New Data on Excess Weight in US Infants and Toddlers

In December 2020, the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics released a brief on excess weight in U.S. infants and toddlers over the last several decades. Since a low point in 2011-2012, rates of weight excess in infants and toddlers under 2 years of age have been climbing. According to the most recent data in 2017-2018, about 1 in 10 U.S. infants and toddlers is overweight.

Excess weight in this age group is measured based on weight-per-recumbent length, defined as either >95th percentile on the CDC sex-specific growth charts or >97.7th percentile on the WHO sex-specific growth standards. Data were drawn from National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), which sample the civilian non-institutionalized U.S.population.

The 1,000-day window from a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday sets the foundation for all of the days that follow. Overweight infants and toddlers are at risk for staying overweight into adolescence and adulthood, but the early-life period may be the optimal time to intervene (source).

1,000 Days continues to support programs and policies such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which helps families achieve healthy diets to change the trajectory of their children’s health. A revision to the WIC food package in 2009 was associated with reduced early childhood obesity risk, especially among breastfed infants but also among formula-fed infants (source). This as well as other programs designed to counteract rapid early-life weight gain could have lasting impacts that protect against obesity and ensure all moms and babies can access the nutrition they need to thrive.