UK Government

Department of Health: Three Hundred New Year’s Day babies could grow up to be obese

Press Release   •   Jan 04, 2010 11:09 GMT

New campaign launches to give families a healthier Start4Life

Over three hundred of the 1,500 babies likely to be born this New Year’s day could be overweight or obese by the time they start school unless action is taken. The revelation comes as Start4Life - a new campaign to support pregnant women and parents of babies to give their baby a healthier start in life – launches today.

The campaign is part of Change4Life, the mass movement which launched a year ago and which is helping families ‘eat well, move more and live longer’.

Start4Life centres around six ‘building blocks’, based on the latest infant health research, to help parents know what’s right for their baby.

They are:

  • mum's milk - why breast milk is better for both mum and baby;
  • everyday counts – information about how each day of breastfeeding makes a difference to babies’ health;
  • no rush to mush - the Start4Life banana challenge shows the 3 signs to look out for that together show babies are ready to start on solid foods - if your baby is able to sit up with their head steady, reach out, grab a finger-sized piece of peeled, ripe banana, and eat some of it all by themselves, they are ready!;
  • taste for life – advice on how giving babies a variety of food now, can stop them turning into a fussy eater later;
  • sweet as they are – tips on how to avoid giving babies a sweet tooth; and
  • baby moves – guidance on why it's important for all little ones to be lively and active.

A short film showing one of the famous Change4Life plasticine characters being moulded by a mum will be screened in antenatal clinics and on Baby TV to raise awareness of the campaign.

Public Health Minister, Gillian Merron said:

“Unless we take action, 1 in 5 babies likely to be born this New Year’s day could be obese by the time they start school.

“What happens in the first years of a baby’s life has a big effect on how healthy they are in the future.

“Despite recent encouraging statistics which show that childhood obesity may be levelling off, obesity levels are still too high and it is important we keep the momentum going.

“That is why the Government is today launching its Start4Life campaign, which will support pregnant women and parents of babies give their families a ‘good start for a healthier life’.”

Notes to editors

  • For media enquiries please contact the Department of Health Newsdesk on 0207 210 5221
  • There were 1554 live births in England on 1st January 2008 according to Office of National Statistics figures. For more information please contact the Office of National Statistics on 0845 6041858 or by email at press.office@ons.gsi.gov.uk
  • 22.8% of measured reception aged children were overweight or obese according to the National Child Measurement Programme report data for the 2008/09 academic year. For more information about the report data please contact the NHS Information Centre on 0845 257 6990 or visit http://www.ic.nhs.uk/statistics-and-data-collections/health-and-lifestyles/obesity/national-child-measurement-programme-england-2008-09-school-year
  • The Start4Life film, Start4Life images and a cartoon strip showing the Banana Challenge are available from the Department of Health Newsdesk
  • The Start4Life website is at http://www.nhs.uk/start4life Parents can call Start4Life on 0300 123 1021. Calls should cost no more than geographic 01 or 02 UK-wide calls and may be part of inclusive minutes subject to your provider and your call package. The line is open from 9am to 8pm, 7 days a week.
  • Start4Life is part of Change4Life, the nationwide movement supporting families to ‘eat well, move more and live longer’. It launched in January 2009. Over 400, 000 families have signed up so far. To find out more about the campaign visit http://www.nhs.uk/change4life
  • The World Health Organisation now recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months following a thorough review of scientific studies on the health, growth and development benefits of breastfeeding in 2001. The World Health Organisation review also found that babies’ digestive systems were not developed enough to cope with solid food before they were 6 months old. The review found no evidence of any benefits of introducing food earlier than 6 months and no deficits in growth of infants exclusively breastfed for 6 months.
  • 8. Data published on 3rd November 2009 by the National Heart forum suggested the rapid rise in child obesity may be levelling off http://www.heartforum.org.uk/News_Media_pressreleases_ObesityLevellingOff_NewData.aspx

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