Tell Michelle Obama To Leave My Big Fat Baby Alone
My daughter is fat.
Once a stranger at a grocery store told me I was feeding her too much. A relative warned me about childhood obesity. A friend of a friend reassured me that my daughter would “eventually” grow into a tall willowy supermodel, eventually. And a nurse once commented that it was a shame for girls to be fat. She didn’t think anyone should start their life out like that. The only problem? My daughter is only three months old.
When the doctor told me I had a girl, I was both excited and scared. I knew that meant together she and I would have to walk the tightrope of body issues, issues I’ve just begun to finally find peace with. And while I was prepared, I figured I had until at least Elementary School before I had to worry about negative body image messages. Looks like I was wrong. My daughter is three months old and already people are judging her thighs and her chubby cheeks. What’s next? The Suri Cruise Slim-Down-Before-Pre-School Diet?
According to a recent study news report on NPR, “Almost 10 percent of babies and toddlers carry too much weight for their size. And more than 20 percent of children two through five are already overweight, the IOM [Institute of Medicine] says, which could have pretty serious repercussions later in life.”
It’s not enough that eight-year-olds are beginning to stress out about weight, now we have to worry about our toddlers and infants. Is there ever a time when a child can just be chubby and not get hassled about it?
While my doctor has had nothing but praise for my daughter’s wrist rolls, if she should suggest that my daughter lose weight, she’ll loose us as patients. And here is why: Confidence and self-esteem are far more important to my daughter’s growth and development than numbers on a scale. I firmly believe that it’s okay for babies to be fat. Studies indicate that chubby infants have better brain development. And my daughter’s appetite for the boob juice reinforces my belief that she is a strong happy girl, who is growing exactly as she should.
Far more worrisome to me is that strangers feel comfortable passing judgments on my child and how we run our lives. People who judge others for their weight justify their attitudes using the word “healthy.” In reality, the word “healthy” has just become a weapon to weld assumptions and judgments that are as limited and narrow as the number on the scale.
Regardless, science and society are determined to turn my baby’s double chin from something adorable into something dangerous. While the IOM study warns that babies gain weight as a result of bad parenting, too much Nickelodeon and cell phone time, the research seems incomplete and hardly a solid basis for knee-jerk, omg-get-that-baby-on-a-diet reactions. For example, does the study look at differences in baby fat—such as a chubby four-month-old on solid food versus a four-month-old on breast milk? Far more than weight, the health of a child is linked to genetics, education and the health and attitudes espoused by the parents. As long as these things are in check, and I like to think they are, then I have no problem, dressing my three-month-old in six and nine month clothing.
Additionally, “research”, or at least media reporting on research, frequently strays from the scientific and into the sensational. One year coffee is bad for you, the next it’s good. One year everyone needs to eat eggs and the next year everyone who eats eggs dies in a fiery crash. I prefer to live my life in moderation, enjoy her rolls and happy smiles and save my frustration and worry for those misguided strangers in the Target check-out aisle.
My daughter is three months old. She’s barely discovered her toes. She has plenty of time to grow, change and develop. And if she grows up on the other end of the growth scale, I don’t care as long as she knows she’s more than a number or a statistic.
My baby is gloriously fat and I hope she stays that way as long as she needs to.