Sam had his 9-month checkup this week. Once again, he is in the 99th percentile for weight for babies his age. Great, right? A nice, healthy, bouncing baby boy with pudgy limbs and dimpled cheeks. Don’t all moms want their babies to put on weight? A chubby baby is the sign of a healthy baby.
Not according to our pediatrician. The first thing the doctor said when she entered the exam room, was “Oh, he’s a big boy. Let me tell you about a class the hospital offers for parents regarding nutrition.”
“A nutrition class? You can’t be serious.” I thought to myself. This child is the picture of nutrition. At the same weight his sister was at her 2-year old checkup, the doctor can’t really be recommending that I attend a nutrition class.
Then it dawned on me. She said my baby is too fat.
“I don’t know if you want to go, but I’ll just note the dates and times for you here on this flyer. They talk about things like ‘feeding cues,’ . . . .”
“And? ‘Feeding cues’ and . . . ?” was my inner monologue. Oh my goodness, she is subtly (or not so subtly) suggesting that I need help in determining how, what and how much to feed my second child. You have got to be kidding me.
I didn’t respond to any of this and focused on keeping my wriggling son on the examining table. The pediatrician mentioned something about children in the 99th percentile growing up to be obese or something of that nature – I wasn’t really listening.
On the drive back home, I tried to make sense of what just transpired. The only thing I can make of it is that the pediatrician was simply following hospital protocol: for every child in the 99th percentile, a doctor must recommend the nutrition class. What with the growing rate of childhood obesity, of course there would be programs in place to prevent kids from going down that path, and a routine doctor’s visit would be one way to educate parents and keep tabs on a child’s weight just like any other part of the child’s general health.
A recent Wayne State University study of 8,000 American infants born in 2001 revealed that America’s “obesity epidemic” has reached the diaper set:
• 31.9 percent of the 9-month-olds were obese or at risk for obesity
• 34.3 percent of the 2-year-olds were obese or at risk for obesity
• 17 percent of the infants were obese at 9 months, rising to 20 percent at 2 years
• 44 percent of the infants who were obese at 9 months remained obese at 2 years
But come on: a 9-month old in the 99th percentile as a potentially obese person in the future or a too fat baby now?! Sam is a happy, chubby Gerber baby. Nothing more, nothing less. The baby that all moms who know the struggle of trying to get their children to put on weight (including me with Jane) wish they had. America’s fear of fat trickling down to babies is just plain silly.
For one, a baby’s first year of growth has nothing to do with his rate of growth later on in life. It’s all about his rate of growth in the womb and his ability to absorb nutrients as he did during gestation. That’s why you see many babies who grow in especially large leaps and bounds the first year slow down in their growth pattern in the second and subsequent years as they adjust to their body’s natural growth rate.
And two, a baby’s height and weight percentiles have nothing to do with his ultimate height and weight. Take me and my brother, for example. We were both in the 99th percentile during the first year and I am 7 inches short of ever becoming a runway model and my brother is on the shorter side for American men. Neither of us is obese or even fat (well, okay, after Sam and Jane I am carrying some excess insulation) and my brother is ridiculously fit. Our story is nothing out of the ordinary.
I do appreciate that children nowadays often are not afforded adequate time to play and exercise and that modern, busy lives also have us eating too many junk and prepared foods, but telling a second time mom who has a giggly, Michelin-tired 9-month old that her baby is fat and that she might need some parenting nutrition classes is ridiculous.
Anyway, how fat could my kids grow up to be in the Silicon Valley, which whole-heartedly embraces the skeleton-skinny chic that dominates today’s fashion and social norms. And with two professional parents who are able to provide their children access to healthy foods, it’s clear that the doctor was not paying attention to her audience before doling out this irrelevant prescription.
I’ll let the pediatrician slide this time, but another dose of bad advice and we may have to fire her.