We are often asked "How do I respond when people constantly comment on my child’s body size in front of them?”
When my youngest was 3 months old (and 99th percentile weight/age and length/age), a woman came up to me at lunch and said, “My dear, what on earth are you feeding that poor child?” As you can imagine, there were so many responses that flooded my head (I really wanted to stand up for parents everywhere), but I responded with confusion as she shuffled away. I don’t know if she had any idea how hurtful her comment could be, especially if directed to a new parent who might be struggling with feeding their baby.
When you have a child that’s smaller or larger than “average,” it’s common for family, friends and strangers to make comments about their size. Many times it’s not said with malintent - it’s simply an observation or is used as small talk. When you don’t see a child for a few months it’s natural to celebrate how much they have grown or how tall they are becoming. It’s also easy to compare when you have children of the same age - their sizes can be dramatically different, and that’s OK! We are all meant to be different sizes.
However, sometimes these comments can strike an emotional chord.
These comments - which are said both with or without judgment - can be hurtful, and sometimes it helps to have quick responses to use.
Try out some of these responses to keep language more neutral about your child's body size.
The last two suggestions are a bit more direct and can be helpful when talking with a family member or someone who is around your child often - they can imply that you’re uncomfortable with them regularly talking about your child’s size and want to focus on something else.
Above all else, we recommend avoiding discussing nutritional or growth challenges in front of your child when possible.
It's natural to respond with, "Well, yeah, he never eats" or "She eats more than my husband does!" Children tend to live up to the labels we place on them, and the amount of food they eat depends on so many factors (many of which are out of your child's control).
If you kiddo always hears that they're "tiny" or "huge," try to remind them that they are just right for their body and that we are all so different. You can show them pictures of different animals and explain that not every creature is the same size. Reassure them that you will help them grow into the body that they are meant to have and that they can always talk to you about their body. Your home is a safe place for that.
In the end, the goal is for us to try to focus less on size and outward appearance and more on inner beauty, personality, values, strengths and what we're contributing to the world. As The Bird's Papaya says, "You are beautiful, and that's the least interesting thing about you!"