Baby Fitness? Are you Kidding?

Marilynn Preston

Is there such a thing as baby fitness? Are there things parents can do to help their wee ones grow up determined to live a healthy lifestyle, embrace exercise, eat mindfully and feel good about their bodies?

Absolutely! says Dr. Lillian Beard, a prominent pediatrician from Washington, D.C. who knows a whole lot more than your average doc about how the physical and mental needs of babies.

She’s a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, an associate clinical professor at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and is a popular baby expert on many TV shows.

You can influence fitness future. “How you start (with your newborn) is very important for predicting the baby’s fitness future,” Dr. Beard explained to me during a recent phone chat. How you continue is also crucial when your kid is 3, 6, 9 and on up but the first 12 months are the magic months, Dr. Beard says. They’re a time when the baby’s brain will double in size. Just think about that.

“What you feed your baby during this time is very important!” So what is the best meal plan for growing stronger, fitter babies? I asked Dr. Beard that and a lot of other questions and here are some of her best suggestions, geared to health-conscious parents who want to raise fitter kids:

Breast feed. Dr. Beard agrees wholeheartedly with the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that mothers breast feed for the entire first year of life. Breast milk gives your baby the perfect blend of proteins, carbs, fats, vitamins and minerals, she says emphatically. After the first four months, additional supplementation is needed, because the baby needs more iron, calcium and fiber.

Self-educate. I asked Dr. Beard to recommend a Web site for parents who want to educate themselves about infant nutrition and related baby fitness subjects. She recommended

Bring back the playpen. Create a stimulating environment where babies can do the equivalent of stretch and strengthen, i.e., crawl and flail. A little blocked off area of the kitchen could work. “Let them be where you are, so they can play safely and you might interact.”

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