Oh boy. We've reached a new low in our struggle with/obsession about/necessary concern for weight. Apparently, some parents are now...
Oh boy. We've reached a new low in our struggle with/obsession about/necessary concern for weight. Apparently, some parents are now putting their babies on diets.
Pudgy cheeks that once drew "ooohs and aaahs" are eliciting "ughs" from some parents who have struggled with their own weight issues and fear their children will toddle along the same path. "I have seen parents putting their infant and 1 year old on diets because of history in one parent or another," said Dr. Jatinder Bhatia, who chairs the nutrition committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics and is chief of neonatology at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta.
Infants on diets? What? See, here's the thing. When you're the one who feeds your baby -- the one who responds to her hunger cues and cries -- why is there a need for a diet in the first place? A baby can't beg for chocolate, so you don't have to fight the urge to give in, perhaps occasionally slipping up. A baby can't help herself to the snack shelf in the cupboard. Heck, an infant under five or six months can't really each much other than formula and breast milk (and rice cereal, in some cases). So, again, why is there a need for an infant to be on a diet? Apparently, it's possible that
[s]ome parental panic about roly-poly arms and tubby tummies may be tied to a 2009 study that showed rapid weight gain in the first weeks and months of infancy predicts obesity and high blood pressure in childhood and adulthood.
However, the experts agree that diets aren't the answer! Breastfeeding is best, of course. The article notes that formula fed babies often continue to gain too much weight because they are not being fed properly. If you watch the video from ABC, you'll hear really good advice when it comes to infants and feeding. If you're bottle feeding, don't use the bottle for comfort. Listen to your baby's cues - if she has just eaten and is crying, make sure she's not wet or she doesn't just want to be held. I'm the first to talk about what a huge (no pun intended) problem our country is facing with obesity in our children. But when it comes to little tiny (or not) infants who rely on formula or breast milk as their sole source of nutrition, why are we talking about diets? Why are they necessary? The experts agree that eating disorders are serious, and I think that making weight an issue with a child as young as - shudder - a few months old is a great way to set a child on the path of disordered eating. The mom featured in the ABC piece seems like a perfectly attentive and caring mom - one who wouldn't do something crazy like put soda in her baby's bottle. However, I don't think she's doing her child any favors by being this concerned about her weight. Maybe I'm reacting to strongly in this direction because neither of my children were anything close to "chubby." My daughter weighed 12.5 pounds at eight months old. She was borderline malnourished. Several months in an orphanage and an intestinal parasite will do that to a baby. You want discuss worrying about weight? Do it with a mom who is struggling to put some weight on her baby who, at eight months old and 27" inches long, weighs just a few pounds more than some big newborns. So, yes, I admit that I was on the opposite side of the "worry" spectrum, although I did not obsess about my daughter's weight, even though it was concerning. I focused on what we needed to do to address it and kept going. From the news piece, it seems that some parents who have weight issues themselves aren't doing their babies any favors. One mom shared her struggle with ABC:
Jodi Hasan is concerned about her daughter's weight because Hasan herself has battled weight problems her whole life. She carefully manages Maya's diet; well-balanced with fruit and vegetables, and no junk food. Maya is in the 25th percentile for weight for her age and her mother admitted she was unconcerned when the baby's most recent checkup showed she had not gained weight. Her doctor says she is healthy. "I don't want her to have any of the problems that I had: the self-consciousness, health issues," Hasan said. "I want her to have good self-esteem." (Source)
I'm not passing judgment on parents who have their own weight issues who want to make sure to raise healthy kids. In fact, I think it's good to be aware. However, there is a difference between remaining aware and making our own issues our children's issues. And apparently, that can start in infancy these days. I get it. I've gained 20+ pounds since I became a mom...and I didn't even give birth! Those size 2's and 4's hang sadly in my closet, a constant reminder that I'm not comfortable where I'm at right now. However, I will bend over backward not to give my children disordered eating habits simply because I have my own issues that need addressing. We eat healthy most of the time, they stop eating when they're full and they don't get a treat every time they ask for one. It's not that simple, and I know that, but it certainly isn't as complicated as putting a six month old baby on a diet. Of that I am certain.

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