Measuring a Woman’s Worth

It seems like so much of the world tells us that we measure our value based on numbers on a scale or on the tag in our pants. I’ve struggled for a long time to break myself of the habit of determining my personal value based on the number on my scale.

Scale - You are More important than this number

Are there days that I still feel like I need to judge myself based on a weight or clothing size? Yes, but I’m getting better at arguing against that instinct.

But I’ve found a new way that weight can batter my self-confidence.

Baby scale cartoon

The weight on the scale at the pediatrician’s office when they weigh my daughter.

When she was first born and she didn’t really drop in weight, they praised me. “Oh, good job Mom! You’re feeding that baby so well!”

Then when you go to the doctor for your baby’s 6-month appointment (it was on Wednesday) and they tell you your baby is in the 5th percentile for weight, there’s a certain feeling of judgment that comes from statements like, “You need to feed her more!” and “She’s too small! How often are you feeding her?” When that starts, you immediately feel like a shitty parent. Well… at least I did.

Alex weighed in at 13 pounds, 6 ounces; this was not quite a full pound of weight gain in two months since her previous appointment. The doctor’s office told me that in addition to introducing solids, I have to feed her two additional times each day. I wanted to cry, I felt like I must be failing my child.

But after talking with my husband and my mother, I can’t help but wonder if maybe she’s just small. I mean, if she was starving, wouldn’t she let us know? She doesn’t look spindly, she looks healthy and has cute baby rolls on her legs. Plus if she had been to the doctor right after a feeding as opposed to right before a feeding, how would her weight change? I mean, she could have had 5-8 ounces of milk inside that cute little belly in that case. When you’re a baby, I would imagine that each ounce helps to make a difference on their charts. And maybe they were using the CDC growth charts… I’ve heard that those are more geared toward formula-fed babies and the WHO growth charts are a little more accurate for breastfed babies.

Let’s also consider that I was always at the bottom of the percentile charts as a kiddo. Considering she does share my genetic code, there’s a chance she takes after me, right?

It just bothered me that not only do women have their value judged by their own weight and appearance, but also on their children’s weight. So thanks doctor, for kind of ruining my day the other day and adding to what was already a stressful and anxiety-filled day. (I had to leave town for work and took the baby with me. It was my first time traveling with her on my own. It made me nervous.) I’ve been trying to feed the baby more, to follow the doctor’s instructions. The result has been my baby spitting up more and pooping more so far. I will take her back in 6 weeks (we have to go back for a weight check in 6 weeks instead of just waiting until 9-months for the next typical well-baby checkup) and see how things are going. Hopefully they’ll be satisfied with her progress and won’t make me feel chastised.


  1. True story- When I was in Kindergarten, I wore a size two toddler. TWO TODDLER. I was five. When I was six, I had major (i.e. lifesaving) surgery after an infection in my intestines. I was 32 pounds when I left the hospital. People made the most insane comments to my mom. Completely off the wall and out of line. I was too young to understand and confused because I would hear people tell her to feed me and think “I eat all the time” because I did! I was just small. Very, very small.

    When I was in middle school, my mom was more concerned about the weight. I was about 80 pound at age 12 with no period. The doctors ran some tests and I was fine. Just very small. However, the doctors did suggest to my mom that I might benefit from hormone therapy. They suggested I would never get above 4’8 and that hormone therapy could add inches as well as weight. My parents weren’t fond of the idea. They did what parents should do and had an open discussion with me about it. I said no way. I would rather just be small.

    When I was 14 I got my period. I hit 100 pounds in my senior year.

    Today I am 5’1. I am a healthy 127 pounds.

    Take that doctors!

    • AMEN! Thanks for chiming in! My brother and I were both low on the percentile charts… now we’re perfectly respectable-sized adults. Obviously I want to do right by my daughter, but I also think there’s a good chance that this is just how she is!

  2. Don’t die of shock that I am actually commenting on here! I just want to add my 2 cents:) Ashlyn didn’t even make it on those dumb charts until she was 5 and even then she was only in the 5th percentile. She weighed 14.5 lbs at her 1 year appt. She is just my little peanut. You are an amazing mom and your sweet little Alex looks perfectly healthy & happy! BTW, I love ya & hope I get to come down for Spring Break so I can finally meet her!

  3. Oh, I have MANY things to say about this, but I’ll try to keep it brief and coherent.

    Annalie was technically a preemie, born four weeks early. She weighed 4 lbs 5 oz at birth and less than four pounds when we left the hospital. She was slow to gain weight over the next few months, I struggled a lot with nursing, I had a couple of doctors try to scare the crap out of me about failure-to-thrive syndrome, despite the facts: she was continuing to grow in length and head circumference, she was peeing and pooping like she was supposed to, she was hitting her developmental milestones, and she was happy and curious and interested in people and the world around her. Around the four-month mark, I got sick of doctors and relatives fretting at me about how skinny and little my happy, bright-eyed girl was, so I started offering her a bottle of formula every day in addition to the frillion times a day she nursed. I worried at the time that she would want to quit nursing (which happens sometimes when a BFing mom starts using bottles, because they’re less work for the baby), but you might be able to guess what happened: she drank an additional 2-8 ounces of formula per day (depending on the day), she continued to nurse a frillion times a day, she continued to grow and thrive, and she started gaining juuuuust enough weight to hit the very bottom of the “acceptable” weight gain for her age. She stayed tiny, though she did start gaining a little more weight once she started eating solids (and once I saw how enthusiastic she was about real food, I weaned her off the formula and she was fine). BUT Annalie stayed in the bottom 5th-10th percentile for weight AND height for her entire first year. She edged up a bit higher to the 15th in her second year. Then around age 2 1/2, she suddenly shot up and ever since she’s been at the 75th percentile or higher for height, and pretty consistently been in the middle for weight.

