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Can Stressed-out New Moms Cause Overweight Children?

A recent longitudinal study finds correlation

 

Joan R. Landes MA, CMHC

Anyone who has had a baby knows that the whole process, while being a miracle, is also a miracle to survive. A recent study out of Germany found that this stress in linked to obesity in the infants and young children born to 498 mother-child pairs who were examined. Pregnancy, childbirth and caring for infants are extremely stressful enterprises, but mothers who perceive themselves as “stressed” during the first-year post-partum more often ended up with babies and children who were overweight. The results of the study showed that “. . . mothers with a considerably higher perceived stress level were often exposed to high levels of traffic or noise, had poor living conditions or had a low household income.”  Their infant babies, up to age 5 (the time limit of the study) tended to have significantly higher rates of obesity than new mothers with better situations (and possibly better coping skills). Interestingly, female children were more prone to obesity than boys. And no correlation existed for perceived stress in the second year of the baby’s life.

What’s the takeaway? Germany already has a mandatory maternity leave policy, so the solution must look deeper than promoting a government program. As families, neighborhoods, churches and communities, we need to make a special effort to offer physical, emotional, and perhaps financial support to new moms.

  • Throw a baby shower for someone who might not have one.
  • Bring meals over for the first month.
  • Offer to babysit during the day so the mom can nap.
  • Volunteer to pick up items from the store.
  • Help with laundry.
  • Contribute some cash for diapers.
  • Offer a ride to the doctor’s office.
  • Hire a housecleaning service for the first 3 months.
  • If you are a relative, don’t be overbearing with advice and judgment.
  • Take time to model patience and compassion with crying babies.

In other words, reach out to help a number of new moms you aren’t acquainted with. You might save both a mother and baby from a difficult situation.

 

Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ. “Maternal stress leads to overweight in children.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 January 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190109102419.htm>.

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