Sunday, August 20, 2006

My Skinny Baby

When my husband woke up on Sunday he found me sitting in front of my computer bawling. Which is not entirely unusual, so he calmly (while probably desperately trying to avoid rolling his eyes) said, “What’s going on?”

And I explained how I’d been going through the little one’s baby book, frantically calculating his BMI at every stage of development and I was certain now that although I’ve fed him a lot of healthy food whenever he’s wanted, somehow I'd malnourished him, he’s too little and now he’s doomed to a midlife fraught with chronic illness. And it’s all my fault.

Now, it’s not news that my little one is… well… little. He was a respectable eight pound baby at birth, but it was all downhill after that. He did grow, but slowly. Case in point, I just realized on his third birthday that he’s only grown two inches and gained a pound and a half over the last year. I have no idea what’s “normal,” but that doesn’t sound good to me. For Gods sake I can gain a pound and a half in like two minutes if I set my mind to it.
He gained so slowly as a baby and toddler that the poor thing has been stuck with thousands of needles in order to determine that he’s not anemic, his thyroid is healthy and so on. And the doctor would always say, “Well, he has chubby cheeks, he’s smart, he’s developmentally ahead of the game and there’s nothing medically wrong with him… I guess he’s just small.” And I believed her, and now look… a new study that assures me that being thin prior to the age of two is a serious risk factor in the development of disease.

So I said to my husband, “I think I’m going to forbid him from eating fruit or vegetables anymore.” Because seriously, the kid diets. I’m not kidding. He’ll eat a little bread… unless there’s butter on it. He’ll eat some meat, it’s true, but cheese? Forget it. He might eat a little pasta, but only if there are no broccoli or tomatoes available to eat instead. And low-calorie salsa is fine, but guacamole? Sorry, too fattening. The only fat he allows on his plate is some olive oil. And what about juice… a.k.a. pure, unadulterated sugar? Um, no thanks, he’ll just have a glass of water if it’s all the same to you.

Bur really, I’m exaggerating a little here. He does eat. All the time. In fact, there’s no ruining the kid’s appetite. If I set a plate of food on the table at any time of the day, he stops what he’s doing and comes running to eat. And he exclaims, “Oh thank you Mama for getting us some dinner!” As if he hasn’t eaten in a week.

And when I look at him during his swimming lessons, I feel so self-conscious, like everyone at the pool is looking at him and wondering if I’m one of those abusive lunatics who keeps her kid locked in a closet and feeds him nothing but grits. He’s very skinny. His arms are all spindly like a miniature Angelina Jolie and his ribs protrude from all angles. And no, he doesn’t have worms… I’ve already made the doctor verify. (And no, she hasn’t suggested I commit myself to some outpatient therapy, why do you wonder?)
As much as our culture obsesses over being thin, there’s something very disturbing about looking at people who are too thin. When I see a person who is so fat as to be unattractive, I might think, Gee, lay off the Oreos already (like I’m thinking right now as I look at my own thighs). But when I see someone who’s struggling with anorexia, I literally have to avert my eyes, because they just look too close to death for comfort. And that’s why I worry so much about my skinny little boy. He looks a-week-with-the-stomach-flu away from death to me sometimes. And yet he eats nonstop, rarely gets sick and can beat the living crap out of his big brother, who’s like twice as big as he is. Seriously, he’s really strong.

So then I go back to thinking, Well, I guess he’s just small. For a day. And then my husband and I came up with a brilliant “fatten him up” plan. I stopped serving fruit and vegetables to him to see if that would make him eat more high-caloric foods. Now that means I have to feed his big brother the same way (J is a normal/average size, by the way – and nothing pleases him more than a life without vegetables.). So it was nothing but eggs and butter, yogurt and meat, bread, sugar and potatoes, etcetera around here for two weeks.

The Little One stayed the same, but J outgrew the new shoes I’d just bought him a month ago. And he became constipated out of the blue for the first time in his life. I felt so guilty that I made my husband sneak J from the dinner table to feed him a bunch of fresh and dried fruit, while I stayed at the table assuring the little one that I was sorry but Mama’s all out of fruit today.

In other words, it was a failed experiment, and we’re back to healthy eating all around, but I’ve stopped letting the Little One have seconds on fruits and vegetables… which just seems so very weird. But what else can I do? Just stand idly by, knowing that I’m giving him a heart attack in fifty years? Wait, let’s not talk about that, my poor husband has had enough with the crying for one day. Posted by Picasa

21 comments:

Andrew said...

