I am sure all parents, especially new moms, worry about their babies. Sometimes a ridiculous amount. From the moment the little bundles of joy come into our lives, we are programmed to worry about them. Their health, safety and happiness become our primary concern. One mom worries why her baby won’t sleep at night. Another can’t get hers to nap. Some have issues with their babies going days without pooping. Later some parents stress themselves silly if their babies haven’t sat up, crawled or walked by a certain time. Once they do become mobile, it’s the bumps and bruises to worry about; the dangers to precious baby that lay everywhere around the home. Just when you are through one stage and feel you have battled and won the war against one worry, a whole new slew of concerns come crashing down on you like a tidal wave of crazy. At least that’s what it sometimes felt like for me.
My biggest concern was all about why my little lady was exactly that: so little. From the moment we met her, Jon and I marveled at her strangely large hands, her loud cry, and how tiny she was. She grew into her hands thankfully;0 But she is still a loud little lady (giggling with delight, chattering away to anyone and everyone, and for a a period of time, not so pleasantly screaming for attention). And she is still pretty tiny.
I thought babies were meant to be chunky, with Michelin tire arms, rolls for days, squishy and wonderfully round. It’s the only time in your life when you are encouraged to gain weight, chub is celebrated, fat is encouraged. A lot of my friends have large babies, and I just assumed that since I was a pretty big baby myself, Jon is tall, and I had a sizable bump, we were having at least an 8 pounder. So when Lily Rose was welcomed into this world at just shy of 7 pounds, we were both surprised. The first few weeks we didn’t stress about her size; we had bigger things to worry about. Then came the regular appointments and the damn baby percentile tracking, and the worry over her weight came on in full force. For me, success as a new mom seemed to be directly related to the ability to keep one’s baby fed, full, and pleasantly plump
The doctor in Estevan and health nurses there were never too concerned. They said she was small, low on the percentiles but not worrisomely so, and that all babies grow and gain differently. The only thing they wanted us to be sure of was that she continued to gain. So in between regular check ups we weighed Lily, and every time I was a little disappointed the numbers on the scale were only inching up, never climbing quickly enough. She was always gaining, but it was just very slow going! When I tried ever so casually to ask other moms of babies around Lily’s age what they weighed, the moms often had no clue, having not been obsessively weighing their little ones like I had. When family and friends held her, they usually remarked right away how light she was. Strangers guessed her to be two or three months younger than she was. No matter how much these comments weren’t meant to worry me, they started to, replaying over and over in my head like a broken record, until it was all I heard. Not “she’s so smiley” or “she’s so cute”, just “she’s so small!”
Our little lady’s appetite didn’t seem to match her size. She breastfed every two hours for what seemed like forever. And she cluster fed every night for the first few months: Lily Rose would be at my boobs from pretty much the time Jon got home from work until the time we all went to sleep. We would dish up dinner or make something quick together, get cozy on the couch and binge watch more than a few TV series on Netflix while eating (usually with Lily still at my boob). Because being snuggled at my breast was her happy place.
LR and I have been lucky to have a pretty awesome breastfeeding relationship. There were first-time mom hiccups to overcome for sure, including the toe curling pain every time she latched on for the first few weeks and an over-dependence on nipple cream, but thankfully things went pretty smoothly after that. There was never tongue tie, she never got thrush. I had no plugged milk ducts or dreaded mastitis. I had quite a lot of milk (until these past few months), so my supply wasn’t an issue. But I knew by the small amount of fat that settled at the top of my milk after I pumped, and as evidenced by my small sized babe, that my milk wasn’t thick. Lily didn’t seem to mind though: she always seemed satisfied with her main source of nourishment, didn’t cry for more following feedings and was filling lots of wet diapers. But I worried something was wrong with my milk, or that it wasn’t enough. I wanted, like hopefully most parents, what is best for my babe, so if my boobies, no matter how large and in charge they were, weren’t supplying Lily Rose with the kind of fatty milk she needed, I was game to supplement with formula to see if it helped. But even when I asked the doctor and health nurses, they didn’t think she needed it.
When she started eating solids around 6 months, the amount she sometimes consumed had us hoping she would finally be making her move to Chunktown. Lily gobbled up most things, from baby cereal to fruit and some veggies, bread, cheese and a bit of meat. Then all of a sudden she decided she wanted to be a big girl and feed herself, forcing us to dive into the realm of finger foods way earlier than we hoped! She has gotten a bit picky in recent months, still favours fruit, cheese, pasta and bread, but we still marvel at the amount of food she can fit into that little body.
