Cranky Baby? Feeding Isn’t the Only Answer

Results from the trial have shown that when parents got this training, their babies were less likely to be overweight at a year of age; the babies also slept better than those in the control group, in which parents got safety training rather than responsive parenting guidance. “Parents and grandparents are usually open to receiving this information,” Dr. Paul said, but it isn’t necessarily provided as part of standard well-baby care.

“Pediatricians in the newborn period tell parents to wake babies up every three or so hours to make sure they regain their birthweight,” he said. “I can’t tell you how often I see babies at two months, and no one has told them to stop doing that.”

A new study just showed that more than 10 percent of the world’s population is obese, with major public health and medical consequences. Among the many factors to consider is the science of how individual human beings eat and gain weight, right from the beginning.

Different babies may make different demands on their parents. “A lot of my research is on what is the infant is bringing to the table,” said Dr. Julie Lumeng, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan. She emphasized that obesity is not well understood by scientists; many researchers believed that childhood obesity could be prevented by breast-feeding, or by changing strategies for introducing solid foods, but that has not been borne out in studies.

She hailed the responsive parenting intervention as a well-conducted trial that shed important light on feeding dynamics in early life, but argued for more research on the baby side of the equation. “Babies are born with different temperaments and I don’t think it’s crazy to say that some babies are voracious eaters and some are not and they require different kinds of parenting,” she said.

The Gemini study in Britain, which has been tracking 2,400 sets of twins born in Britain in 2007, offers…

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