Day Care Won't Increase Your Child's Risk of Weight Gain

Sending your child to day care won't put him or her at increased risk gaining weight, according to a new study.

Babies at day care Mariia Golovianko/Shutterstock
It's only natural that you might have some fears when sending your children to day care—maybe you worry your child will get sick easily when exposed to so many other children, or maybe you're nervous about something happening to your baby while the caretaker is attending to another. But if you're worried you won't be able to monitor your child's diet or weight, don't fret: A recent study finds no increased risk for obesity in children who attend day care.

This contradicts earlier research that suggested a correlation between the two factors. For the more recent study, researchers took away other factors (like race, age, mother's weight, socioeconomic status) that could lead to weight gain—and found that non-parental childcare alone is not a risk factor for obesity. 

"If the decision to place a child in nonparental childcare is correlated with unmeasured characteristics that are also associated with the child’s weight status (eg, degree of parental concern, vigilance over the child’s health, or dietary choices), conventional multivariable modeling approaches may yield biased estimates," the study's authors wrote of their decision to isolate variables like mother's weight and socioeconomic status, which both appeared to affect baby's obesity risk more tha childcare center. 

These results are somewhat surprising: Since most states don't put diet or exercise guidelines in place for day care centers, it stands to reason that children may be more suscpetible to weight gain if they're under this sort of care. But according to the study's findings, it's more likely those other factors are what leads to weight gain. This is reassuring: As the study's authors point out, about 60 percent of children in the U.S. are in day care

"We tried to control for a vast array of factors that could influence decisions to place children in child care," researcher Inyang Isong, MD, said of the study's findings, according to Health Day. "When we implemented these more sophisticated analytical approaches, we found that association really went away. We cannot say that sending a child to day care makes your child overweight. We just don't have enough evidence to say that."