Man, motherhood is just so stressful all the way around. (Fatherhood too, by the way.) Sometimes I think we might be better off without the constant stream of information to worry about, just treat our kids well, let our conscience and our heart be our guide, and love 'em to death. I suspect as much as you care, your little one will grow up happy and healthy as anything!
To Love, Honor and Dismay

Food Mum said...

Sounds like he's bursting with health. Those studies probably used famine victims in Africa as subjects or real malnourished kids from deprived backgrounds, which are bound to have health problems in the future and not just from being thin

My daughter who is two years younger than my son is the same weight as him and only 1 inch shorter, they could be twins (she's not fat just a tiny bit chubby - he's just a bit small for his age and she is big for her age) they eat the same mostly - it can only be choosing differently from the gene pool.

Don't worry he'll be fine - it's great that he loves vegetables so much!

Annie Drogynous said...

I think you're beating yourself up way too much. Being a parent is always a learning experience. I'll bet you that one year he'll go through an amazing growth spurt and catch up on everything. And I would think that just because he's small doesn't mean he's unhealthy.

Just keep doing what you're doing, find one or two things that he just really loves to eat and stuff him with that! Oh yeah, do NOT stop him from eating veggies! Be happy that he likes them when so many children out there don't!

Pendullum said...

I think that all you can do is your best...
My brother and my three cousins were always under weight...
They still are...
They aare grown men in their thirties with mothers that still frett over how 'skinny' they are...
Once a mom always a mom...
They lamented just the same as you are...
and those boys that grew into men...
Well... they are healthy...They are skinny...It's just heir make up...
and they can eat anyone out of house and home...
It's in the genes...
But no matter what the age...
a mother still worries...

Anjali said...

Staci, have you tried offering fruits and veggies after he's eaten the "main" meal? This is what I do at our house. If Leela even sees broccoli, cauliflower, carrots or peas on her radar, she'll eat 2nds, 3rds, and 4ths of veggies, but barely touch her main dish. So I now save it for last!

Jenn said...

Some kids are just destined to be thin......I thought I was one of them until I hit 28 and my metabolism paid me back for 28 years of abuse.
My middle son also looks like some sort of albino refugee that hasn't eaten in 3 weeks. 4 yrs old and barely 35lbs - his 2 yr old brother is catching up to him in the weight department. Yet he is also healthy and never sick. I think that 'thin before 2=sick" theory is something put out by the Donut companies of the world, because our doctor always says long and lean is healthy!

crazymumma said...

I think he is ok. Our society is obsessed with numbers and nutrition. I am like you, I gain weight if I look at the fridge.My husband, metabolism from another planet. He is a skinny and beautiful man. He was a skinny and beautiful child and it made his mother insane. Believe me, this man is of the soundest health...some of us are samll, some are big. He's OK......

ninepounddictator said...

I don't like studies...because for every study telling you one thing, you can find another telling you the opposite....

Trust your doc, I think.

My daughter is also v. skinny and she barely eats anything...But she seems healthy and happy...so...

Jill said...

Tell you what, I'll send you my 6'5 225 lb teenager and you send me your little guy. See what you can do to halt my boy's growth and I promise to wave my giant child wand over your son's head.

But seriously, kids come in all shapes and sizes. The ones to worry about are the obese ones. I agree with your readers that those studies are whacked . . .or at least not meant to apply to your son.

ann said...

my son just broke 30 lbs. at his 3 year check up and he's 38" tall already, his father was the same way. But he's strong, smart and doing great!

Mary Tsao said...

He sounds healthy to me! Admittedly, I don't know much about parenting (I'm learning as I go and sometimes I forget to learn), but I have decided to not sweat what and how my kids eat. Sounds like he has great eating habits and is just long and lean.

Onetallmomma said...

Go take a look of the pictures of my kids that I put up two days ago. Notice all of the skinny legs and arms?

When my fist was two my doctor freaked out because she was gaining so slowly. Everything else was on track and she ate like a cow. I had to bring my Doc MY medical records from when I was a child to prove that there was a heredity connection. After that she didn't worry. And either did I.

All of my kids have been at the bottom of the wt charts after that fist year. My son at 8 is all ribs and hip bones. I looked like a concentration camp victim until I was in my 20's.

This is meant to reassure you. And as long as you are offering him healthy choices, which you are, then let him eat what he wants. Trust him. Dry your tears.

andria said...

