Your doctor turns from his computer and says “your baby isn’t following a growth curve”. This statement is usually followed by instant mom guilt, panic, and compulsive Googling. Before we arrive home from the doctor’s appointment, we have researched every serious illness at traffic lights, and likely planned for how our child is going to stay in their 40lb booster seat forever (or maybe that’s just me!). As moms, we always take growth in our babies personally and I wish I had a dollar for every time I talked about my child’s weight with my pediatrician. The anxiety that the growth curve produces is exhausting and all-consuming. This I know.
The mom guilt will sneak in here. Guilt thrives when you have no control over something that is happening to your child. This feeling is like treading water. You hear the advice from the physicians— you need to feed your baby better. You need to supplement with formula, or make their diet higher in fat, or you need to feed even more than you’re already feeding. And then you need to come in for weight checks every week so they know if baby is healthy. This guilt consumes every part of your mind. I have been there.
Some days I feel thankful for physicians who care so much that they’re able to follow my child on her journey. Other days I have misplaced anger at our physician team for not helping me more or for making me feel like I am not trying hard enough. I know the anger and frustration is misplaced, but I still allow myself to process this because feeling is part of healing. Some days recognize that I have physician fatigue. I love my doctors, but maybe we could have a month of worry-free checkups? These emotions that flow through you are real and normal. As a mom we want to have a healthy child above all else and slower weight gain is not a sign of failure. “Failure to thrive”— does not mean you have failed as a parent. It means you have a speed bump in your parenting journey that you need to add to your list, but you will get through this.
My advice on this one is to trust your physicians. They have a lot of medial experience and while you may be anxious to have answers, sometimes there is a process to getting answers. And occasionally there are no answers. A child who stays in the 3rd percentile and is growing and developing as a child their age may just be a tiny kid. There is a 3rd percentile and a 99th percentile for a reason. Some babies just fall on one or the other.
The second trick when dealing with a health hurdle is focusing on all of the amazing things your child can do. My daughter feels empathy like no one I have ever met. She is witty, kind and cuddles like a boss! And while she will not be the star of the basketball team, no one tries harder at crossing the monkey bars than she does— that strength, determination and empathy for others is what will take her far. The joy she brings to my life every day is what matters, and the rest will fall in to place.
Mamas. I see you with your coffee, worrying and wondering what you could do better. I know you. I am you! This gig is hard and there is no manual. But before you blame yourself, ask the inner critical voice how much love you’re giving to your baby every day. Crush the critical voice with your knowledge that your baby is loved beyond measure, and then finish your coffee and keep going. You got this, mamas.
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