Will My Chubby Baby Be An Asthmatic Nightmare?

BY ON November 12, 2012

Penelope Jagessar Chaffer as a baby

This post was written by MCAF partner, Penelope Jagessar Chaffer, Director, Producer and Writer of Toxic Baby.

The stork dropped me off weighing 6 pound 9 ounces and within a very short period of time, I became the Michelin baby (above). I developed the rolls, not to mention the cheeks of a certifiable chubster. Apparently I was an absolute little fatty. I mean, those cheeks alone could pack an excess baggage charge and could hide entire meals in them.

So I was fascinated and horrified in equal measures to read a report the BBC put out earlier this year, looking at the link between a newborn baby putting on a lot of weight and asthma later in life.

Fascinated and horrified because it would appear that this report was my exact experience. I was a chub-a-lump baby that went on to develop terrible asthma as a child.

You see, from the age of about six, I started having severe asthma attacks every couple of months. The slightest cough or sniffle would inevitably bring about an episode where my recalcitrant lungs would dual it out with the heavy metal bars that were my ribcage.

At the height of each attack, every inhale felt like a light saber to the lungs. The gift of breath was painful, beyond belief.

“Babies who grow rapidly in the first three months of life may be more likely to develop asthma as children,” say Dutch researchers.

According to the Beeb:

“They found that, compared with babies whose growth followed the normal pattern in the months after birth, babies who gained weight rapidly were 44% more likely to suffer wheezing, 22% more likely to have shortness of breath and 30% more likely to have persistent phlegm.”

That was me. Miss Penelope Persistent Phlegm.

I’m horrified for other reasons too.

My baby, O was born a bouncing 8lbs 14oz, but her pediatrician seemed concerned that she didn’t get back to her birth weight within a week. Only in America could a pediatrician be concerned that an 8lb baby “isn’t as big as she could be.” Fast forward to three months and she was in the 95+% for weight as demonstrated by the extreme poundage her cheeks were packing, see below. Clearly a dominant gene, this fat cheeked tendency.

Penelope Jagessar Chaffer's daughter

“Girl, that is one fat baby,” said many random passersby–women, none of whom I had ever met before. (It’s a Brooklyn thang. Random passerby people talking to you like you guys go way back. And of course, the old ladies will tell you off if your child isn’t wearing a hat in any weather less than subtropical. But that’s another post.)

Penelope Jagessar Chaffer's daughter

Egad! Does this mean that my little fat bottomed girl will spend most of her childhood struggling for breath too? Will history, heartbreakingly, repeat itself?

Well just to put it in perspective, I’ve always felt that my asthma had to do with the fact that my mum stopped breastfeeding me when I was six weeks old, that we have a long history of diary intolerances, that both of my parents smoked at home, that I was severely allergic to dust, pollen and animal hairs (we had a dog and cats) and that our home was cleaned with whatever industrial strength, Chernobyl-stripping cleaning stuff they used in the seventies. No wonder breathing was a problem.

Like all studies, you need to put this in perspective, and the British non-profit, Asthma UK said parents should keep following official baby-feeding advice. The report also states:

“The origins of asthma are still not fully understood, although many researchers believe there is some connection with the way the fetus develops and grows through pregnancy.”

So what does the amount of fat your child has, have to do with its lungs? We have no idea as this is a preliminary study. So the researchers basically found this connection, but have not done the research to ascertain why this is.

My take on it? Well, you could remove all the common triggers for asthma from the home if you have a baby that gained a dramatic amount of weight in the first three months, but I would argue that you should remove the triggers anyway, whether your baby is a little porker or not. We do not understand the mechanisms that triggers a susceptibility to asthma into a full-blown attack. Three kids in the same family with the same genetic material may not have the same severity of a disease like asthma and some may not get the disease at all. I’ll be writing more about asthma, but it’s interesting, isn’t it?

Post and photos are reposted with permission from Toxic Baby.

Penelope Jagessar Chaffer is the director and producer of the documentary/surrealist film, Toxic Baby. She works to bring to light the issue of environmental chemical pollution and its effect on babies and children. Toxic Baby is a commentary about parenting in the 21st century toxic world. While Toxic Baby does not feature any brands or products, the message attempts to equip parents and caregivers with information and tools to stand between their children and the quite imminent danger posed by the toxicity of the world.

 All photos used with permission: Toxic Baby blog

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TOPICS: African-American Community, Asthma, Motherhood