Jan 30, 2017

The obsession with chubby kids

I might have raised this issue earlier too but it deserves a separate post. I'm just back from a Chennai trip (my home place) and as usual, the first question that's being asked by elders, even before we step into the house is related to my daughter's weight. I have heard the same question over and over again in the past 5 years and it irks me every time, when asked - "Why has the child become so thin?". By now, I should have got used to this question and should ignore their comments, but I simply couldn't put it aside in my mind. 

First of all, the father is never asked this question. Shouldn't the dad be equally responsible for his daughter's weight? Why do such questions get directed only at the mother? Many times, the question is framed in such a way that the fingers point at the mother - "How did you let her become so thin?". My temper raises a lot when being interrogated this way that I would be on the verge of blurting out - "If you are so concerned, why don't you take care of your grand-daughter for a month?". And I'm pretty sure she would be fed with loads of milk chocolates and pastries to "help" her gain weight, if they ever take up the offer.

My daughter was born under-weight. She has slowly picked up and is within the acceptable percentile. She has been making great progress with her height (my girl is a tall baby!). Her mother (yours truly) had been underweight till her 20s and now she is in the normal weight range. 

Grand-parents with such a weight-obsessed mindset don't give a hoot about how happy or healthy the child is. Neither they care about the child's better immunity nor they pay attention to her increasing height. All they care about is the number shown on the weighing scale and a rotund figure. 

Packaged health drinks manufacturers understand this obsession with many Indian parents (and grandparents). They cleverly market their malted drinks with an attractive tag-line targeted towards weight gain. They even go onto claim that babies with low weight have poor immunity. This results in young children being fed more milk and milk-based products/additives. No wonder, child obesity rates in urban Indian cities are on the rise. 

Children by nature hate the smell of cow's milk, especially babies who are fed their mother's milk. To make the cow's milk palatable, the techniques a few parents use is just appalling. Force-feeding, promising rewards / threatening with punishments, mixing high quantities of sugar, adding flavored syrups, mixing with packaged malt powders and what not. I had earlier written about why I'm okay with my child not drinking milk. Do check it out if you are interested.

To summarize:

(1) Let the child decide whether he/she wants to drink milk. Let's not force our beliefs on them
(2) High on Weight doesn't mean High on Health
(3) Low immunity is caused by malnutrition. It is not an indicator/outcome of low weight
(4) Focus more on whether the child is happy, healthy and strong (physically and emotionally). Weight is not a growth measure to be obsessed about

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