Fat Babies and Baby Fat

This morning on my way to work from the babysitter’s house, I drove past the strip club on the main thoroughfare, en route to the highway, and the sign out front said, “Come on in! We fired the ugly one!” I felt my stomach drop out my butt and and felt hot angry tears well up in my eyes because what the actual fuck? For whatever reason, that sign was the thing that narrowed all the sexism in the world to a sharp painful point on my heart.

But really, that’s not true. It was just the metaphorical straw, I the metaphorical camel. Because last night in a facebook mom’s group, someone posted about her friend and the friend’s 3 month old, about how that friend was pumping to feed the baby but not making enough and so relying on donor milk, and how the mom was skimming the fat from the donor milk because she didn’t want her three month old baby to end up “a porker” like the donor mom’s infant. 

I felt sick about this. I still do. And I think it was the context of this horrible, horrible idea that a mother would restrict the food of her baby while also body shaming another person’s baby, that I felt the incendiary rage of a sexist joke tip the scales. Because it feels fucking hopeless to try and change that fucked up joke when people are literally putting their babies on diets.

I thought about my mom’s comments, now multiple, about how it’s “ok” for boy babies to be big and chubby, but ‘luckily’ the girl babies she knows are all petite. She says this in front of me, maybe forgetting that I am just shy of 6 feet tall and over 200 lbs, maybe trying to make a point indirectly about my size. It makes me scared for the girl babies we have, who may very well grow up to be large in stature or girth, as easily as they wouldn’t. Will my mother shame them? Fill them with the kind of guilt she wrestles with herself and handed down to me, such a particularly feminine legacy?

I mean, here’s the reality: We, as a culture, are so terrified by the spectre of obesity that we are willing to sacrifice our babies. We are willing to skim off the fat that actually has almost nothing to do with body size but does provide crucial brain development, based on this fear. And while, sure, this is an extreme and (please God) not a common practice, a quick google search finds food restriction for toddlers and young children to not be quite so beyond the pale. 

I already spend way too much time wondering what people think of me as a fat parent, and being grateful that at least for now, Ansel is exempt from having to hate himself as a pre-requisite of living in this culture. But maybe we don’t have so much time afterall.

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29 thoughts on “Fat Babies and Baby Fat

  1. I absolutely cannot believe that someone would skim the fat from breastmilk. This topic is something I think about often. It directly relates to my fears of Charlotte’s high percentage size. I was never an average sized kid, and I so want her to avoid everything I went through. I don’t care how big or tall she is, but I also don’t want her to face that kind of discrimination. Of course if it’s not one thing, it’s going to be something else. I just wish the world could be a more tolerant place. It would be so boring if we were all the same, and yet that’s what society seems to want. It’s so bizarre.

  2. Oh god. I really want to disbelieve that story, but sadly I’ve seen similar accounts about people trying to put their babies on diets or just worried because their baby has perfectly healthy rolls of fat. It scares me because babies are – or were – the last acceptable life stage to be fat.
    Also, omg, it’s not the fat that makes you/your baby fat! Fat is so so so important and beneficial and aaarrrgh I just want to scream every time I read something about someone restricting the fat in their kid/baby’s diet.

  3. WHAT THE EFF. Seriously??? This is why we can’t have nice things. So many thoughts on this one. First, she’s going to give her kid terrible gas by providing primarily foremilk (aka, “skimming the fat”). Second, babies need fat for proper brain development, as you noted. And hormones are fat-soluble. Vitamin D doesn’t work well without fats. And lots and lots of other stuff.

  4. Nuts. Stupid f’n people. The funny part is that any “skinny” adults I’ve ever known were fat babies. I was a skinny baby and as an adult I’ve always battled with my weight. These moms need therapy.

    • (to be noted, my mom did not have me on a diet. My brother was a fat baby, his gf was a fat baby, and their daughter is a fat baby. My daughter still drinks gets only full fat dairy but she was never really a “fat”baby. I think a lot of it is just nature. Babies need to consume fat as well as all the other non fat things, for the absolute fantastic nutrition it helps deliver!)

  5. Wow, Andi. I am beyond horrified. I sincerely hope your mom group friends gave that woman some facts. I feel sick to my stomach.

    It is a tall order to raise children who are comfortable in their bodies – whatever shape that takes. Especially since it feels like an uphill battle in the culture we live in.

