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Do babies need to watch their calories?

Expert tips on babies and calorie intake.

Expert tips on babies and calorie intake. Credit: iStock

Q. I have heard about an infant formula company reducing the calories in one of its formulas from 20 calories per ounce to 19 per ounce. Why? Should babies be drinking a lower-calorie formula?

A. "The rationale behind the 19 calorie per ounce is based on studies looking at the amount of calories in breast milk," says Dr. Carolyn Milana, medical director of the newborn nursery at Stony Brook Children's Hospital. The concept is that breast-fed babies tend to have fewer problems with obesity in childhood.

However, Milana is skeptical that a one-calorie-per-ounce reduction will have much impact. "I don't think anybody has really looked long-term to see if this one calorie per ounce is going to make any difference in the obesity that goes on later in childhood," she says. "Can it hurt? I don't think there's enough information."

She says she is concerned about parents getting the idea that their babies should try to lose weight. "I don't think the message should be that babies should be on a diet," Milana says. "In the beginning, babies don't do a tremendous amount of exercise. They do tend to build up stores of fat." But most kids, once they start crawling and walking and grow taller, naturally become leaner, she says.

The best route is to discuss your baby's progress with the pediatrician at regular checkups when your baby is weighed. "Certainly if you think your baby is looking too chubby, that's something you should discuss with your pediatrician." The doctor has growth charts available and can reassure parents, she says.

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