How a mother's weight influences child's BMI?

Bonnie babies, tiny tots, good things come in small sizes, petite cute baby, he/she looks exactly like his/her grandma/grandpa – these are some of the words people say when a newborn is born. But despite all these, Indians are obsessed with "big babies" – they expect babies to gain weight and become chubby soon after the birth (if they are not born chubby).

According to a study published recently, it has been found that despite the genetic factors, mother's weight can directly influence a child's Body Mass Index (BMI) in adolescence. In India, nearly all the consultations about weight gain are 'a waste of time' as the babies are perfectly healthy most of the time.

They are smaller because of mothers' BMI and anemia at the time of pregnancy. Generally the BMI (Body Mass Index) of Indian mothers range anywhere between 16 to 22 – where as most mothers in the western world have a BMI of 20 to 26. (And naturally bigger parents make bigger babies. The size of the baby is determined by the genetics, parental health status and epigenetics. Malnutrition in parents (whether micro or macro nutrient deficiency) can also cause smaller babies.

However, being heavier, with a raised body mass index (BMI), does make it more likely that you'll be affected by certain complications.

In India, we need to scale up efforts to reduce the number of babies born with Low Birth Weight (LBW). Low birth weight is a consequence of being born too small or too early. Babies born small for gestational age (SGA) are at increased risk of death as well as developmental and behavioural problems in childhood.

Children who are LBW & SGA, if suddenly grow their BMI, tend to increase disproportionately leading to 'Foetal Origins of Adult Disease (FOAD)' – predisposing these people to Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) like diabetes, hypertension and Coronary Heart Disease (CHD). Low BMI and malnutrition in the mothers is not good, so there is an urgent need for the public health system to take this matter seriously and educate the population about the importance of diet and save our future generation.

(Inputs by Dr Kishore Kumar, Chairman and Neonatologist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Bangalore)

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