Toddlers may become overweight because their mums, who are often ignorant about their child's weight, encourage them to eat more, a study has found.
A survey of almost 300 mums with children aged 12-16 months found many were unable to correctly identify whether their toddler was underweight, an ideal weight for their height, or overweight.
Dietician Rebecca Byrne, of the Queensland University of Technology, found while 32 per cent of the toddlers in the study were overweight, only 4 per cent, or 12, were considered too heavy by their mums.
She said the mothers of 27 children thought they were too thin but only one of the toddlers was actually underweight, while the rest were of normal size.
"When you talk to mums in the community, they're generally worried that their babies and toddlers aren't eating enough," the Courier Mail quoted Byrne as saying.
"We put a lot of emphasis on weight gain in babies and toddlers as a measure of them doing well.
"I think the perception in our society is that a chubby baby is a healthy baby and something that they'll just grow out of. But they don't. It's sticking with them through childhood and tracks through to them being an overweight adult as well," she stated.
Byrne said mums who were worried their children were not eating enough, and not gaining enough weight, may pressure them by making them eat everything on their plate, or bribing them with dessert or treats.
"This teaches children to ignore their own cues of hunger and fullness," she said.
Byrne, who will present her findings to the International Congress of Dietetics in Sydney this week, said paediatric obesity rates had increased markedly since the 1970s but had plateaued in the past decade.