I understand your dilemma. My 18 month old son is still wearing size 2 diapers. They say new baby on the package, that disturbs me because he is an "old" baby. He has yet to make it to 20 pounds and has worn some of his 3-6 month clothes for over a year now. I never thought I would get 2 summers worth of use out of those things. The dr says he's healthy, just inherited some sort of skinny gene. Older ladies freak when I tell them his age and then try to force feed him all while looking at me like I am starving the poor kid. Your little guy looks just great. He's just a skinny dude.

Lisa said...

Awww..it's tough being a mommy! My boys are skinny too...but solid. complete muscle...anybody who picks them up will tell you that.

But I too hate seeing the ribs, backbone and pelvic bone sticking out. But then I look at myself and figure maybe they are just HEALTHY :)

lm1 said...

well i have the opposite problem... while all the other boys my sons age are skinny he is big. oh he eats healthy... he too loves his veggies and really likes the juicey fruits like peaches off the tree and pears and plums. and yes he is active he runs.. jumps, climbs trees ect. and he plays with legos... in *his* room only.
we contain our legos. and if he wants the dog to go into his room then he has to pick every little lego peice up and it has to be inspected by dad or mom to see if it is worthy..LOL

Naomi (Urban Mummy) said...

Too skinny...too heavy...isn't it funny how us moms always find something. Eats too much...doesn't eat enough...hates vegetables...eats too much fruit...

The list goes on. Your doctor said it, he's developing well. YOu said it - he will eat at any time of day. So no worries.

Or, at least, know that you have company in your worries. As I've been told, welcome to motherhood!

Anonymous said...

I was so comforted to read all these posts. I have a 14 month old daughter who is 18 1/2 pounds - she was born a normal weight but just stopped gaining is now on the bottom (2nd) percentile for weight. She's on the 75th for height though! So, she's obviously growing but sometimes she does just seem to run on fresh air, refushing to eat for days. I get so frustrated and also get really conscious about what other people think when we're out and about. I dread the "Oh, she's so tiny" comment. It's not like I don't try to feed her! We've had endless paediatrician and dietician appointments, the latest of which has told me to feed her cream, butter, cheese and yogurt - tried it, doesn't make any difference! I just think she's a natural size 0 in the making! Kelly

Anonymous said...

I like to take studies with a a grain of salt. There are a lot of people in this world that will try to tell you all kinds of things. Some which you know in your gut are wrong, some which you will have to judge for yourself. Just recently Ive heard that in the book "What to expect the first year" it says that you don't really have to boil your water before you prepare your formula. I don't care what anyone says or thinks i will always boil my water regardless... God gave you a gut for a reason. Trust your gut. If you think its not right for your baby to be too skinny, then its not right. If you have peace about it, then its ok

Kristen said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
This post has made my day!

I have a 6 month old daughter who eats everything in sight but just won't stop being skinny. She was almost 7 lbs when she was born, in the 25-50th percentile, but she's slowly dropped off the chart since then. I've only just started solids but I've given her all sorts of fruit and vegetable and cereal. I'm still breastfeeding her too, and she eats often and well. She's happy and healthy and developing mentally and physically just as she should. But she too has the chubby cheeks and the sticky-out ribs you describe!

I just came from the doctor's yesterday and I'm keeping a food diary. I'm sure I'm facing rounds of thyroid and anemia tests,but I know in my heart that she's healthy and happy and that's really what it's all about. She's just SMALL!

What worries me is that her aunts and uncles on my husband's side ARE small and HAVE been sick all their lives... All five of them... But I know I feed my baby LOTS! And I know she's developing well!

I hope my husband can handle the tears every time I go to the doctor's with her for the next few years - but for now I'm happy to know I'm not alone!

Anonymous said...

i have a silly doctor who wants me to stop nursing my year old baby and full her up on nutramigen, she was born with a milk allergy. for an entire year i changed my entire diet so that i would be able to nurse her and pass along all immunity properties. she is now sixteen pounds and is smart as a tack...walking at ten months, talking, saying a number of words etc. completely loves fruits and vegetables like crazy. i will be crazy to listen to dr./ woman who has never had children and who doesn't know the comfort that breastfeeding brings to a child. my baby may be small but she just right for herself. i think a lot of us mothers' need to just trust our own instincts to do what's right for our kids.not to mention my other kids are also skinny minnies.

Anonymous said...

I'd like an update on your Little One.... I'm having the same issue with my 14 month old baby girl. She has weighted only 14 lbs for the last 4 months. She is so skinny you can see every bone in her body. She can still wear 3/6 month clothing. It's so sad! We've tested her for liver disease, kidney disease, thyroid & on & on. Everything comes up normal. But it's NOT normal. I'm scared!!