By Tiffany Childress Price
I’m self conscious about post partum weight. Now I’m not talking about the muffin of ALL muffin tops in the universe from your skinny jeans, nor how “little in the middle but she got much butt” is now reversed. I’m actually okay with my postpartum body, fitting into about 90% of my pre pregnancy clothes 7 months out. The only time I feel self conscious is when my son tries to nurse on my stomach. To my credit, it’s dark during those early morning feedings.
The weight to which I’m referring is my son’s. At his 6 month check up, he had barely doubled his birth weight, which by the way, was substantial at 8 pounds, 9 ounces. My hopes were high for a jiggly, wiggly, rolly polly baby with such a promising start. Seven months later, he has ONE roll on his thigh which I’m not sure can even legitimately be called a roll; it’s more of a crease. He has defined biceps, triceps, and a hard stomach. He rolled or scooted off of our futon at 8 weeks and started crawling at 5 months, so I’ve never questioned his health. Doubts about his weight, however, have reared their heads during this very social holiday season. We’re frequenting get togethers and parties and family events during this time of year, so Solomon is subject to many more sets of eyes. My sister, who was the first to boost my confidence about Solomon’s body (her daughter had a 6 pack as an infant), lovingly and lightheartedly pointed out at Thanksgiving, “He’s got chicken legs!” These chicken legs are the most disappointing. Women from the south have always voiced envy for my big legs, and I was smitten when I saw my husband in shorts for the first time—beautiful, full, muscular, yet rounded—the legs of a cyclist. Surely, Solomon would have long and thick thighs. What genetic anomaly has caused the expression of the “chicken leg” gene? My mom, an ICU trained pediatric nurse said he looked really healthy, so I laughed and affirmed the chicken leg comment.
At a women’s Christmas get together, I gawked at and admired the chunky legs of “R” as his mother pulled him out of his carrier. He’s 3 months younger than Solomon, yet weighs more than him! Everyone joked about how heavy he was. I sat quietly, trying to force some carrots down Solomon’s throat; he clearly needed to catch up.
The last blow to my confidence about Solomon’s nutrition was my mother-in-law’s Christmas greeting. After offering to change Solomon’s diaper, and expressing disappointment with the baked sweet potato I gave him for breakfast, she told us that she cried herself to sleep thinking about how skinny Solo was. Oh. No. “You cried yourself to sleep?” This was more serious than I thought if it brought a loving and skilled grandmother to tears. She did raise three of her own and worked as a nanny for many years.
“His cousins were all so fat by his age”, she said with worry in her voice. “But were they crawling this early? He’s very active and burns a lot of calories, ” I defensively questioned. “I mean, all he’s eating is a baked potato? Where’s his bottle? He needs cereal in a bottle. He’s not getting enough from your breasts. He needs some real food. They make healthy foods in those jars.” All of my insecurities flooded back. Maybe he wasn’t getting enough from my breast milk? Why is he so skinny? All the other infants his age have chunky thighs.
So what gives? Can my child be a model for hungry children or is he okay? These are the facts:
1) Breastmilk is the best thing you can give your baby. Moms who breastfeed aren’t “special” or more maternally committed. Moms who don’t should feel no guilt. Some women can’t breastfeed for health reasons, work related variables, or some just don’t feel they have the time. However, the antibody packed milk from our bodies provide ALL of the nutrients our babies need. For added punch, breastfed babies are less likely to develop chronic conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol, asthma, and allergies! There are less likely to become OVERWEIGHT! Cha-ching! (www.drweil.com, retrieved December 26, 2013)
2) Follow your baby’s cues. Pediatricians recommend waiting until 6 months of age for the introduction of solids. Once you do start pureeing the carrots and sweet potatoes, how in the world do we know if our babies are getting enough? Iron-fortified cereals and pureed foods supplement breast milk or formula. They DO NOT replace it. A baby should continue with the previously given amounts of milk with added solids. Let your baby indicate when he’s full. Does he open his mouth for the spoon or turn away and give his lentils cheek action? If he wants more, give it to him. If he turns away, shakes his head, or plays with it, take it as a cue that he’s full. Remember, hold the honey until at least after the first year! Botulism is a concern! (kidshealth.org)
3) Follow YOUR baby’s growth chart.Though Solomon’s pediatrician admitted that he’s a “skinny baby”, she showed us his consistent growth over the months. Each time we had a visit, his little dots for length and weight increased. Growth is the concern, not the percentile. Keep in mind that “standard” charts for growth and development show data from meat- and sugar-eating groups.
4) Chubby is not necessarily healthy (but it doesn’t mean unhealthy either). Though most of us in the wealthy western world generally despise “chunky”, we adore chunky, cherub-like babies. They represent new life and vitality. “The health of a child should be judged by muscle, tone, activity level, awareness, alertness, curiosity, general mental function, and emotions, not by the scale.” (Diane Avoli, “Weight Concerns for Mothers and Babies”, Macrobiotics Today”)
5) Milestones are critical. Is your baby able to sit up by 6 or 7 months, able to roll over? Does she smile at 3 or 4 months? Is he responsive to sound? Hitting milestones is key to determining if your child is healthy and developing.
I’m addressing this sensitivity about my son’s weight and body type by celebrating his incredible mental alertness, developing gifts, astounding motor skills, and joy he finds with life. I’m remembering that each of us is genetically unique and individual; that goes for babies too. As moms, let us celebrate and honor our childrens’ unique gifts, personalities, and even body types.
Tiffany Childress Price teaches high school Chemistry on the west side of Chicago. She’s been a teacher for 7 years, previously working as an educational director for a local church and as a community organizer. She’s married to Bobby and is the mother of 8 month old Solomon, a vivacious, happy non napping boy. Tiffany enjoys writing, reading non fiction, biking, running, and riding Amtrak with her hubby.