“How old is your baby?”
“Five months and a half.”
“Oh, I love that age: they’re all smiles and giggles. Is it a boy or a girl?”
“It’s a girl; her name is ‘Luca’.”
“What a beautiful name. She’s gorgeous.”
“How old is your boy?”
“It’s a girl; she’s five months old.”
“She’s tiny; my (friend’s, neighbor’s) baby was this big when s/he was three months old.”
“She’s just as big as she should be!”
“Yes, but she is petite.”
Is size the only thing that matters for a baby? It appears so, in the US. Btw, not that it should matter, but Luca is very normal-sized. She’s not a huge baby (some babies her age weigh twice what she does) yes, but she’s healthy and reaching all developmental milestones early. She is exactly as she should be: adults come in all sizes and so do babies. It’s extremely weird, and borderline rude, when people say that she’s small. If I reply politely that that’s normal, they insist in their ways. It’s difficult, at that point, to not feel bad, like I’m not feeding her enough or something. Sometimes, these convos are very rude: some people go as far as to ask me if I have enough milk, if I see a lactation consultant, etc. Or, now, they ask me if I introduced solids yet, because that will help with growth (no, and false, btw).
This is as entrenched in the culture, that even good friends say the same things. I’m not the only one to notice this; mommy blogs abound with similar stories. They usually offer an explanation why their kid is small: he’s adopted and didn’t have a great start in life (sorry to hear; happy he’s doing so well now!), she’s taller than fatter, etc.
I used to say something like that, too. Now, I don’t. No matter how often I say that “it’s not a competition” or that “there’s room under the sun for everyone”, they would still go on about how big X or Y baby is.
Why is being big such a good thing? I was reading somewhere that it is, historically, connected to the idea that, as a mother, you’re doing the right things. Fat baby=healthy baby, in the popular culture. Growing up, my grandma (from another culture altogether) had the same idea: I used to live with her (in a different city) for close to 1/2 year every year. When I went home to my physician mom, she would put me on a diet, because she thought I was unhealthily fat. That was a lot of fun, to be sure! So now, I’m trying really hard to close my ears and brain to the US typical baby conversation. I don’t want to ever overfeed my daughter, just because people think that babies, and adults, in general, must be giants to be worthy of attention.
As I write this, Luca is giggling loudly and playing with the wire of the mouse. Isn’t the age of smiles and loud giggles the best? Thank you, Scottish lady, grandma of ten, for saying so!