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Published April 23, 2019

Infants born to mothers with gestational diabetes more likely to develop childhood obesity

Research suggests easier-to-soothe infants at greater risk

Myles Faith, professor from the Department of Counseling, School and Educational Psychology, was the lead author of a research study that examined the link between the temperament of babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes and childhood obesity. Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes found in women during pregnancy.

The study enrolled 382 racially and ethnically diverse pairs of mothers and their infants from 2009 to 2011. Researchers followed the infants from birth through ages 2 to 5 years, and the mothers were surveyed about their babies’ temperaments. The mothers were members of the Kaiser Permanente Northern California health system.

The findings of the study suggest that among children whose mothers had gestational diabetes, those infants who were easier-to-soothe (had higher positive temperaments as reported by parents) were over two times as likely to be obese by age 5, and more likely to have started drinking sugared beverages during the first six months of life.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gestational diabetes develops in up to 10 percent of all pregnancies in the United States. The condition is characterized by elevated blood sugar during pregnancy, which can adversely affect the child’s health. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend introducing fruit juices to children until at least 1-year-old.

“Assessing temperament during infancy may be a novel strategy for the early assessment of obesity risk and for developing personalized interventions,” said Faith. “However, the research points toward the need for public health professionals to initiate discussions with parents about soothing strategies, especially those with infants born to mothers with gestational diabetes.”

Faith co-authored the study “Association of Infant Temperament With Subsequent Obesity in Young Children of Mothers With Gestational Diabetes Mellitus” with Erica Gunderson, Louise Greenspan, James Hittner, Shanta Hurston, Jie Yin and Charles Quesenberry Jr.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and the American Diabetes Association. The research findings were published in JAMA Pediatrics.

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