There's No Such Thing as a 'Fat' Baby

baby weightDo you ever read something that makes you cry hot, angry tears? Jessica Grose's story about defending her "fat" baby did that to me this week. The mother of a little girl born in December recently encountered one of my biggest pet peeves: people who comment on a baby's weight.

For Grose, a woman telling her not to "worry" because her baby would "grow out of" the chubby stage triggered a discussion on the dysfunctional dialogue about body size. As a recovering bulimic and mother of a daughter, I'm right there with her.

But that's just one facet of the discussion of babies and weight that makes me ball up my fists and want to scream. It's dangerous for babies! 

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Yes, dangerous.

The thing is, the word "fat" is a scary one for parents, and not just ones with disordered eating in their pasts. 

Every time you turn on the television, you're assaulted with news about childhood obesity and heart disease and diabetes. Naturally, we worry about our own kids. So when someone tells us our baby fits the bill, the worry kicks into overdrive. Are we hurting our kids? Is this something we must fix?

Should we, gasp, put the baby on a diet?

See that? One innocent little comment, and you risk setting parents -- and their babies -- on a course for disaster.

Fact: baby weight fluctuates. A baby about to go through a growth spurt will pack on the pounds, only to thin out as they gain length. Babies who are not yet walking tend to have (adorable in my book) rolls in the legs that will be worked out when they start toddling off ... and developing those little muscles.

Where a baby might look "fat" today, it very likely means they're absolutely normal ... for the period of growth that they're in.

What's more, putting a baby on a "diet" can be extremely detrimental. Babies require diets high in healthy fats! The brain, for example, is about 60 percent fat -- fats made from essential fatty acids. Nerve tissue too is built off the fat in a baby's diet. Take that away, and you're very literally cutting off the stuff of life.

How about instead of telling parents their babies are fat, we just leave that to the doctors, OK? They can tell a parent what to do, and how to do it safely.

And if you're really desperate for something acceptable to say about the baby ... here are a few ideas.

Do you comment on fat babies? What do you say?

 

Image via Eric Lanning/Flickr

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