Chubby cheeks, pudgy belly and the roly-poly thighs that make up my baby is one of the many things that make her absolutely adorable. Babies are supposed to be like this, that’s why it’s called baby fat, right? I was unaware at how ingrained society’s phobia on fat was until my infant daughter was fat shamed. Yes, you read that right. Fat shamed.
I had just finished an appointment and was in the lobby area when my seven-month-old daughter started fussing. I thought she might be hungry, so I attempted to nurse her. Cue the flailing arms and legs underneath the nursing cover. It looked like I was trying to wrestle an alligator rather than feed a baby, so I gave up trying.
An older woman watched this scene unfold, and chuckled at my failed attempt. As I was leaving, she cooed at my baby, and I stopped for some small talk. She started making comments like “she looks big,” but I don’t give it much thought because my daughter is actually small for her age. However, I was taken aback by what happened next.
Pretending to mimic my daughter’s voice she said, “Stop trying to feed me so much, Mommy, or I might have to go on a diet when I’m older.”
I was shocked. It was clear that she thought my daughter was too big and was concerned with how much I was feeding her. According to this stranger, I would need to portion control my infant so she wouldn’t have to diet later on in life.
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It’s not just strangers who are worried that other people’s babies are too fat, concerned parents are also putting their babies on diets, according to this Good Morning America article.
Since then, I’ve received similar comments about my daughter's weight, but nothing as direct as the woman in the doctor's office. Comments on a baby's weight—dressed up as compliments, such as “she looks like a good eater”—have been twisted into something shameful. “Oh... she looks like a big girl. Very... healthy-looking. Must be a good eater.”
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Unfortunately, this won’t be the last time her body gets criticized. As her parent, I need to model a positive body image (read: trying to accept my post-baby bod) and teach her to be comfortable in her own skin. It’s too easy to point out our flaws and get caught up in the negativity it brings. I’m still unsure how to handle situations like this, though. I’m not great at confrontation, but ignoring it might give my daughter the impression that it’s OK for her body to be judged by others.
It’s not OK and she needs to know that.
Monica Reyes resides in Vancouver with her husband and neurotic dog. She’s also a first-time mom who is excited and terrified about her new life.
Originally published in June 2014.