Baby Steven

John and Susan are both prone to being overweight. They are concerned that their infant son, Steven will also have weight problems. They are referred to you when Steven is 5 months old. Steven’s growth data are as follows

Age Weight Length
Birth 8lb 20inches
1 week 8lb 1oz 20 inches
1 month ll lb. 21.5 inches
2 month 12lb 8oz 23 inches
3 month 14lb 8oz 23.5 inches
4 month 16lb 25.5 inches
5 month 18lb 26.5 inches

Steven breast feeds six times daily for about 20-25 minutes at each feeding. He is not presently receiving any other sources of nourishment. Answer the following questions for John and Susan:

Their pediatrician told them that Steven’s weight is above average. Is he gaining too much weight?

When charted, Steven’s birth weight and weight gain for the next two months is at about the 50th percentile (1 p. 566). His weight gain afterward appears to be higher than average and he is at the 90th percentile by 5 months (1 p. 566). Steven’s birth length for four months is at about the 50th percentile and then flows upward slightly closer to the 75th percentile (1 p. 567).

Because Steven’s length is slightly higher than average, I would judge that it is the extra growth that may also explain the extra weight gain. The weight gain, then, is probably not at a level that should be worried about. I will agree with others who have replied that at this moment the primary concern should be making sure Steven’s fed well to best support his physical and neurodevelopment that occur in the first year of life (1 p. 216).

Should they delay adding solid foods or add something now? If they should add something, what would recommend?

At Steven’s age of 5 months, the appropriate foods to be supplying him are breast milk or formula, infant cereal and strained fruits and vegetables. He’ll be teething soon, so within two or three months, he’ll be able to enjoy strained meats and breads (1 . Within five to seven months, he’ll be chomping on chopped fruits, vegetables and meats. Steven ca be weaned around 2 to 3 years (1 p. 200).

Should they give Steven juice in a bottle?

No, they should not. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there is no reason why juice should be given to Steven at all based on nutritional considerations (2). This is the case even as he grows older. From my own experience with my children, I can tell you that juice, while sure to be fascinating to a baby’s taste buds, would simply turn into a habit whereby breast milk and formula are avoided.

In fact, my own mother tells me all the time that she wishes she never would have given me juice because, as a baby, I immediately stopped breastfeeding when I tried it. The fruit juice also displaced nutrition I could have received otherwise (1 p. 242). Eventually baby bottle tooth decay would also be my fate (1 p. 242).

A neighbor has suggested that Steven could be given skim milk instead of breast milk, Do you recommend this?

Steven’s breastfeeding of six times daily is normal for babies of 2-3 months (1 p. 239). Once reaching 3-6 months, the level normally should drop to 4-5 and he should be introduced to other foods as mentioned above (1 p. 239). Steven should not be given milk at all, be it raw, whole, 2% or skim. Breast milk is best because of its unique properties such as lactoferrin, immunoglobulins and the bifidus factor (1 p. 231-232). These are able to prevent allergies, asthma and infections over time (1 p. 231-232). Infant formula is acceptable, however, and, unlike cow’s milk, can also provide a commonly deficient nutrient in infants: iron (1 p.236). Infant formula is carefully formulated and fortified with vitamins, minerals and essential fats to best support child development (1 p. 235).

1. Mitchell MK. Nutrition Across the Life Span. “Chapter 9: Nutrition During Growth: Preschool through Preadolescence”. Second Edition. Waveland Press: Long Grove, Illinois, 2003.

Published by David Despain, MS, CFS

David is a science and health writer living on Long Island, New York. He's written for a variety of publications including Scientific American, Outside Online, the American Society for Nutrition's (ASN) Nutrition Notes Daily, and Institute of Food Technologists' (IFT) Food Technology magazine and Live! blog. He's also covered new findings reported at scientific meetings including Experimental Biology, AAAS, AOCS, CASW, Sigma Xi, IFT, and others on his personal blog "Evolving Health." David is also an active member of organizations including the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Society for Nutrition, the Institute of Food Technologists, and the National Audubon Society. David has a master's degree in human nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, and a bachelor's degree in English from University of Illinois at Springfield. He also earned his Certified Food Scientist credential from the Institute of Food Technologists.

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