Objective: To determine among a contemporary cohort whether rapid weight gain between birth and 6 months is associated with risk of childhood overweight and if this risk differs by ethnicity and/or breast-feeding history.
Research Methods and Procedures: This was a cross-sectional survey in 1999 to 2000 of parents/guardians of children participating in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children in New York State. Measurements were abstracted by chart review, including weight at birth and 6 months, and height and weight at time of survey and every 6 months subsequently. Overweight at 4 years of age was defined as a BMI ≥ 95th age- and sex-specific percentiles.
Results: The study sample was 32% Hispanic, 19% black, and 49% white; 17% of children were overweight. Rate of infant weight gain (expressed in terms of 100 g/mo) was significantly associated with being overweight at 4 years (odds ratio, 1.4; 95% confidence interval, 1.3 to 1.6 after adjusting for history of breast-feeding, birth weight, and ethnicity). The odds of being overweight at 4 years of age for Hispanic children were twice those of non-Hispanic children (odds ratio, 2.2; 95% confidence interval, 1.5 to 3.3). The population-attributable risk of overweight at 4 years of age was 19% for children in the highest quintile of infant weight gain.
Discussion: Among this contemporary, multi-ethnic cohort, rapid infant weight gain was associated with increased risk of being overweight at 4 years of age, independently of potential confounders. Identification of the risk factors contributing to rapid weight gain during infancy might improve early recognition and guide strategies for optimal nutrition to prevent the development of childhood overweight.