According to arecent study, child care may lead to rather chunky infants. A University of Illinois study collected data on more than 8,100 nine-month old babies, who were weighed and measured repeatedly between 2001 and 2002.
Fifty-five percent of the infants received daily care from someone other than a parent. Infants in part-time care gained 0.4 more pounds over nine months that those cared for by parents, and even those cared for by relatives gained 0.35 more pounds. Researchers believe this is primarily due to lack of breast-feeding and early introduction to solid food. In fact, other studies suggest breast-feeding for the first year of life may actually instill a physical protection against obesity.
Dr. David Katz, director of Yale’s Prevention Research Center warns that the threat of obesity is a new challege in America's nurseries. "Studies show obesity emerging as a problem even in the first year of life. This, in turn, results in a higher risk of diabetes in youth, and lifelong obesity and its many consequences."
Justhow manyinfants are placed prematurely into day care? Back in March 1970, 24% of working mothers had children under two-years old enrolled in some form of care. By March 1984 that figure jumped to 46.8%. More currently, it is estimated thatonly 25% of infants are cared for by a parent in their own homes. The other 75% are watched by a baby-sitter or local family day care group (most often run out of a neighbor’s home). More startling is that only 6% of infants and 12% of children under two-years-old are enrolled in licensed center-based day care (U.S. Dept. of Commerce, June 1982). Furthermore, the choice of care is most often based upon affordability and convenience rather than quality.
After reading all those statistics, you can imagine how child care obesity could become a very real problem. Low-income families don’t necessarily have their pick’o’the litter when it comes to affording day care. Quality infant rearing can understandably take a back seat to making ends meet. Some studies do show, however, that average day care can benefit low-income children by preventing the IQ drop that typically takes place between the ages of 12 and 30 months for those living at home. At least these children have some room to benefit from the situation. The bottom line, however, is that the choice of care is more often determined by cost and availability, than quality.
Food choices served at day care also play a critical role in intellectual development of children. The July issue of theArchives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicinereported a study where Guatemalan children were given a protein-rich enhanced nutritional supplement between 1969 and 1977, and other children received sugary beverages. Between 2002 and 2004, almost 1,500 participants were given intelligence tests. As it turns out, the adults who were given the supplement early in their youth scored better on intelligence tests regardless of how many years they spent in school.