How To Tell If Your Infant’s Baby Fat Is A Health Concern

Flickr / Angel Kittiyachavalit

Anybody who doesn’t like a plump baby should have their head examined. The cute little chubby cheeks and the pinchable thigh rolls, designed by some unknowable universal force, engender feelings of great joy and sloppy baby talk from all adult persons. This is, of course, why Louie Anderson is universally revered by grandmas everywhere (according to science, probably).

While chocolate rabbits and rib-eyes keep Louie looking terrifyingly adorable, baby fat accomplishes the same job in your infant. But WTF is baby fat really? And are there any risks to the stuff sticking around? Asking for a friend …

Pound Of Round Brown

The true “baby fat” connected almost exclusively to newborns is called brown adipose tissue, or BAT. This BAT fat actually has very little to do with making your baby cute. BAT hangs out along your newborn’s spine and shoulders and has a very specific function linked to your kid’s survival in the big bad world.

flickr / Juhan Sonin

flickr / Juhan Sonin

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In adults, there are tons of ways for a body to regulate temperature, including shivering. But your kid can’t shiver. They also can’t drink whiskey and buy puffy North Face vests. BAT essentially provides the North Face and whiskey warmth to your newborn through a trick called thermogenesis. Which is a complicated biological thing and not your new favorite anime.

White Fat Problems

The non-BAT fat your chubby little cherub sports is regular old “white fat.” You know, the kind found on your ass. White fat, unlike BAT, does reside in all the cute-making places like the cheeks and thighs. It makes a baby look healthy and well fed and generally jolly.

However, there’s a downside to a too plump baby. Too much fat can interfere with your kids ability to reach crucial milestones like crawling and walking. More than that, some studies show children who grow too big in early infancy could be jacking up their future BMI. And that probability only gets worse the longer the baby fat sticks around. Which is awful news for Louie Anderson.

flickr / Ed Wolstenholme

flickr / Ed Wolstenholme

Keeping Tabs

World Health Organization growth charts help you and your doctor understand if your baby is too fat. These charts compare your kids length to their weight. Anything above the 98th-percentile might be cause for concern. But aside from monitoring there’s not much you can do about too big baby. Calorie restriction, for instance, is a huge no-no for kids under 2.

There are, however a couple things you can do to intervene. Chief among these is figuring out an appropriate way to soothe your kid that doesn’t involve a nipple to the face. Or a TV.

In the meantime, go ahead and tickle those chubby cheeks. Might as well enjoy them while you can. Not everyone grows up to be a heavyset comedian, after all.