    What’s funny about all of this is that when my mom and I looked at my baby book, my weight gains when I was an infant were almost identical to Annalie’s supposedly poor weight gains, and my mom says no one ever made a fuss about it with me at all. That is, if I gained 2 oz between two and three months, so did Annalie. It’s just that I started out at twice Annalie’s birth weight, so maybe it didn’t strike anyone as worrisome. Or maybe it’s because my childhood doctor was an awesome, chilled-out kind of person who didn’t see any point in getting worked up over things that weren’t actual problems.

    For what it’s worth, Elliora was also little and at the low end of the growth charts for her entire first year, too. She also got a little formula every day for her first 5-6 months (apparently when it comes to producing breastmilk, I underproduce slightly—which didn’t stop me from nursing both girls into toddlerhood) although she generally drank much less than Annalie did. She’d often drink only an ounce, or half an ounce, and then refuse to drink any more. And since babies—especially primarily breastfed babies—are extraordinarily good at self-regulating their food intake, I presumed she would have drunk more if she were hungry. And like Annalie, once she started eating solids (at five months she was basically grabbing food out of our hands and off our plates), she weaned off the formula. And yet, she stayed little. Heck, I remember her eating almost a whole grilled cheese sandwiche and a cup of tomato soup once when she was about nine months old. She ate like that ALL THE TIME, often more than her big sister, and she still stayed little.

    As a wonderful doctor once said to me, “Hey, someone has to be in the fifth percentile! Nothing wrong with being small, any more than there is anything wrong with being a seven-foot basketball player.”

    I hope you are able to follow your instincts with Alex and that you can be at peace in trusting yourself to know what’s best for your daughter. Because truly, NO ONE knows your girl better than you and Kevin do. And your doctors can make suggestions, but you don’t have to follow them. Really, you don’t! That was a life-altering realization for me. Even if you just smile and nod and agree with them at the doctor’s office, and then go home and do whatever the heck you think is best, that’s okay. As long as Alex is healthy and happy and growing, you’re good.

    (So much for keeping this short. Heh.)

    • I love when you “keep it short”! But I really appreciate your feedback. The simple line about not having to follow the doctor’s office suggestions is pretty powerful! They see her rarely, so they don’t know that she’s a happy, active baby and seems to be thriving, despite being in the 5th percentile for weight according to a little chart they pull out in their 5 minutes with her.

  4. I like what the other commenters have said so far and wanted to add to it. Ormonds are not big people and neither are Whitakers. 13 lbs is fine for 6 months. Nathan was 16 lbs at 1 yr! (I actually think Camden was bigger than Nathan at one year). He wore size 3t to Kindergarten! As an almost 11 yr old, I bought a brand new coat for him this winter and it’s a size 6/7. Seriously. He is perfectly healthy. Shannon is also petite. Allyson and Kyle are my only children who have ever been average or above average on the charts. Is Alex meeting milestones? My guess is yes. Does she eat on a normal schedule? Probably, especially because she’s daycare. Does she cry all day because she’s starving? I think not. Like your friend says, trust your instincts. You’re a good mom.

    • Yep, she’s meeting developmental milestones. (And exceeding them!) She eats well and like you said, she’s not crying all day so I assume that she’s not starving to death! Thanks for the praise and the reminder about other kids in the family!

  5. I love what Bethany said about not getting worked up over things that aren’t actual problems. I could apply that in so many aspects in life. But she’s definitely right about this. As you mentioned, breasted kids are often on the lower end of the percentile range, and both your and Kevin’s families have a history of smaller kids. It sounds like Alex is doing just fine. Shawn is still below the 5th percentile but I’m grateful that his pediatrician never caused unnecessary alarm for me over it. Shawn’ll be starting school soon and I worry a little about the size difference between him and the other kids, but he seems to be completely oblivious to it, as do most of his friends (though not all). Give yourself a break, don’t stress so much about tracking how much you feed her (you’ve got more than enough stress), and try to follow her cues. Even those will change from day to day sometimes. You’re doing great!

  6. I can totally relate to this post! My first daughter Ashlyn weighed 5 lb 12 oz at full term birth. She has remained small since then and is now a 28lb 4 year old. At her 1 yr appt they called her failure to thrive and ran a bunch of blood tests on her. It made me feel like a terrible mother and was so traumatic for us both. They told me to feed her whatever she wanted (bad idea)! She has always been ahead of her peers developmentally and is extremely active and completely healthy! I wish I would have listened to my gut because now she has not so great eating habits and as it turns out they finally leave me alone about her weight and say she is just small like me :/ go figure!! Don’t let them make you feel bad! You are her mother and you know if something isn’t right. She looks like a happy, active beautiful little girl to me!

  7. Great post! I love the picture of the scales which is what made me read it, but content is spot on.

    People need to realise the weight we are told to believe is perfect for us is based on Body Mass Indexing which is completely false! It is so archaic and was originally designed by taking average heights and weights of a cross-section of the male population. It’s as UN-scientific as that!

    This topic makes me really cross, and even more so when children are involved as well.

    You and your baby know so much more intuitively what to do with your nutrition than a doctor and their scales, I wouldn’t worry. Keep loving, keep eating, listen to your bodies and you’ll be fine πŸ™‚

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