Body Mass Index Changes in Early Childhood

Type Article

Journal Article


S. B. Jabakhanji; F. Boland; M. Ward; R. Biesma

Year of publication



J Pediatr







OBJECTIVE: To longitudinally investigate body mass index (BMI) in young children in Ireland and identify factors and critical time points associated with changes in BMI. STUDY DESIGN: Data on 11 134 children were collected in the nationally representative Growing Up in Ireland infant cohort study. Height and weight were measured at 9 months, 3 years, and 5 years of age. Multilevel regression was used to identify risk factors associated with changes in BMI over time (n = 10 377), combining a unique set of covariates collected from the child and the 2 main caregivers (usually the mother and father). RESULTS: The proportion of children ≥85th percentile of World Health Organization growth criteria was 39% at 9 months, 44% at 3 years, and 30% at 5 years. Children born large for gestational age (13%) and those with rapid infant weight gain (25%) consistently had higher BMI. Low average BMIs were consistently seen in children born small for gestational age (10%) or before 37 weeks (7%). Smaller variations in BMI existed for other factors including ethnicity, household structure, caregiver weight status, breastfeeding, sex, socioeconomic status, sleeping hours, childcare, and region. CONCLUSIONS: In this study, differences at birth and in infancy appear to be most strongly associated with variation in BMI at all ages. Nevertheless, belonging to a number of other high-risk groups cumulatively could lead children to develop critical weight states. Policy-makers should target families with interventions before and during pregnancy when dominant risk factors are still modifiable. Longer-term follow-up of children may be needed to study associations later in childhood.