Things Only Moms of Skinny Babies Understand

I know this might come as a shock to some, but not all babies have cute, chubby rolls that are just asking to be pinched.

In fact, my 14-month-old son has never had a baby roll. Not one. Not at birth, not at six months, not now, not ever. He’s been a lean, energy machine since the day we brought him home from the hospital.

Despite living in a world of chubby baby-loving memes, I’m a proud mom to a skinny baby. I never thought the size of my child would be such a significant part of my new mom experience, but it has been. And while moms of big babies likely face different challenges, here are some things that my fellow tiny tot moms might understand….

Strangers guessing that your child is months younger than he/she actually is (and other unwelcome comments)

I can’t tell you how often strangers have assumed my son is quite a bit younger than his actual age. When he was 6 months, people guessed that he was 3 months, when he was 9 months, people guessed he was 6 months, and so on. At around 13 months, I remember a pharmacist at a grocery store asking, “So, he’s about 8 months, right?” Yes, my 8-month-old walks, waves, and says “hi,” thanks for asking! (I guess my son must look quite advanced to some!) And of course, I often hear comments like, “What a little guy!” or “He’s so tiny!”

While comments like these are often not intended to be rude and most people are just trying to make friendly conversation, they can certainly make a mom to a skinny baby feel insecure and worry about her child’s weight, especially in those very early months. (I’ve decided there are two things you should never guess  – a pregnant woman’s due date and baby’s age.) I know I would almost always prefer to hear “he’s so cute!” over comments about my child’s (lack of) size.

And then there are the questions about my son’s birth size. “Was he a preemie?” or “He must have been small at birth, right?” (For the record, my son was born full term at a healthy weight.) I personally feel that these questions are not appropriate and might be quite a sensitive subject for some mothers.

Difficulty finding clothes that fit

Dressing a thin baby can be a challenge. When people told me not to buy too many newborn clothes because my son would grow out of them so quickly…yeah, I wish I hadn’t listened. I’m pretty sure my son wore newborn clothes until he was three months old! Because my son is pretty average in length but below average in weight, baby clothes just don’t fit him properly. I always joke that I’m going to make a “slim fit” baby/toddler line specifically for little ones like mine. (Now don’t go stealing my Shark Tank idea…) A size 12-month length with a 9-month waist would be perfect for my son – and baby belts, where can I get those?

By the way, I’ve personally found that Carter’s and Child of Mine at Walmart make the slimmest fitting clothes for small or skinny babies.

Worry about milk/food intake

My skinny 14-month-old loving his pasta!

In the early months, a mom who is nursing can feel particularly stressed by a constant comments that her baby is small and/or questions about how much her baby is eating. This may make her question her choice to breastfeed or feel concerned about her milk supply (which is rarely a problem – but if it is, this should be addressed with her doctor or a lactation consultant). Her doctor may even raise an eyebrow and push supplementing, even if it’s not what the mom wants to do. Until I learned to advocate for myself and find a doctor who supported breastfeeding, I was dealing with a pediatrician who wanted me to supplement, in hopes that my son could meet some magical percentile number (which, by the way, he never met – even after starting solids). I was even told by a pediatrician once to “force feed” my child to “bulk him up.” I immediately switched pediatricians, in case you’re wondering. My child took to solids on his own timeline, and he now eats almost anything I put in front of him. I never forced him to eat because I believe in creating a healthy relationship with food. 

And even if mom is bottle feeding and knows exactly how much breast milk or formula her baby is consuming, she still may be worried about other health problems due to comments about her child’s size. I often asked myself, “Why is my child is so much thinner than other babies?” “Could he have a digestive issue?” “Do I need to feed him more, even when he’s not hungry?”

The reality is, some babies are JUST SMALL and still PERFECTLY HEALTHY. I know I grew up with the perception that chubby babies = healthy babies. Since having my own skinny babe, I’ve learned that this is certainly not always the case.

