It's Mean to Call Your Baby Chubby


Let the baby's thighs shine!Whenever a news story refers to an alleged trend but doesn’t say how widespread it is, I get suspicious. And when I scratch the surface, I often find that an attention-grabbing headline can’t deliver on its promise. So no, I don’t believe that there’s a widespread trend to restrict babies’ calorie intake so that chubby babies won’t grow up to be obese adults.

I think most of us are smart enough to know that it’s critical for babies to have tons of fat and calories, not to mention extra padding, because they grow so fast.

But I do admit there is an emotional disconnect when it comes to praising chubby babies, and that worries me.

I’ve struggled with food issues all my life, and my mom freely admits that she does, too. She was put on diet pills at age 11 or 12 to get rid of any baby fat. “We all were,” she told me. “It was just what our parents were told to do.” Thank goodness, by the time she became a mom, she knew better than to listen to anyone but her own instincts, which told her to breastfeed us and say “no” when she was offered thalidomide. But she still has trouble with nattering voices in her head telling her every bite will land her in the plus-sized section of the department store -- and when those voices leak out in my presence, she apologizes.

Still, she did ask my sister if it wouldn’t be better if she found some kind of skim-milk-based formula when she had to supplement her breastfeeding. When my sister told her there’s no such thing and pointed out that breast milk is sugary and fatty, she was sort of aghast, and couldn’t quite believe it.

My mom is a bit of an extreme example, but I understand emotionally where she’s coming from. We spend our entire adult lives looking critically at ourselves, worrying about those extra 10 pounds (or 20, or 30 ...). Many of us spend years either eating a restricted diet, or re-learning how to eat. I mean, there is an obesity epidemic. So “you’re so fat!” is not, in general, a kind thing to say.

Yet when a baby shows up, it’s the first thing we notice. “Ooh, look at those chubby legs, I want to bite them!”

Is it mean to call a baby fat? No. Does it feel mean, almost like using a dirty word? Yes. Witness my stepkids, who carefully and considerately exclaim, “She’s so chubby -- in a good way!” about both Penny and Abby. Remember, we were ecstatic when Penny gained weight -- she was only 3 pounds 7 ounces at birth. Yet these kids are socially conditioned to add that little extra reassurance, that it’s okay to be chubby, but only when you’re a baby.

And then -- at what point do you change your tune? A friend of mine, who had struggled with bulimia for 10 years, became enraged when she heard another mom say to her daughter, “I can’t pick you up because you’re getting so fat.” The child was a sturdy little toddler, and was probably getting heavier because she was growing healthily -- but the mom called her “fat,” and my friend kinda went off on her. (Heh heh. That’s why she’s my friend.)

The answer, of course, is that it’s never okay to call your kid fat, even if he or she is actually overweight. There are gentler ways to attack a problem like that. Bottom line: babies are exempt from these kinds of concerns -- and maybe we should exempt ourselves, too. Or at least not judge ourselves as harshly. Maybe we don’t want toddler-style chubby thighs. But a little baby-face? That just makes us less wrinkled and more youthful.

Do you feel a weird disconnect when you praise your baby’s chubbiness?

Image via haute negro/Flickr

baby development, baby first year, baby health


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lovin... lovinangels


No- but my sister in law did get upset once when we were snuggling my fat baby and cooing about it. She doesn't have babies.

My body works hard to put that baby fat on my kids. It requires continued sacrifice on my part-it's been almost five years since I've had a good, stiff drink- and if I want to write an ode to chubby thighs my breast milk and careful parenting has produced...dammit, I'm gonna do it.

Oh, and you stop saying it when they start talking. You Do NOTwant your child cooing "look at those chunker thighs!" at your mother in law.


nonmember avatar kalmmom

@Lovingangels - I would have peed myself laughing if my kid said that!!!

NO - my 4yr old was and is a chunk - heck we call him FatDaddy and he loves it!! He's a big boy - 42inches and 52lbs - and he looks good and is healthy!! I have no worries about him or eating disorders.

Xandr... Xandriasmommy

"Researchers at Harvard University found that babies who rapidly gained weight (out of proportion to how their length increased) during their first 6 months were at dramatically increased risk of being obese at age 3"

Well according to this my daughter should be six months she had only grown 2 inches but had gained to 16lbs. I don't remember the percentiles but they were opposite ends...guess what? She know rides in the same percentile for both height and weight at 2.5 yrs. I think as long as kids are feed healthy foods and are not OVER eating then no matter the weight as babies they will right when they get older.

Oh I'll tell my daughter that she's gotten chubby and too heavy to carry for long, but I also tell her she is growing up into a beautiful and wonderful little girl who needs to walk holding mommy's hand instead of in mommy's arms.

Addys... Addys_Mom

lovinangels that last part was hilarious. My girls were both chunks as kids but now my four year old is tall and lean and i try to teach her how to eat right. my two year old is still catching up to her chunk but im not worried about her.


I think I can honestly say I have no weight/eating issues. I am a healthy weight and have never been on a "diet"- same thing with my mother. I always call my chubby little baby a chubby little baby. My MIL who has issues up the wazoo always chimes in with "ooo shes the perfect weight! blah blah blah" whenever I say that. Yea don't call kids fat but a cute chunky baby is a cute chunky baby.

Ashly... Ashlynnsmommy07

I always tell my baby she has chunka-lunka thighs! She's 7 months old


I think chubby babies are adorable and never thought anything of it.

Tabzt... Tabzthemommy

I call my son a big ol' chub he's 11 months and he loves it. I think people are way oversensative and need to quit worrying about how chubby a little baby is. lol My daughter was a chub when she was a baby and now she's got a flat stomach and runs.. I mean.. come on'

thedg... thedgoddess

Those studies are poppycock. I had the world's fattest babies and they are now in the 10th percentile for weight and quite healthy. ANd they are 8 &10. Sure, there are fat babies who are overfed that become overweight children but most of the ones I know are chubby babies and skinny kids. The skinny babies I know? All overweight kids. Why? I think it's because they listened to their doctors and didn't feed their kids when they were hungry, instead feeding them on a schedule. Now the kids are making up for it and eating all the time, on schedule, even if they aren't hungry.

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