For parents, it’s usually a good sign when a baby gains weight. It means they’re healthy and growing. But how early is too early to wonder if your child is too heavy?
The truth is that toddlers can be overweight, and it’s not always easy for parents to tell if they are. So it’s important to check in with your child’s pediatrician to see if he’s on track size-wise. If you get a handle on his weight at this age, you can even put an early stop to future health problems, such as obesity and diabetes.
Know Their Numbers
It’s not just weight or height that you need to watch during toddlerhood, but also body mass index (BMI). It’s a measure of body fat based on height and weight. People of all ages can calculate their BMI, but it can be an especially accurate measurement for toddlers, who don’t have a lot of muscle mass that affects their weight, says Kristi King, RD, senior clinical dietitian at Texas Children’s Hospital.
Starting at the 2-year checkup, your pediatrician should go over your child’s weight, height, and BMI. She’ll probably show you a growth chart with how your child’s numbers compare to other kids of his age and gender, called his BMI percentile. For example, a child in the 60th percentile has a BMI that’s higher than 60% of other kids his age.
These percentiles help you know if your baby is at a healthy weight. For toddlers:
- Underweight = BMI below the 5th percentile
- Healthy weight = BMI in the 5th to 84th percentile
- Overweight = BMI in the 85th to 94th percentile
- Obese = BMI in the 95th percentile or above
Toddlers often grow in spurts, so the measurement at a single visit won’t always be a cause for serious concern. If your child is in the 85th percentile or higher, your pediatrician will likely ask you to come back again in a few months for another check-in. “When you have two consecutive visits that reflect that a child is overweight -- say your child is in the 89th percentile and then at the next visit he’s in the 92nd percentile -- that’s when you realize that there’s an issue,” King says.