I recently realised that my poor, slightly neglected second child hadn’t been weighed in over two months so yesterday we trundled along to our local baby clinic. My chunky monkey weighed in at a hefty 16lbs 3ozs which is pretty impressive starting weight for her 4 month old frame. She had moved up from the 50th percentile to the 75th. I was absolutely delighted …. but why?
Sure, it’s reassuring to know she’s growing well and yes it does make all those night feeds worthwhile (as well as the fact they’re keeping her alive of course!). As I’m breastfeeding it also feels like a pat on the back to know she is growing and thriving (well done boobs!). But here’s the big but…. why was I so delighted she was not just growing but that she was bigger than average?
My first child was a late premie born at 36 weeks. His birth weight was good for age (6lb 1oz) but for the first seven months of his life he was slow to grow and gain weight. He fell off the bottom of the growth charts at one point and for a while barely tracked the 0.4th percentile. He was closely monitored by various NHS departments and thankfully all was well, he WAS growing … just slowly.
I became incredibly sensitive to the frequent comments “wow, he’s how old and yet so little?” and “oh he’s soooooo tiny”. Sat next to some of his chunky NCT buddies, size wise, he looked about 2 months younger than them. These comments coupled with the competitive baby group mums (“little Tommy weighs 6800kg already!” and “oh yes she’s on the 99th percentile for length, she’s doing so well!”) and sleep deprivation left me feeling like I was failing as a mother. If their big, oversized (joke!) babies were doing so well did that mean by default that my small, petite boy was failing?
Of course it didn’t but what I did realise is that we are all (myself included) obsessed with babies being B.I.G. But again, why? Was I starving and neglecting my perfectly proportioned yet apparently vertically challenged boy? Was I failing as a mother if he didn’t race into the next sized clothes as fast as Concorde beats the speed of light (because clearly wearing aged 3-6 months t shirts when you’re 6 months old is so last year!)?
Growing well is a sign of good health so clearly that is a big tick in the big is better camp but when did simply growing become not good enough and being the biggest become the dream?
In my non-mum life, asking someone how much they weigh would be met with shock and horror. Even discussing height has it’s perils if the subject in discussion is particularly tall or short (is heightism a thing yet?).
So … let’s try to keep in mind whether your baby is likened to the BFG or a hobbit, if they’re happy and thriving then Mum – you’re doing a fab job! There’s so much to worry about as a mother, let’s not add another thing to the list.
Oh and by the way – my vertically challenged baby has grown into a perfectly averaged height toddler even (shock horror!) overtaking some of the NCT giants that used to tower over him!