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Infant - Tips for Parents

​​​​​​​​​Information about the onset and patterns of risk behaviors associated with overweight and obesity during infancy are showcased in the link below. Visit​ the section titled Desired Behaviors to learn about how to promote healthy active living during infancy.​

​​View Infant ​Timeline​



Desired Be​haviors

Based upon evidence, a number of desired behaviors were identified as critical to helping families foster healthy active living for their infant. For each desired behavior you can explore the evidence, learn what parents told us about these behaviors, identify opportunities to promote healthy behaviors at the point of care, review how to start conversations and access messages and resources to support families. Also available to inform your counseling is the Onset and Patterns of Risk Behaviors during Infancy Timeline located above this section.

Role​ Modeling:

Parents and family model healthy active living

    Evidence

    ​​​Adults play a vital role in modeling behaviors that influence the nutrition, physical activity, and sedentary behaviors in children.

    Of all the adults involved in the lives of young children, parents or guardians have the greatest and earliest influence on them.

    Parent Feedback

    Parents were skeptical that they were so influential, especially in terms of their influence over a baby.

    Opportunities for Care

    ​​During early infancy, remind parents that self-care is important and that they should strive to eat healthy and be active as much as possible.

    Communicate to parents that they are the most important influencer in their baby’s life and that even babies observe parent behavior.

    Conversation Starters

    ​​How do you think your eating and activity might affect your baby?

    Can you tell me about how you are doing? Do you find time to regularly eat healthy be active?

    Can you think of times you think your baby watches what you do?

    Did you know that even babies as young as yours are watching you and learning from you? Although it is hard to find the time, it is important for your health and your baby’s for you to eat healthy and be active.

    Related Parent Resources

    HALF Message:
    While you are working hard to do what’s best for your baby, don’t forget to take care of yourself, too. It may not be easy to find the time and energy to eat well and stay active, but your baby is watching what you eat and do.

    HALF Resources: 
    For realistic parent derived strategies about role modeling, refer parents to healthychildren.org/growinghealthy​: Parenting Tips for Infants​

​​Routines​ are Important:

Establish and maintain healthy routines
   Regular meals
   Daily physical activity
   Adequate Sleep

    Evidence

    Starting in infancy, parents should nurture routines for children that provide exposure to obesity prevention-associated behaviors.

    Parental decisions about how and when to spend their free time and parental feeding practices such as choice of food and beverage consumption are examples of key parental decisions that ultimately shape infant’s and young children’s behaviors.

    Parent Feedback

    ​​Parents were adverse to the word "schedule".

    Overall, parents had trouble making the link between routines and healthy active living, especially during the demanding infant phase.

    Many parents thought establishing routines was particularly challenging, especially in light of the demands of an infant.

    Opportunities for Care

    Infancy is a demanding period, but it is worthwhile to work with parents to establish routines.

    Start with establishing feeding and bathing routines.

    Work on a bedtime and sleep routine starting at 2-4 months.

    ​By 9 months, work on meal times with the child joining the family at the table.

    Conversation Starters

    What’s your day-to-day routine like with your baby?

    What are the challenges of establishing eating routines for your baby?

    What are the challenges of establishing bathing and sleeping routines for your baby?

    Do you have any routines that help you with caring for your infant?

    Healthy routines like regular meals and sleep can help your baby lead a healthy life. Let’s brainstorm some ways to start some routines for your family.

    Related Parent Resources

    ​​Related HALF Messages:
    Even though it can be a challenge, starting a routine can help you and your baby stay healthy and happy. Routines help you prepare for mealtimes and help your baby be a better sleeper — which helps the whole family!

    HALF Resources:
    For realistic parent derived strategies for establishing routines, refer parents to the following sections on healthychildren.org/growinghealthy:
         Quick Tips: Keep Your Child Healthy widget. Simply select Routines and Schedules to generate the results.

         Parenting Tips Toddlers


    Also take advantage of the HealthyGrowth app to create personalized patient education for your patient.

Building ​a Team:

Parents engage family and friendds to help their child eat healthy and be active​
Parents and childcare workers work together to provide healthy foods and active play

    Related Parent Resources

    Related HALF Messages:
    It can be frustrating if your friends or family members are feeding your baby unhealthy foods.  It can be difficult to speak up — but you’ve got your baby’s health in mind!  Clear communication, patience, and consistency can help you get everyone on the same team. If your baby is in childcare, talk to the teachers so they know what foods you want your baby to eat. Different families have different rules, and teachers are used to balancing these. 

    HALF Resources: 
    For realistic parent derived strategies about engaging family members as part of team, refer parents to healthychildren.org/growinghealthyParenting Tips for Infant​ section


    Conversation Starters

    Do you have any strategies to negotiate dialogue with family members about healthy active living?

    What role do grandparents and other family members have in your child’s healthy eating and activity?

    I see that your baby is in childcare, how are things going?

    How can you find out what your baby is eating and what their activities are?

    Do you have any concerns about food and activity in child care?

    How do you interact with your baby’s child care provider?

    Do you have any strategies to negotiate improvement in healthy eating and activity with childcare providers?

    Opportunities for Care

    Assess parent and family support around healthy active living and identify barriers around healthy eating, routines, and activity.

    A potential starting point for families is to remind them that everyone loves the child and wants what is best for the child. Perhaps this is a common ground from which to start discussions about supporting healthy active living goals.

    Beginning at the 2 month visit, ask parents about childcare concerns and needs.

    Let families know that it is their prerogative to negotiate healthy active living for their baby.

    Parent Feedback

    Parents regularly identified family members (spouses and grandparents) as saboteurs and influencers that impact their ability to promote and integrate healthy active habits into their life.

    In general, parents felt more comfortable approaching child care providers to talk about healthy active living values when the childcare provider was paid.

    If this service was provided in kind by family or friend, it was more challenging.

    There was sensitivity about offending the provider regardless of whether they were paid or unpaid. 

    Evidence

    ​Infants learn to like their familiar family environment. High energy, dense, sweet, and salty snacks may start the infant on a path of unhealthy food preferences.

    Grandparents may be more likely to consider their grandchild’s food preferences, prefer traditional foods, and may have limited incomes available for healthier foods. This may be a barrier to a more healthy diet.

    48% of children ages 0–4 with employed mothers were primarily cared for by a relative—their father, grandparent, sibling, or other relative while she worked.

    24% spent the most amount of time in a center-based arrangement (day care, nursery school, preschool, or Head Start).

    14% were primarily cared for by a nonrelative in a home-based environment, such as a family day care provider, nanny, babysitter, or au pair.