Maternal lifestyle during pregnancy, as well as early nutrition and the environment infants are raised in, are considered relevant factors for the prevention of childhood obesity. Several models are available for the prediction of childhood overweight and obesity, yet most have not been externally validated. Moreover, the factors considered in the models differ among studies as the outcomes manifest after birth and depend on maturation processes that vary between individuals. The current Review examines and interprets data on the early determinants of childhood obesity to provide relevant strategies for daily clinical work. We evaluate a selection of prenatal and postnatal factors associated with child adiposity. Actions to be considered for preventing childhood obesity include the promotion of healthy maternal nutrition and weight status at reproductive age and during pregnancy, as well as careful monitoring of infant growth to detect early excessive weight gain. Paediatricians and other health-care professionals should provide scientifically validated, individual nutritional advice to families to counteract excessive adiposity in children. Based on systematic reviews, original papers and scientific reports, we provide information to help with setting up public health strategies to prevent overweight and obesity in childhood.