New Study: Mothers Prefer Chubby Tots…But I Love My Skinny One!

Moms think chunky is cuter when it comes to their tots, a new study suggests. Researchers in Baltimore examined 280 mothers aged 18 to 46, 72 percent of whom were overweight themselves, and the moms who had overweight toddlers believed their children were normal weight, whereas the moms of underweight toddlers wished they were plumper.

The findings suggest that “U.S. mothers often do not have a realistic idea of their offspring’s weight, and many still cling to the notion that a chubby child is healthy child,” according to an article on MSNBC.

“A long time ago, it was OK to value a chubby baby when kids were underweight and we had potato famines and what not,” said researcher Erin Hager, of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “It was a sign you’re doing well for yourself.”

“But that is not how it is today in the United States,” said Hager, whose study appears in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Although this study was narrow in its scope, I feel like it’s pretty representative of the opinions of the moms I meet.

As the mom of a skinny 20-month-old, I can relate with moms who wish their kids were plumper. There are times when I pray Mason would pack on five pounds, so I wouldn’t have to defend his size to other moms, or hold my breath every time he gets weighed at the pediatrician’s office. But, truly, those are my issues, and I’m trying to change my attitude. Instead, I’m choosing to focus on what a happy, joyful child Mason is.

What about you? Do you obsess over your child’s size?

Photo: Toddler via Chris Leachman/

Project Weight Gain: We Did It!

Our 6 weeks were up. We had to take Mason to the pediatrician’s office yesterday afternoon for his weigh-in, even though it was the last place any of us wanted to be on our day off. Would we finally be on track with this whole underweight issue, or would we be going straight from the doctor’s office to the lab for testing? I was so nervous I felt sick. I couldn’t bear for anything to be wrong with Bug.

The nurse weighed him, and, we did it! We met our goal of increasing Mason’s weight just enough to get him back on the growth curve, and I’m very proud to say we did it in a healthful way (details below). He gained 1 pound and 13 ounces in 6 weeks; to put that in perspective, Bug gained just l pound between his 12-month and 15-month check-ups. He’s still in the bottom percentile for his weight, but he’s back on an upward growth curve, which was our ultimate goal.

Mason’s pediatrician was thrilled (“This is the kind of appointment I like to have!”), and, best of all, said he “wasn’t worried at all” about any underlying health problems. He explained that he needed to see whether Mason could gain an appropriate amount of weight if we increased his caloric intake. If Bug hadn’t been able to gain weight then it would have been a strong indication that something was wrong. Sound familiar? That’s because Richard Rende,’s resident expert in child health and development studies, totally called it when he re-framed the situation for me a few weeks ago.

I feel so blessed. I’ve tried to put my fears into perspective–after all, skinniness runs in both our families–but the anxiety of Mason’s impeding weigh-in, and the possibility of our doctor discovering that Mason had a serious health problem, got to me last Thursday night and continued to nag me throughout the weekend. By the time our appointment rolled around yesterday, I was both afraid of what I might hear and desperate to get it over with. Now that we know that it was just a matter of giving Mason more calories, I’ll work to keep Mason’s caloric intake up in a healthful way. And by “up,” I mean just enough to keep up with the curve, I’m not trying to turn him into a sumo wrestler or anything like that.

Ironically, I had trouble keeping weight on when I was pregnant, despite the fact that I ate constantly. I’m convinced Mason has hollow legs. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with the next one, if I’m lucky enough to have a second child one day.

The back story, in case you missed it:

At Mason’s 15-month check-up, our pediatrician told me that I needed to do “everything in my power” to fatten Mason up. (Mason’s tall–he’s in the 75th percentile for height–but he had completely fallen off charts for his weight.) We were to come in six weeks later and if Mason hadn’t gained enough weight then he was going to be tested for Celiac and the like. I silently freaked out–What if he’s really sick? I also felt bitter about the irony of having to fatten my kid up in a society where childhood obesity is a major problem. After all, as I said, skinniness is in Mason’s genetics..

Then I pulled myself together and got to work.

I put the extra weight on Mason by increasing his starch intake overall, with fruit-filled quick breads and whole-wheat pasta. I also added more healthful fats (a few drops of olive oil to sauces and extra avocado), as our pediatrician had recommended. I still made sure that Bug got a fruit and veggie with every meal, and I still served him lean chicken and beef as well as beans and lentils. And although I believe in occasional splurges, we kept the indulgences in check. He ate the same number of treats that he did before we were tasked with helping him gain weight. For me, it’s not just about weight, it’s about overall health. Diabetes and heart disease runs in Chris’ family and cancer runs in mine, and I believe that diet really does make a difference when it comes to these diseases. I refused to fill him out with sugary, fatty foods just to get him on some growth chart. Fortunately, it all worked out.

I’m sure lots of you have met exciting goals lately. Dish here!

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

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?