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Children's Health

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How to Fight Trend of Preschool Obesity

Institute of Medicine Calls for New Policies to Promote Exercise and Healthier Eating

Kids Need More Sleep, Exercise continued...

Keeping TVs out of bedrooms, creating environments that promote naps and nighttime sleep, and establishing sleep routines are all important to promoting healthy sleep habits, IOM committee member Debra Haire-Joshu, PhD, MPH, of Washington University in St. Louis tells WebMD.

The report stressed the importance of giving young children plenty of opportunity to be active during the day.

"We know that children in many day care settings are not getting enough physical activity during the day," Birch says.

She says several states now require day care centers to provide the opportunity for at least two hours of physical activity during an eight-hour day.

"Children tend to be active in short bursts, so if they have the opportunity for activity throughout the day they are likely to expend more energy," she adds.

Educating Parents

Studies have found that many parents don't realize that overweight infants and toddlers are at higher risk for obesity later in childhood.

For this reason, the IOM committee is calling on pediatricians to measure infant weight, height, and body mass at every well-child visit to identify those at risk and help educate parents about healthy eating and exercise habits.

The IOM committee called on health care providers to encourage new moms to breastfeed exclusively for six months, and the group called on federal officials to establish clear dietary guidelines for children under the age of 2.

"This is the period of life when children are establishing food preferences and eating patterns," Birch says.

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