  6. I cannot begin to tell you how much it also fills me with rage to hear my fellow moms project their own bodily insecurities onto their babies. It’s always comments about their girls and laughing about how much they like to eat and maybe they should slow down and “oh your baby is so thin and cute!” It’s like wtf?!? They are BABIES!!! My kid is in the bottom quarter percentile for her weight and sometimes I catch myself thinking about how I can “fatten” her up just so I don’t get any more stupid comments. Thank you for this post. It really means more to me than I can say to hear someone else gets it.

  7. What.the.actual.fuck?? Skimming the fat off of breastmilk? The fat is the most important part for the baby! I just cannot believe the level of stupid sometimes.

  8. ugh. I am also a bit sensitive about this stuff coz i was always really huge as a kid and got told matter-of -factly that I was extremely ugly / fat /huge etc. My partner and our donor are Chinese Thai so I really hoped that they would be ‘smalled’. Even worse than both my girls being huge, looks like I have one twin turning out like me (I never was that gross, but who knows that, aged 14?!) and the other much slighter… I am dreading dealing with these extremely different girls as competitive teen twins. I want them both to love their beauty and health but I know that wont be easy if one is chubby and the other slim.

  9. On one hand, that enrages me. There is also a part of me that feels genuinely sad for that mother if she doesn’t realize how valuable that fat is to her growing baby.

    Something about your mom’s comment struck me- that it is preferable for boys to be big and girls to be small. I get comments all the time about how little Chick is, and how I “shouldn’t worry” because he’ll get bigger. This annoys me because he is at a perfectly healthy weight. He just doesn’t have rolls of baby fat.

    Just as girls aren’t considered feminine if they are “too big,” boys aren’t considered masculine if they are “too small.” We start these idiotic stereotypes AS BABIES.

    Why can’t we all just stop obsessing over other people’s bodies? For the love of pete, Society, get another hobby!

    • Yes. My toddler son is mistaken for a girl at least once a month and sometimes weekly. He’s been below zero on the height and around 3% on the weight chart and even now with a growth spurt is smaller than girls half his age. But I think shaming girls for their weight if it’s healthy or higher is even more prevalent. We as a society ought to be ashamed but we’re too busy body shaming everyone from infancy upward.

  10. That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. So much nutritional value she is denying her baby. If she is like this now when her baby when is only a few months of age, you can only imagine the body image this the baby will have growing up, so sad it breaks my heart for this baby. I was a 9 pound 11 ounces baby when born and in all my baby photos I had more rolls than a bakery. I am surprised I was ever able to roll over let alone crawl or walk, but it all disappeared as I became more active and I was tall and skinny in my primary years and I ate more back then compared to what I do now.

  11. I am so irritated at this. Ahhhh. And to think someone donated it with the best intentions. If someone took my hard earned milk and scrapped off the good stuff… Fuck that.

  12. All the rage when I read this! I couldn’t even comment at the time. Doctors telling parents their babies need a diet is rage inducing too. Especially when it is breastfed babies (some people do overfeed formula). Just Gah!

    • Okay, so I keep thinking about this and getting angry. So I’ve decided to look for good. I found it in your response. The fact that you are outraged and have a son gives me hope. There are a lot of things girls and women can do to foster healthier attitudes around these issues but what’s really going to turn the tide are men. As the mom of a future man (assuming he identifies as such in the future) you have such an opportunity to raise this kid with his priorities in order. So I’m clinging to that. No pressure, though!

  13. My comment has nothing to do with the sexism and the incredible awful behavior of the strip club, the facebook mom, or others. I just want to say that I firmly believe that big, fat babies grow into the healthiest adults. I have a theory (unsupported by any research) that babies who never want/need more food, fat, or calories develop metabolisms that are balanced, efficient, and healthy.

  14. I had no idea. Never would have occurred to me that someone would be benighted enough to skim fat from breastmilk. The strip club sign scares me. Because it reminds me of what some men say and think…being around men who are not misogynistic most of the time I have the luxury of forgetting how some men think of women as cattle. Repulsive. I haven’t managed to go back down to my prepregnancy weight and am in fact 20 pounds heavier than my prepregnancy weight and I’ve struggled with accepting my new body, in part bc of the rampant serious heart problems in my family, but also bc I don’t feel attractive….I’ve been trying to look closely at he societal causes for my discomfort with the weight and just relax because this is where I’m at right now. So your posts about your weight are always so refreshingly honest and strong-sounding. I’m sorry about your mom. How hurtful.

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