About Those “What a Big Baby!” Comments
Does it go without saying that I love your column so, so much? I’m obsessed. Thank you for your wisdom!
I am Mom to a sweet, happy, chubby, delicious baby girl who is almost a year old. I’m a SAHM, so she and I walk around the city together a lot and talk to strangers frequently. I do my best to be kind and respectful to the folks we meet, and most are kind and respectful back to us.
Lately, many folks have been commenting on the size of my precious baby. “She’s a big girl,” they say. Or: “that’s a chubby little boy you have there.” Or just, in passing: “Big baby!”
She is in the 75% percentile, and we have been assured by the pediatrician that she is quite healthy–yet, I am tired of hearing about how big she is. Am I being too sensitive? I don’t think anyone means harm, but I’m offended and angry that people want to comment on her size, rather than her cute smile. I fear that this is only the beginning of her being judged on how she looks, and I’m also dealing with my own size issues as I lose the baby weight.
Is there a funny, smart way to respond to these people, to show my daughter my confidence and love? Should I just ignore their comments? I’m new at the Mom thing, and you and your readers are wise.
Thanks so much!
Oh, please just ignore people and comments like this. There’s no “winning” here with the perfect witty put-down, in fact, you’re more likely to end up offending someone who genuinely meant no offense. Because really: no one — or MOSTLY no one — is actually calling your daughter fat, nor are they implying that you, as the person who birthed and feed her, are fat. Which I think might be part of what irks you a little? Since you mentioned your own post-baby body issues?
I gave birth to a 9 pound, 15 ounce baby. I was shocked. I was…actually kind of horrified, like I’d done something wrong or eaten too much or…I don’t know. I was tired and not making a lot of sense. But I also experienced a twinge of self-consciousness every time I told someone Noah’s birth weight and got gasps and shrieks and OMGs! in return. Yeah, he was really big. You wanna fight about it?
Not much later, I was fending off the opposite type of comment: He’s so skinny! Look at those skinny legs! What a string bean! Tell your mommy to feed you more! Oh my God, SERIOUSLY?
Ezra, on the other hand, was a bundle of extra chins and fat rolls for awhile, and we constantly got the sort of comments you get now, despite his birth weight being more than two pounds LESS THAN Noah’s. If I had to choose, I’d go with the WHO’S A CHUBBY BAYBEEEEE version rather than the accusation that my child was underfed, but I responded to both kinds of comments the exact. Same. Way. “Thank you. He’s a very healthy baby.”
People comment on babies’ size (girls AND boys) because…it’s easy. When they meet your daughter, she’s a chubby blank slate with rubber-band thighs and people LIKE chubby babies with rubber-band thighs. They might not be immediately sure of her age or gender or name or any other talking point, so they just default to “WHAT A BIG GIRL!” (The same words that one day, your preschool-aged daughter will hear and beam with pride over, because “big” just means different things to little kids.) They also have no idea how big babies are “supposed” to be, which is why you might get one “WHAT A BIG GIRL!” comment just minutes after somebody else guesses her age and shaves off six months, or asks if she’s potty-trained yet, or some other off-the-wall thing.
I admit I’ve squealed and made a big thing over baby chub and cheeks and bellies, though I promise I always mean it as a compliment, particularly when it comes to those delicious thunderthighed babies who I would probably gobble up whole if you gave me half a chance NOM NOM NOM, and I don’t ever intend to imply that a baby’s size has anything to do with food intake or diet or self-control or any of the loaded issues that we adults have gotten all tied up with weight. I really doubt most people commenting on your daughter’s size mean to imply anything like that either, even if that’s what you’re hearing. But! I’ll try to bite my tongue next time, if you promise to try to take most of these comments in the spirit in which they were intended, even if the delivery leaves something to be desired.
Now, if the comment DOES cross some kind of line — your mother-in-law chiding your daughter at the table about how much she eats, or someone using the word “diet” even in a teasing manner, definitely feel free to put the kibosh on that. But don’t worry about wit or humor or anything. Just look the person in the eye and say it as straightforward as possible. “She’s a perfectly healthy size for her age and we — and her doctor — think she’s perfect. I’d appreciate it if you tried not to make comments implying otherwise, thank you.” I find leveling assholes down bluntly and directly at the kneecaps is more effective than wasting energy on clever comebacks that might end up sailing right over their (obnoxious, oversized) heads.