty line, the highest number of children in poverty in 50 years.
The campaign was created by the nonprofit organization The Center for the Next Generation, and it is hoping to call attention to a number of financial and health-related problems facing American kids, including:
More than one-quarter of our children have chronic health conditions such as obesity and asthma, a doubling since 1991;
American students – even those from educated families – are lagging far behind international competitors in math, science, and reading, and risk losing their edge in the highly competitive global marketplace;
More than half of students from middle-income families who score highest on their 8th grade reading and math tests don’t complete college, undermining their social mobility and future income security;
Two-thirds of students completing college or other post-secondary education or training are burdened with heavy debt, limiting their ability to build middle-class lives.
The campaign will urge government, business, and community organizations alike to take steps to help families live more financially and emotionally stable lives. Parents magazine and Parents.com are among the many media partners participating in the campaign, and an initial ad is set to air during cable television programs that depict children in danger.