During the first 1,000 days (from conception to age 2) of your baby's life, you can take small, but important steps to help give your baby a healthy start in life. Elsie Taveras, MD, MPH, chief of General Academic Pediatrics and director of the First 1,000 Days Program, shares tips to improve your baby's lifelong health.

Why is being overweight or obese unhealthy for my baby?

Being overweight or obese at any age raises a person’s risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease earlier in life. Being overweight or obese can also affect your child’s self-esteem as he grows up. It can also make him more likely to be bullied.

Can diseases like diabetes and heart disease be prevented?

Many chronic diseases, like diabetes or heart disease, are preventable. These diseases can start during the first 1,000 days (approximately from conception through age 2) of your baby’s life. Practicing healthy behaviors during this time can help shape the lifelong health of both children and their mothers.

What are the most common predictors of childhood obesity?

The most common predictor of childhood obesity is maternal obesity before or during pregnancy. Other factors that can predict whether your child is overweight include:


  • Types of food your baby eats
  • Drinking a lot of sugary drinks
  • Eating large portions
  • Mindless eating, or eating when you are not hungry
  • How you or your partner respond to your baby’s hunger and fullness cues

Physical activity

  • Watching TV
  • Having a TV in your or your baby’s bedroom

Maternal influences

  • A mother’s weight before and during pregnancy
  • Smoking during pregnancy
  • Whether a mother breastfeeds
  • Gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy)

Other predictors

  • How quickly your baby gains weight
  • How much and how well your baby sleeps

What are some small steps I can take now to help give my baby a healthy start?

  • Learn to tell when your baby is hungry and full. Only feed your baby when he shows signs of hunger. Stop feeding when he shows signs of being full.
  • Do not give your baby any sugary drinks or juice (including 100% fruit juice). Sugary drinks make babies more likely to gain extra weight and get cavities when they are older.
  • Hold off on introducing solid foods until between 4-6 months of age. Wait until your baby shows signs of being ready to try solid foods before offering them. This includes sitting up without help, bringing toys and hands to his mouth, showing interest in your food and munching and swallowing.
  • For toddlers and older children, be okay with them not finishing all of the food on their plates.
  • Set a good example for your baby by eating healthy as well.

Where can I learn more about obesity and how it affects my baby?

Mass General for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.