Baby Weight Obsession & the Unhealthy Pressure

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Our tiny baby

Baby Gini was born weighing 2.6kgs. While in India this baby weight would have been considered average for a baby girl, she was quite dinky by South African standards. Add to it the regular newborn weight loss as well as her jaundice related weight loss, she was looking almost like a preemie at 1 week. When we took her to the hospital on Day 8 to get her bilirubin levels tested, the women cooing over her all thought she had been just born. How many hours since birth, Mummy, an elderly woman asked. I wish I could do 8 x 24 in a flash. Poor math skills, sleep deprivation, worry over her health and general dourness meant I only mumbled an unintelligible answer. And there began the weight obsession! An obsession with ounces and kilos, with percentiles and height-to-weight charts and graphs

I began to dread being asked how old she was as my answer was always met with an undisguised, raised eyebrow. Baby is small for her age, their unsaid words screamed. No one seemed to consider the size of the baby’s parents. No one, including the mother herself. I tortured myself with gram and milligram calculations. When she nursed for only ten minutes, I barely managed to stop myself from pushing the nipple back in her mouth and keeping her mouth closed with my fingers.

Despite constant reassurances from the clinic sister and her baby weight scale, my mind wasn’t put to rest. When Gini regained her birth weight, I told myself I’ll stop worrying when she hits the 3kg mark. When she did that, I told myself, okay let her weigh a healthy 4 kilos and I’ll not worry anymore. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. I even urged (read: begged) her pead and the clinic sister to give me the green signal to introduce a top feed. At one point, I even told my husband, to hell with everyone, I am going to introduce additional formula whether the doctors approve or not. Mercifully, I didn’t.

At 3 months and 2 weeks, baby G doubled her birth weight. Most books say babies double their birth weight between 4 and 6 months. In other words, baby G is ahead of schedule. Though it feels like a mini victory, I think it is high time I stop this obsession. Who knows, my obsession with her weight gain could somehow, black-magically, get her to obsess over her weight loss in the years to come? After all, comparing her with bigger babies now and feeling inadequate is equally bad as comparing ourselves to skinny models and feeling the same sense of inadequacy. I know it’s much easier said than done but mummies, do give yourselves a break and do not obsess. The white coats will let you know if there is a cause for concern and will, most likely, also offer solutions. Cherish your baby for who she is, no matter how far the scale tilts.

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