Monday, July 30, 2007

Is Esther at a healthy weight?

That was the title of an e-mail I received from Beech-Nut. The baby food folks, not the chewing tobacco folks. I got on their mailing list when I signed up for one of their free sample things, which in this case was a cute little bowl I got last week.

This is a partial text:

Tips for your 21-Month-Old

What is Esther getting in to today?
As a 21-month-old toddler, your little one is probably expressing
lots of curiosity and many opinions about food. The most
important thing to remember is that they're getting all the
vitamins and nutrients they need to grow strong, but not too many
calories. As childhood obesity becomes an issue, you'll want to
be mindful of serving sizes and what you're serving.

Is Your Toddler Tipping the Scale?
If your toddler is already overweight, you shouldn't
automatically think "diet." There are some alternative ways to
bring the scale back within a normal range.
Ah, thanks but no thanks. My baby is 21 months old. There's no such thing as overweight for a 21 month old, in my experience.

Oh, I am certain that there is an "ideal" weight range for Esther, the same as there is for me. But I have no reason to think that baby weight ranges are any more connected to reality than the same thing for adults. In fact, I have a pretty good reason to think they're bupkis. See, for the longest time pediatricians have been using growth charts provided by the formula companies. These growth charts were formulated using size & growth rates of white, middle class formula-fed babies in the 1950s.

Breastfed babies have a different growth pattern than formula fed babies. There are a number of reasons for this, not the least of which being that breastfed babies are fed to hunger, & formula fed babies are typically given a set amount in a bottle. These growth charts, which bear no connection to a breastfed baby's reality, have been used to "prove" to more than one mama that she wasn't adequately able to feed her baby, but I digress.

My point isn't so much these growth charts as it is how offensive I find even the suggestion that my baby might be fat and need to lose weight. Oh, they are careful to avoid the word diet, but let's not be coy. This is nothing more than introducing paranoia about being the "right" size at a very early age. It is mind-boggling. OK, it isn't, but it should be. I should be surprised that someone thinks it's a good idea to e-mail God only knows how many people and encourage them to obsess about what their toddler--most of these kids aren't even potty trained yet--weighs.

This isn't going to help anyone. This isn't going to make one single person healthier. All it's going to do is help make parenting even more shallow, and more likely than not add to girls' obsession about weighing little enough.

I refuse to be a part of this.

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