It’s completely normal for a baby or toddler to gain fat in certain parts of their body, especially their cheeks.

In addition to looking cute, chubby or rounded cheeks play a part in how the baby feeds and grows. However, some parents may be sensitive to referring to their baby as “chubby.”

Here’s more on why chubby cheeks are normal and healthy for a baby, and why parents should not worry about this in most cases.

Babies typically double in weight in their first 6 months and then triple it by the age of 1 year.

A high fat diet is important for babies to gain weight in such a short period of time. Fat as energy is needed for a baby’s healthy growth and development, and “baby” fat is stored under the skin as chubby cheeks or soft leg rolls.

A baby’s chubby cheeks are made of fat and muscle. Babies need strong cheek muscles to help them feed, whether they are breastfed or bottle-fed.

The repetitive sucking motion during feedings keeps a baby’s cheek muscles fuller and stronger. It may make cheeks look rounder, too. The cheek’s muscle layer is covered by a layer of fat and skin.

Do breastfed babies have chubbier cheeks?

Breastfed babies can gain weight more quickly than formula-fed babies in the first few months. However, this gradually decreases around 9 to 12 months.

Cheek fat can also help with both breastfeeding and bottle-feeding because the fat in the cheeks helps keep the tongue in place during the motion of sucking.

Bottle-fed babies can also gain weight rapidly and have chubby cheeks. But all babies are individual, and not all of them have chubby cheeks.

It’s no secret that most people are drawn to a baby’s chubby cheeks and allover cuteness. This has even been scientifically proven!

According to a 2016 review of studies, caring for a child is driven by an emotional state called nurturant love. It is activated by a baby’s helplessness and cuteness.

When a caregiver sees a baby unable to provide for themselves, the caregiver is instinctively and physiologically driven to provide care to that child.

Chubby cheeks and allover fat add to the roundness and softness of a baby, making them even cuter. For this reason, chubby cheeks — along with everything else that makes a baby adorable — are not just necessary for good health but also function as survival mechanisms.

Being able to draw in their caregivers, or anyone for that matter, through all the senses is essential for a baby’s health and development.

Additionally, research has found that a baby’s chubby cheeks help promote cute stimuli in people around them.

According to a 2015 study, a baby’s cute stimuli bring positive emotions and responses, such as smiling or laughing in the adults around them. This makes the adults more likely to protect and care for the baby.

In the first year of life, babies require a high fat diet because they rapidly gain neurological (nerve) development and brain growth.

It’s expected and necessary for a baby to gain weight quickly and have large fat storage. In fact, scientists may be beginning to pinpoint the gene switches that allow babies to gain weight faster than adults.

A baby and toddler will have many changes to their body mass index (BMI), or how much fat they have, as they grow during the first year.

So, those chubby cheeks we love to pinch are a completely normal part of a baby’s growth and development period. On the other hand, a 2016 study suggests a low birth weight can hinder a child’s development later in life and may lead to obesity and other health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes.

A baby’s tiny body needs fat for energy to aid the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, create hormones, and store fat for later use.

Once a baby starts to roll, crawl, and walk, babies will begin to lose their chubby cheeks and roundness with this newfound mobility and the development of their muscles.

Many babies also become picky eaters when they begin solid foods and may not want to eat as much, either. Growth milestones, such as crawling, walking, or teething, may also disrupt your baby’s drinking and eating habits.

At these times, it’s important for them to have the fat storage laid down in the early few months to pull energy from.

Putting your baby on a diet or limiting their nutritional intake if you are worried about weight gain can be detrimental to their health.

This is a time of rapid growth and development in their tiny bodies. Babies who are deprived of the nutritional calories required may fail to meet developmental goals, like walking or talking in time.

Doctors refer to this situation as “failure to thrive.” It happens when a baby does not meet the recognized standards of growth.

When to talk with your doctor

Although newborns and babies gain weight rapidly, there are situations when a baby is gaining too much weight that may be a cause for concern.

A baby’s higher weight gain can be from genetics, such as one parent having a higher body weight. A mother’s higher weight gain during pregnancy may also increase a baby’s weight at birth and in the first year of life.

It’s important to have a comfortable conversation with your baby’s pediatrician if you think your baby is gaining weight too quickly. Ask them about healthy weight management for your baby.

Raise your concerns if your child is gaining well above the average weight gain of 5 to 7 ounces per week for the first 6 months, or above 3 to 5 ounces per week for months 6 to 12.

Was this helpful?

Caring for a baby can be stressful. It comes with many new questions for parents and caregivers, especially around nutrition and weight.

A baby requires a high fat diet because they have greater energy needs with a very limited choice in what they can eat for the first few months: breast milk or formula.

A baby’s high fat diet can lead to chubby cheeks and allover fat, but this fat storage is normally healthy and needed to power a baby’s growth and development.

Chubby cheeks are not only adorable to look at — they’re scientifically proven to trigger a nurturing response in you.