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Lifetime of obesity begins in the womb

Nutrition during pregnancy and breastfeeding are vital to counteract childhood obesity, a children’s expert has claimed.

The origins of childhood obesity are found in early life nutrition, Professor Peter Bundred told delegates at a conference at Queen’s University Belfast yesterday.

“Early life nutrition starts in the first trimester of pregnancy. We start off by having mums who are overweight. They put on too much weight in pregnancy and have a big baby. Everybody says wonderful, a big bouncy baby that then goes on to formula feeds, which is the wrong nutrition. It’s the most common nutrition but that doesn’t mean it’s right.

“The child then continues in the environment of too much food. Everybody worries when a child loses a bit of weight, but actually weight loss is quite normal in the early part of childhood.

“We need to make people rethink the physiology of having a baby and going back to our role as mammals. Mammals are called mammals because they have mammary glands. They are there to feed the babies of mammals.”

Professer Bundred said a joined-up strategy is key in providing practical support to mothers.

“We really don’t do much to support breastfeeding mums to continue breastfeeding at work, such as rooms to express and feed the baby. What happens is most women give up breastfeeding because they have to get back to work. It’s not good for the baby.”

Delegates from all over the UK attended the Taking Action on Childhood Obesity conference.

The conference was organised by nursing lecturer, Florence Mitchell. She said: “I teach childhood obesity at Queens and took on the module leader role as I realised the massive problem that it is. I also have a personal and vested interest, as I was an obese child. So, I know all the feelings and all thoughts surrounding it.”

She said childhood obesity should be a child protection issue only in extreme circumstances. So far Northern Ireland has no reported cases of intervention.

“It’s when parents won’t engage, won’t attend and no evidence of progress is seen, we then owe it to the morbidly obese child to protect it.”

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