A thin baby is NOT a weak or unhealthy child

Thin baby is not an unhealthy child

Once we enter parenthood, having a long heart-to-heart chat with close friends becomes a luxury. But my friends are a very important part of my life and I do try to take out time to talk to them once in a while, apart from staying connected through social media and apps. So, this morning, when my baby was busy playing with my help, I called up my very dear childhood friend. Like always, we picked up from where we last left and discussed non-stop about everything under the sun. But all the while, she sounded a little less chirpy than usual. I just could not dismiss it as the typical ‘mommy’ blues or exhaustion. She tried to divert the topic at first, but after I prodded further, she just broke down. Hearing her sobs made me all the more frantic, but I decided to wait for her to regain composure. Once she cried her heart out, I asked her to share the matter with me, and thankfully, she vented. 

You know Anu, I feel like a failure as a mom. However much I try, Vivaan just doesn’t gain weight. I feel so concerned about his health, and when people constantly keep commenting about how lean he is, I feel extremely hurt. Just yesterday, we had invited some relatives over for dinner, and one of them asked me whether I feed my son food or not. Trust me, I do all that I can to feed him well. But everyone keeps saying he looks weak and that I should do something about it. I have started avoiding people these days because of this. It’s like that’s the only thing the whole world can see about him. I just don’t know what to do.”

I listened to every word attentively and could sense both frustration and distress in her voice. I paused to gather my thoughts and then replied:

Shilpa, I am going to ask you some questions now for which you have to just answer with a yes or no. OK? Please trust what I am trying to do. I know you will.”

“OK Anu, go ahead.”

“Great. So first and foremost, tell me this – is Vivaan a happy child in general?”

“Yes.”

“Is he an active and alert child as per his age?”

“Yes.”

“Has he always been towards the leaner side and is his pediatrician happy with his growth curve?”

“Yes.”

“Is he a fit child achieving more or less all milestones as expected?”

“Yes.”

“Shilpa, you have addressed your concerns yourself. The answers to all my questions have been in the affirmative. Then why on earth do you want to increase his weight? What makes you think only a chubby baby is a healthy baby? Now put your hand on your heart and answer this – do you as a mom really think Vivaan is not healthy enough, or is the pressure of friends and family members getting to you?”

There was silence. I continued.

“See, Shilpa. I think we both know the answer here. You are succumbing to the pressure of the people around you and fretting over increasing your child’s weight because they think that makes you a good mother. I do not want to sound like am giving you a sermon, dear, but I just want you to mull over whether you want to let yourself get affected by a non-issue. Those who comment will do so even if a baby is too chubby. If not weight, they will find something else. Take your own example. You have always been lean, but you are one of the healthiest people I know. My daughter is lean too, but I just care about her nutrition to build strength, stamina and a good immune system in the long run. We cannot and should not make a baby fat.”

“Anu, whatever you are saying is something so obvious, but I don’t know why I let myself lose sleep over this. Thank you so much for giving me perspective and clearing the clouds of confusion in my thoughts. I think I know what to do now.”

After my phone call with Shilpa, I was thinking about how our society equates health to being chubby when it comes to small children. Though some moms do not get affected by the naysayers, I know many moms who are made to feel guilty because they have thin babies, and are also made to believe that the baby needs to gain more weight. We all ought to understand that being lean is mostly about genetics not not eating enough. Even if genetics are not at play, it could be just that the child is energetic and burning away those calories. As a matter of fact, once the baby grows older, the same people then want the child to be slim and not chubby. In our heads, we have created our own parameters about what a ‘healthy’ child is. Motherhood is already quite taxing for mothers – let’s not unnecessarily add to their woes with incessant unsolicited comments on something like weight.

This is for all the moms who face what my friend went through – please don’t worry about your baby’s weight unless he/she is declared clinically underweight. Focus on providing the required nutrition and developing a positive relationship of the child with food, and not on increasing weight. That will happen the way it has to happen. What is of significance is that your baby is happy, active and growing steadily, that he/she is reaching various milestones on time. Always remember that a lean child is usually NOT a weak or unhealthy child.

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