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Health & Parenting

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TV Time, Feeding Habits Set Babies Up for Obesity?

Practices that foster weight gain are common among U.S. parents, researchers say


Most of the parents in the new study (mainly mothers) were on Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor.

Beyond low rates of breast-feeding, Perrin's team found that parents often had other habits that could potentially promote unhealthy weight gain in the long run.

Two-thirds of parents did not follow the academy's recommendations regarding "tummy time" -- placing the baby on its belly to play for at least 30 minutes a day.

More than 40 percent of parents put their babies to sleep with bottles, while 20 percent tried feeding every time their baby cried, and 38 percent "always" tried to get their baby to finish the milk.

Perrin said that whether a baby breast- or bottle-feeds, it's important for parents to look for cues that their infant is full.

Some telltale signs are when your baby turns away or seals her lips closed. And while crying can be a sign of hunger, Perrin said, it isn't always. So if your baby is crying while you're trying to feed her, she may actually need something else.

And as children grow, Perrin said, "one of the best things" parents can do is to help kids notice when they are truly hungry -- instead of turning to food in response to something else.

The extent of TV exposure was a surprise, Pritchett said. A full 90 percent were exposed to TV (meaning it was on in the room where the baby was) for an average of nearly six hours per day. Half of parents said their baby actively watched TV for about a half-hour each day, on average.

The potential consequences of TV in infancy aren't clear, but they're a concern, said Perrin, noting there could be lasting effects on kids' attention.

Plus, "it's not the same as parents talking to them and interacting with them," Perrin said.

For its part, the academy of pediatricians discourages any TV time before the age of 2 years.

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