A national poll on children’s health recently concluded that parents worry about their children. This is a good thing, right? Concerns include drug abuse, sexual abuse, and Internet safety, all of which are totally valid. But what’s the top-ranking health-related concern among American parents surveyed?
That’s right, Americans are worried that their kids are too fat.
Aren’t these the parents that grew up watching Sally Struthers beg for donations to feed starving children in Africa? Not too long ago parents who had survived the Depression and war rationing were telling their kids to eat up. “Children in China would be happy to have that,” Ralphie Parker’s mom infamously warned her non-eating son, Randy. Fast-forward a few decades and our number one concern is that our kids are eating too much?
A few weeks ago I called our pediatrician’s office for some eating-related advice. The nurse inquired as to how much we were feeding our son and when I told her she replied, “Okay, well, I don’t want you giving him any more than that. If he cries between meals, give him a pacifier. He shouldn’t be eating any more than what you are currently giving him.” Why? Because she feared he’d be gaining too much weight.
My Ravenous Beast (as we’ve nicknamed him) disagreed. This didn’t come as a surprise to our friends who have kids. They commented early on that when their son hit a growth spurt they couldn’t feed him fast enough. “They’re going to tell you you’re making your kid fat,” our friend advised, “but if they’re hungry, they gotta eat.”
Yet parents are fueled to fear childhood obesity from birth, mainly thanks to breastfeeding advocates who swear formula-fed babies are bound to be fat grownups. No data exist to support the notion that children under the age of 2 could even be considered “overweight.” In fact, some studies show that breastfed babies are no slimmer than those who are formula fed. And if your baby receives breast milk via the bottle, they’re lumped in the same crowd as the formula-fed babies when it comes to weight-related fear-mongering. Why? Because parents who took the time to fill the bottle will obviously force-feed their children in order to economize the meal. That’s right, the entire theory that bottle-fed kids will be fat adults boils down to the notion that mom and dad are obviously cheap.
The reality is that the lactation crowd touts childhood obesity for political purposes, not factual ones: “When Newark Mayor Corey Booker recently partnered with Nestle Corporation to tackle childhood obesity, breastfeeding advocates were outraged, since the company manufactures Gerber infant formula, and lactation advocates were concerned the city would start to push formula over breastfeeding.” And, thanks to the Latch on NYC breastfeeding initiative, “mothers are only provided formula if medically necessary for their babies.” These actions put a whole new twist on the term force-feeding, don’t they?
Overwhelming statistical evidence shows that the relationship between bottle feeding and adult obesity is “confusing” at best. When it comes to childhood obesity, let’s just say things ranging from terrorism to Taylor Swift rank much higher on my list of parent-related concerns. The scariest thing about childhood obesity in my world isn’t baby chub, it’s the idea that some groups feel the need to lobby against it.
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