If you’ve ever spotted a baby without those adorable chubby cheeks, we’d be surprised! They aren’t just the cutest thing on our infants. But, they play vital roles in breastfeeding and ultimately survival for babies.
Let’s dive into what purpose they fulfill aside from just making our little ones extra squishy in the first years of their lives.
Interestingly enough, as a parent to five children, I have never wondered why my babies actually have chubby cheeks. I am beyond intrigued to share this newfound information with everyone else.
In this article
Breastfeeding and Other Important Functions
If you get a better look at an infant’s mouth, you’ll notice that their tongue is taking up the majority of their mouth area. Then, the fatty cheeks surrounding their mouth hold their tongue in place. This helps with numerous functions such as:
While breastfeeding, the tongue is stabilized by the chubby cheeks that surround it. The fat within the cheeks also assists in keeping the mouth more full of milk during a solid feeding.
As adults look down at babies, they see cute chubby cheeks and the human natural response is that we start to emulate sensations of love, security, and wellness towards our baby.
We are in a state of awe at how cute our little ones are. This is a vital piece of an infant’s survival.
It turns out that we all must have something to fall back on when our babies are colicky, whiny, and hungry 24-7! Babies offer us extreme squishy-cuteness in exchange for caregiving.
Natural Cuteness is Chubby Cheeks
Nature seems to continually give humanity what is needed to adapt and survive long-term. This remains true when it comes to the muscles and fat infants have.
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It seems that young kids and adults don’t have much fat in their cheeks but babies have cheeks that strangers can’t walk by without asking to pinch.
Newborns are equipped with anatomy designed that strengthens and becomes larger based on the way that they suckle to how often they drink from the bottle or breast.
This unique muscle-to-fat ratio assists in eating solid foods when the time is right, eventually. As the layers of muscles become stronger from suckling the layer of fat will seemingly get bigger.
This makes their cheeks look chubbier too. But, while there are more fat and weaker muscles in the mouth region at very young ages, the puffy fat around the tongues makes it possible to breastfeed in the early days of life.
The expanded tongue pallet held in place by the puffy cheeks makes their abilities to receive nutrients from the breastmilk more successful, ultimately leading to proper growth.
BAT, Baby Fat, It’s More Than Being Cute
As a baby grows and requires more energy to perform its daily functions, so will it’s little body. Truly peaking its fat reserves between 4-9 months of age – the same time frame that babies immune systems are being put to the test!
Between crawling everywhere and putting just about anything in their mouths, babies face the ultimate test of survival around this age.
The amount of fat stored within a human baby also peaks at this time, for good reason. In fact, many scientists have been curious about the cause of this peak over at Sapiens, and anthropologists and nutritionists take a deeper look into these questions.
Humans are the fattest baby mammals in the world. Even our closest counterparts don’t have as much fat at birth.
Initially, a writer and nutritionist at SEPIEN followed her mother’s studies that babies must have more fat to keep their bodies warm. But, this doesn’t prove to be true.
Colder climates around the world don’t seem to have babies with more fat to keep them warm. And babies with more fat don’t necessarily hold onto more fat within their bodies.
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So what is the real reason behind the uber fat storage at birth, peaking around 9 months of age? Turns out, humans contain two types of body fat: white fat that we all see on the outside and know, as well as BAT or brown fat.
What is BAT or Brown Fat?
BAT is a special kind of fat that adorable chubby babies store the most. It serves as an energy reserve.
See, up until this day and age, readily available food wasn’t always super available to children who are 9 months of age that require specific textures. The process goes a little something like this:
Ages one – four months: a baby primarily relies on breastmilk and isn’t as active.
Age four – nine months: a baby learns to crawl everywhere.
What Happens When Extra Physical Activity Happens?
As these extra activities begin to take off around 4 months of age, babies require another source of solid nutrients. An energy source really, that’s when parents begin to introduce solid foods to sustain their baby’s activities.
This is such a rapid growth spurt and demand on the human body that. As humans, we are prepared to take this energy from our own bodies.
That’s where BAT comes into play. It is the brown fat energy store to sustain the human body and brain during times of lack. Up into adulthood, we carry this type of fat on our bodies, for when times of food supply are irregular or slim.
The Brain Requires Loads of Energy
One organ on the human body that requires a massive amount of energy is the brain. It’s constantly firing and is made up primarily of fat. This is the main reason that BAT is plenty on a baby’s body.
Their brains need to keep functioning to adapt as a person in the world. All of the touching, sensational play, and learning to the wall all require the brain to work properly to happen at all.
Babies Are Fully Equipped to Grow
We are fully equipped to keep our brains and bodies functioning at optimal pace through BAT – even when food nutrients are not available from the outside.
What an incredible reason why babies have so much fat as their born. It’s ultimately a sound reality when it comes to parenthood.
I’ve met so many parents that discontinue breastfeeding between 4-9 months of age, specifically due to their baby’s grumpy behavior towards needing more food!
For me, this was the most demanding time on my breastfeeding body because my baby had such a huge growth spurt. I felt like I couldn’t keep up.
It’s relieving to know that babies are already prepared for this massive growth period long before they come out of the womb. If more parents knew about brown fat and the purpose it plays in the survival of humanity, their minds would be more at ease when it comes to breastfeeding and nourishing their babies.