The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has released a June 23, 2011, report titled Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Policies that recommends “evidence-based strategies… to promote healthy weights in children from birth to age 5.” According to IOM, “almost 10 percent of infants and toddlers carry excess weight for their length, and slightly more than 20 percent of children between the ages of two and five already are overweight or obese.” IOM urges health care professionals to measure weight and length or height at every routine pediatric visit “in a standardized way, using the most current growth charts from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” as well as determine which patients are at the highest risk of obesity based on their rate of weight gain, parents’ weight status and whether their “growth measurements [are] at or above the 85th percentile curves.”

IOM also advises parents and caretakers to encourage healthier behaviors “associated with a reduced risk of excessive weight gain over time in younger children,” such as increasing physical activity and sleep duration, and limiting screen time. In addition, the report cautioned that caretakers “should pay careful attention to how they feed children,” noting that “children’s food preferences can develop as early as infancy.” It further recommends that meals provided by child care facilities reflect “the meal patterns in the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program to ensure that children have access to healthy foods and age-appropriate portions.”

“Currently, the national government dietary recommendations—known as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans—do not include recommendations for children under the age of two,” concludes the IOM report. “Such guidelines are necessary for setting nutrition recommendations for public and federal programs, and therefore, the committee recommends that the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services (HHS) establish dietary guidelines for children from birth to age two.” See IOM Report Brief, June 23, 2011.