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Mothers are made to feel guilty if they have a thin child. They are blamed for ‘not feeding the child enough’. Chubby does not equal healthy!
When we enter parenthood, having a long heart-to-heart chat with close friends, becomes a luxury. 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. Luckily, she was also free that time as her 2-year-old toddler had recently started going to play school. We picked up from where we last left and discussed everything under the sun.
But, she sounded a little less chirpier than usual to me. I just could not dismiss it as the typical ‘mommy blues‘ or exhaustion. I know her too well and hence, could postulate that something was wrong. 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 out her pent-up emotions.
“You know Anu, I feel like a failure as a mom. How much ever 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, looking at him. 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 of hers, and could sense both frustration and distress in her voice. I paused to gather my thoughts and then replied to her hoping that I could make her feel better by the end of the conversation.
“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? “
“Is he an active and alert child as per his age? “
“Has he always been towards leaner side and is his pediatrician happy with his growth curve? “
“Is he a fit child achieving more or less all milestones as expected? “
” Yes. “
“Shilpa, you have addressed your concerns by 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 are fretting over increasing your child’s weight because they think, that’s what 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 have to 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 and that is enough. We cannot and should not make a baby fat. “
“Anu, whatever you are saying is something so obvious but don’t know why I let myself lose sleep over this. Thank you so much for giving me a 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 sat 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 bad and 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 than about ‘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 would 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 the 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, and is reaching various milestones on time. Always remember that a lean child is usually NOT a weak or unhealthy child.
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