Tuesday 18 June 2019

Big is beautiful as experts dispel 'sumo baby' myth

Anne-Marie Walsh

BRITAIN is experiencing a boom in big babies but our home grown newborns are still heavier than their nearest neighbours.

The average Irish new arrival is carrying up to five ounces more than a UK infant when it comes into the world, but a leading Irish consultant warned parents not to be alarmed.

Dr John Murphy, consultant neo-natologist at the National Maternity Hospital, said improvements in the nourishment available to mothers over the last 30 years has led to healthier, if heftier, newborns.

Fears of a generation of 'sumo babies' were raised last week when an ITV documentary showed 12lb newborns, toddlers stuffing their faces with chips, and a mother trying to find clothes big enough to fit her five stone two-year-old.

The programme came as new figures from the UK's Office of National Statistics revealed that the number of babies weighing 10lb or more at birth has jumped by a fifth since 2003.

The latest Irish figures show that 1,818 newborns weighed over 10lbs in 2006 compared to 1,703 in 2003.

However, this was more or less in line with the population increase and the proportion of larger babies stayed at roughly 2.8pc of the population over that period.

Although there has not been a dramatic rise in bigger babies here as Britain in recent years, the average Irish baby is still more of a handful than the British newborn and weighs in at 7lbs 11oz. According to Central Statistics Office figures, the average male newborn weighs 7lbs 13oz and female new arrivals, 7lbs 8oz. This places the Irish male newborn five ounces heavier than British newborns, and girls four ounces ahead.

"Babies are a lot bigger than they used to be and we have seen a very steady increase in babies' weight," said Dr John Murphy, neonathologist at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin.

"I suppose that first and foremost, mums are bigger and healthier, taller and fitter and therefore better nourished and have not got conditions like a contracted pelvis, from rickets.

"I think that the increase in baby size has more to do with the health of mothers than obesity.

"Big babies and birth weight is a good thing. Irish babies are bigger than they are in the UK. Being 6lbs is not the best start in life and smaller babies are prone to things like high blood pressure."

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