It was about this time that I started taking Lily Rose to more activities with other moms and babies. It was so great to get out, meet moms, get Lily socialized more:) But at times I found myself doing what no parent should: I started comparing my kid to others. It was the baby girl at music class whose parents affectionately called “tank,” the boys with bellies that rolled out from under their tops at swimming, all the babies at moms group who seemed to fit into their their little jeans and t shirts so well, while Lily usually swam in hers (unless I continued to put her in clothes a size or two smaller than her age…of course then she had flood pants cause she is pretty long!). Even when moms of big and small babies alike tried to reassure me that all babies are different, that Lily was fine, I still stressed.
To be sure everything was fine with Lily, I made an appointment to see a pediatrician. It was going to take a bit to get in, but since our new doctor in Regina wasn’t concerned, there was no rush. Then her 9 month check up rolled around, and something changed: Lily Rose made a jump forward in percentiles. It wasn’t a huge jump, but it was enough to satisfy our doctor that she was finally growing and gaining more. She said Lily was “excellent”, hitting all her milestones, healthy and happy. And since she was making progress, an appointment with the pediatrician was no longer necessary.
That was over two months ago, and I finally accept that I have a pleasantly petite baby. She even has some sweet thigh rolls, kissable cheeks and a little bit of a belly now. When Lily doesn’t want to nurse much anymore, I know she is growing older, more interested in playing and eating actual food than being snuggled at Mommy’s breast. And when she refuses to eat something, I remind myself that all babies, and all people, have days when they aren’t as hungry; she may be teething or not feeling well; or just maybe she doesn’t love the scrambled eggs or cooked fish I try to get her to love like me (and Daddy hates!). Whether it’s a great metabolism, just her body type, or the fact that she hasn’t stopped moving since the moment she got mobile (seriously, if there was such a thing, LR would win gold in crawling at the Baby Olympics!), she is a long and lean little lady (this short and curvy girl is now happy!) and we are hoping she grows to be tall just like her Daddy.
I have also learned to appreciate the benefits of having a small babe. It was always nicer to have a littler little one to lug around on a daily basis, but while traveling this summer, I really saw it: the two seven hour flights to and from Europe, countless hours spent in airport line ups, in cabs and on public transportation seemed a little less brutal with our little Lily. Jon can still carry our almost one year old in the Baby Bjorn, making things like a brewery and stadium tour, and an upcoming Riders game much easier and more fun. And she doesn’t go through clothes like crazy: at the start, we got more time than most in her too cute newborn clothes, and now she fits into her sweet styles for longer.
I am ashamed that something as small as Lily’s weight kept me up at night, because there are far graver things to have to deal with. I have friends’ and family members’ whose babies are ill, had to stay in hospital, undergo treatment or make more than regular check ups with the doctor for a variety of health issues. These parents are my heroes, braving whatever they and their child are facing with grace, strength and often admirable optimism. But save for a minor chest infection and a few colds, Lily Rose has been a healthy girl so far, and we are SO thankful for that!
I feel like I should apologize to Jon, my family and friends for the time I spent stressing to them about our girl’s weight and thank them for always believing that she just needed more time than others to grow and gain. I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time worrying; reveling in the joys of motherhood instead of over-thinking things. I think a big part of my worrying came from my over-reliance on the internet. It can be a blessing and a curse, this ability we now have to get information quickly and easily with a swipe of a finger or the push of a button. Moms nowadays can find the answers to all their questions, and learn so much from sources online. But it can also be our downfall into obsessively trolling sites to check whether our babies are adequately eating, gaining, sleeping, growing and learning. All babies are different, and seasoned moms and experienced doctors will reassure you that not everything you read on even reputable sites can be taken as gospel, because what is normal for one, or even most babies, is not necessarily the norm for your own. It took me only almost a year to really get this (better late than never!).
But this baby weight worry was a part of my journey into motherhood, one of the hurdles I had to overcome. And in the end, it’s only a blip on Lily Rose’s life story. For me, it has been a valuable lesson in letting go; learning not to compare your baby to others or take too much stock in what’s on the internet; being grateful for the health of your little one, and finally; accepting that happy babies come in all shapes and sizes.