Background: Rapid weight gain (RWG) in infants is associated with overweight and obesity in childhood and beyond, highlighting the need for early intervention.
Methods: Data from a birth cohort of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children living in an urban area were analysed to determine the prevalence of RWG in infancy and the association between RWG and overweight and obesity, categorised using both body mass index and waist to height ratio from birth to 9 years.
Results: The prevalence of overweight and obesity is higher in this cohort (at 47%) than the population average. The Australian population as a whole has seen steady increases. In this cohort although the prevalence of combined overweight and obesity remained relatively stable between 2 and 9 years, the proportion of children categorized as obese using BMI has increased. 42% of children who were overweight or obese at 9 years had experienced RWG in infancy. Children were 2.7 and 3.9 times more likely to be overweight at 9 years if they experienced RWG or were overweight at 2 years, respectively.
Conclusion: RWG was common in this cohort and the strongest predictor of excess weight at 2 years and at 9 years. Early intervention is crucial in the first year of life across the whole population to prevent obesity in children. Culturally appropriate interventions developed with the community are required for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies and their parents.