Since having a baby, my eyes have been open to a new world of body shaming. Unfortunately, body shaming is nothing new in our society, but I never realized it started at early as infancy.
This my daughter, Livia.
When she was born she was in the 50th percentile, and pretty quickly worked her way up to the 90th percentile. My baby is fed, nourished, and healthy. As a breastfeeding mother, I especially take pride in the fact that I have been able to provide her with this nourishment to thrive.
A friend tells me she has gotten so big, no big deal… a stranger exclaims how adorable her cheeks are, I agree (she got those from me!)… a relative remarks on her chunkiness, I’m good. All of these are things you would typically say to a baby, and I understand that there is nothing malicious behind them.
I am not talking about those types of comments. I am talking about legit body shaming of my sweet, innocent baby.
The first time it was from an endearing older woman who said, “Oh wow, you don’t miss many meals do you?” This comment made me chuckle at first, mostly because it caught me off guard. I thought, “Wait, that’s kind of a strange thing to say, right?” but didn’t really think much of it after that.
Until it happened again…and then again.
This third time by a complete stranger in a restaurant. I will never forget this encounter, because this is when I decided that this is not okay. A family sat down at a table next to us, which distracted Livie as we were feeding her. She kept staring at the man as he sat down, and he says to her, “You better turn around and eat, although it doesn’t look like you’ve missed many meals.” I ignore and look away, until I hear his wife exclaim, “Oh look at those fat cheeks!”
Fat?? You are going to comment on a body part of my daughter with the word fat? Oh. No.
This is when I lost it… inside my head of course, because until now I was not someone to confront others, especially in public. But this is my baby girl, and I am not going to stand for this anymore. This needs to stop. Mama Bear is coming out, and I wish I could go back to that moment and let her out then.
Let me just clarify… It does not bother me ONE BIT that she is in the 90th percentile, that she has perfectly chunky baby rolls (as a lot of babies do), and the most adorable, squeezable cheeks around. This is not a crazy new mom being oversensitive about her baby’s size. I am not even saying anything about her size. This is not about her.
This is about our society, and the way that body shaming is so interwoven into our social norms that people think it’s perfectly fine to publicly comment on another’s body. And even crazier, most times people think they are actually giving compliments when saying these things.
“Doesn’t look like you’ve missed many meals.” When is this ever a compliment? Would you say this to an older child? A teenager? An adult? No way. Don’t say it to my baby.
“Look at those fat cheeks!” Like she is some exhibit on display for you to exclaim about her features. Just. Stop.
No wonder kids, especially girls, grow up to have body image issues as young as elementary school age when they are hearing comments like this from the time they are infants. This type of talk about another person’s body is NOT okay, and it shouldn’t matter if that person is “just a baby.” I want my daughter to be brought up with a healthy body image, and be surrounded by positive body talk. I want her to know that while it is important to be healthy and active, the type of person you are is more important than what you look like. Your value is in your ideas, your thoughts, and the way treat others. And that needs to start now.
If you are someone who has made comments like this before, this is a PSA for you to stop. No matter how you may mean them, it is body shaming, plain and simple, and it is hurtful. If you are a parent that has also experienced this, speak up with me. Do not let this continue. Mama Bear is out, and she is here to stay.