Feeding a Skinny Kid in a Fat World
My beautiful boy making a hasty escape during our family Christmas card portrait. The pacifier was a bribe to get him to sit still–clearly, Bug called our bluff and bolted before the photographer could take our pic. Photograph by firstname.lastname@example.org.
Confession: I’m still upset that my pediatrician wants me to fatten up my kid. Mason is at the top of the charts for his height but it’s apparently a problem that he doesn’t even register for his weight. At Bug’s 15-month check-up the pediatrician told me to do “everything in my power” to help Mason gain weight. I thought I had gotten over the upset I felt at that check-up, but nope. It all resurfaced Monday night when I took Bug in for his vaccines and learned that if he hasn’t put on ample weight in 6 weeks then he’ll need to be tested for Celiac and the like. No, No, No!! There can’t be anything wrong with Bug. I freaked out (silently) and then had to hold a sobbing baby while he got three shots. I waited to cry until that night, after Mason went to bed.
Here’s why I’m freaking out:
1. The pediatrician called it “weird” that Bug eats well (or as well as any one-year-old) and drinks more than the recommended amount of whole milk but is still so skinny. Weird! WTF?!
2. It bums me out to replace some of the fruit and veggies that I enjoy feeding Mason with less-nutritious starches (although I’m trying to combat this angst by baking healthier starches).
3. The biggie: In a society where childhood obesity is a major problem, why am I getting so much sh-t for having a skinny, albeit healthy, kid?!
Of course my personal baggage plays a role here, too.
I’ve been concerned about Mason’s string bean status since his eight-month checkup. I’m afraid Mason will be teased in school if he stays so skinny. You see, as a kid, I was teased for being super tall and super skinny. Luckily the ribbing I got was more good-humored than cruel –ie., at one point, a classmate gave me the nickname Chicken Legs in gym class–but to be skinny as a girl is much different than to be skinny as a boy. What if someone is mean to Bug, or makes fun of him?! As it is, I feel so defensive when some mom exclaims, “He looks small for his age!” I try to smile and shrug it off but I always feel like it’s some pointed remark like, “Why are you starving your kid?” The worst was when one mom told me that her kid could “eat Mason” because her kid was so much bigger than he is even though they’re only 6 weeks apart. Um, how am I supposed to react to that?
The good news in all this is that Mason has gained 8 ounces in less than two weeks. “Keep on doing what you’ve been doing!” the nurse said. “He climbed up a bit on the charts, so that’s great!” What I’ve been doing is dousing all of his food in olive oil, or at least the food that would taste good with olive oil, per the doctor’s orders. Not such a fan of this technique but at least it appears to be working and at least olive oil is considered a healthy fat. I know, I know…It’s time for me to get a grip and follow doctor’s orders without whining about it.
Fortunately I have plenty of supportive friends and family, including my fellow blogger Richard Rende, our resident expert in child health and development studies. I shared my plight with Richard at one point and he volunteered to see if he could find any studies relating to our sitch. His conclusion, based on what I told him, is that he suspects Mason is genetically predisposed to being skinny since both Chris and I were skinny kids. He also noted that Mason’s doc is probably trying to see if Mason gains an appropriate amount of weight after eating a high-calorie diet for a set period of time. If Mason doesn’t gain enough weight then the doctor will have important information that could help him identify any underlying medical issues more easily. Thanks, Richard, for re-framing the situation in a way that makes it less scary for me. (Seriously, if you haven’t read Richard’s blog, check it out; I learn something new every time I read it.)
Have any of you been told that your baby or toddler needs to gain weight? If so, what did you do (or are you doing) to meet your doctor’s goals?