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Dear Moms: Stop Calling My Baby Girl Fat

dontcalldaughterfat_sized
When I had my first child five years ago, I constantly endured comments about how “skinny” he was. Our pediatrician, however, assured us that he was fine. His rail-thin build was genetic. He was growing up rather than out. My husband and I were both really skinny as kids, so our boy was (and still is) tall and thin. Yet, the digs I constantly heard on the playground or at daycare or even among friends —  “That can’t be normal! Are you sure he’s healthy?” “HA, he’s half the size of so and so who are the same age. How weird! — really got to me. I was an anxious new mom and I took all the criticism to heart. Despite our pediatrician’s reassurance, I’d think: It’s my fault, because I didn’t breastfeed him long enough! I must have done something wrong when I was pregnant! OMG!

Instead of criticizing myself, I should have stopped to wonder why these other moms thought it was OK to pick on my kid. But, I was too busy blaming myself and secretly envying moms with chubby babies. Nobody ever called their babies too skinny! Of course, when I finally got to know some of those moms I learned that they had the opposite problem: People called their babies fat. One mom in my yoga class told me that her pediatrician gave her a lecture about childhood obesity when her baby was 4-months-old. What was she supposed to do? Refuse to feed him?

Now, five years later, I have a baby that people call “fat” and it cuts just as deep as when I heard that her brother was “too skinny.” My wonderful, sweet 18-month-old has delightfully chubby thighs, a little belly, and a modest middle ranking on the growth charts. She’s had an amazing appetite since birth. She breastfed like a champ for 14 months. She eats everything we put on her plate: blueberries, shrimp, yogurt, salmon, and pesto pasta are just some of her favorites. She loves food. She’s a great eater. She’s perfectly healthy. And she’s being picked on for something that shouldn’t even be an issue. 

It started when my daughter was less than 8-months-old. We were in Florida, on our first vacation as a family of four. One afternoon, I was balancing my daughter on the edge of the pool while we watched her big brother perform tricks in the shallow end. We were all having so much fun. Then, out of nowhere, another mom swimming nearby, called out, “Your baby is so fat!” I was so shocked, I mumbled something about her being a totally normal size for her age. But all I could think was, DID THIS B*TCH IN THE POOL REALLY JUST CALL MY BABY FAT?! I was still processing it obsessing about it hours later. In fact, I spent the rest of our vacation making sure that we avoided her in the pool (and everywhere else on the grounds of our resort).

Another time, I was excitedly telling a family member about my girl’s incredible appetite — my husband is a food editor, so he especially loves that she’ll eat anything and everything, particularly since our son is a picky eater — and the person responded, “Well, we’re just going to call her chubby girl from now on.” This time I snapped. “Do not call my daughter chubby. In fact, do not comment on her weight at all. She is healthy and perfect.” Full disclosure: This family member’s body image issues deeply affected me growing up, and I refuse to let anyone hurt my daughter in the same way.

More recently, I was shopping with my girl when I started chatting with a mom I didn’t know. We realized our daughters were close in age. Suddenly she blurted out, “Your daughter has a chubby belly! Don’t worry, she’ll grow out of it. Mine did.” I was shocked. I couldn’t imagine what inspired this woman to say what she said. I looked over at my sweet, giggling girl and swallowed my rage. It wasn’t appropriate to get upset in front of her or the other mom’s daughter. I gave a terse, “My daughter is perfect, just the way she is. And, hey so is yours! I love the sweet dress she’s wearing.” Then I got the hell away from her before what I really wanted to say just happened to fly out of my mouth and smack her in the face.

Conversely, I’ve had other people comment on how small my daughter is, despite her hearty appetite. But even though that might seem like a compliment, I have to wonder why it’s a topic of conversation at all? Why is my baby’s weight a thing?! She’s 1! I’m not concerned. The pediatrician has never even brought up her weight at all, except to tell us that she’s growing beautifully. Can you imagine what would happen if I walked up to the moms who have criticized my daughter and said,”Don’t worry, once you start walking more, your a*s will look less fat in those jeans?” Or, “Wow, you eat like a total pig! You’re lucky you’re not fat!”

And yes, the fact that it’s only moms who have criticized my baby (to my face, at least) makes this even worse. Don’t they, better than anyone, know the love we moms feel for our children? The protectiveness? How could they say anything to another mom that’s anything but loving and kind about her child? It’s absolutely beyond my understanding. Babies should be celebrated, adored, and loved — not criticized.

So, to all of you people who think it’s cool to comment on a baby’s weight, just don’t. Especially if it’s my baby. My big kid is off limits, too. Because all those times I’ve kept my mouth shut when I’ve wanted to tell you what I really thought of you and your body shaming ways? Well, let’s just say I’m feeling a lot less polite lately.

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Photo: Getty