Just barely hanging onto to that percentile chart

Oh, I know those percentile charts all too well. As a new mom, it can feel like a percentile chart is like a test in school. 90th percentile MUST mean better, and the lowest percentile must mean you’re failing as a mother. Not true whatsoever! Just like some babies have to be at the top of the chart, others have to be at the bottom. All can be very normal and healthy, so long as a child is growing along his or her curve and meeting milestones. My son has fallen anywhere from the 2nd-10th percentile since birth (on the lower end as he became mobile). Once my doctor realized he was continuing to grow at his own rate each month, she happily said, “He’s healthy – he’s just thin!” Just like adults, babies and toddlers come in all shapes and sizes. Some stay on the lowest percentile as they age, some shoot up over time, some get smaller, taller, or bigger. Also, it’s worth mentioning that genetics can play a large role, as well. A baby with very small parents is unlikely to be the next star linebacker.

As for my “little” guy, he is happily hanging out at the lowest part of the line on that chart – but he doesn’t know that. He’s just a happy, on-the-go toddler who is loving life!

Did you or do you have a skinny baby? What were your experiences?

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18 Responses to Things Only Moms of Skinny Babies Understand

  1. Haley April 16, 2016 at 2:12 pm #

    Yes. Yes. Yes. I know these all too well
    My son suffers from severe allergies and they’ve had a huge impact on his weight. Sometimes I wish people would just learn to mind their own business.

    • marjorieludwig April 20, 2016 at 4:05 pm #

      I agree. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all, right?

  2. Jennifer Akin April 17, 2016 at 11:54 am #

    My twins too! I and a PA tell me in a well visit to just give my kids a bunch of sauce since its high calorie. Uhhhhh…no thanks. My 6 year olds are still wearing 24 month infant shorts but we never get sick and they eat whole foods all day. Like hogs.

    In a country with a growing obesity problem, this is not major. I wish I could be as skinny.

    • marjorieludwig April 20, 2016 at 4:07 pm #

      Sounds like they are perfectly healthy! My doctor suggested Pediasure for my son, and that stuff is full of sugar and junk. I don’t want him to develop a taste for only sweet food and junk food just because he’s thin!

  3. Lauren April 18, 2016 at 1:13 am #

    I have a 1 month old who was 6 pounds 4 ounces at birth. She isn’t SMALL by any stretch, but because she was considered smaller than average we had glucose tests in the hospital. I had to call for a nurse to check her blood levels before EVERY feeding. Then, because she was slightly jaundiced, and I chose to breastfeed, we had 3 jaundice blood tests also (including returning to the hospital over the weekend). Now we are home, happy and healthy, with a supportive pediatrician. I too had the comments, don’t buy newborn clothes. Thankfully we were given clothes by a friend who also had a small baby, so we had clothes that actually fit her.

    • marjorieludwig April 20, 2016 at 4:08 pm #

      So happy to hear that your daughter is home and healthy and that you have a great pediatrician! When we decide to have another baby, I’m definitely going to stock up the newborn sizes this time!

  4. Brittany April 20, 2016 at 2:41 pm #

    I so agree with all of these. My son was a 7lb baby. I wished I had more newborn clothes and diapers for my son when we first brought him home, especially with him being a winter baby. He’s 26 months and 23 lbs lol. Nobody can believe he is 2 but are surprised when he starts speaking. Put him next to a few 18 month olds and he blends in perfectly. I’m in love with Carters, but I’ve also found Okie Dokie fits my slimmer guy too. It drives me nuts when people say “just go to childrens place, their pants are adjustable waist.” Well, thats great if they fit the waist, but they’re super baggy lol If i’m lucky he can wear a skinny jean.

    • marjorieludwig April 25, 2016 at 2:01 pm #

      Yes! My son is 14 months old, but he could easily fit in with a group of children several months younger. He looks quite small compared to other kids his age, especially because he’s not super tall, either. I will have to try Okie Dokie brand! Agree with your comment about the pants with the adjustable waist, as well. The wide pant legs just look ridiculous on my child’s skinny legs!

  5. Marlaina April 20, 2016 at 3:29 pm #

    I get that premie question ALL the time! I hate it. My 6 month old still fits in 0-3 clothes. Our ped actually loves that my babies are small. They are healthy and happy!

    • marjorieludwig April 25, 2016 at 2:04 pm #

      My son was also wearing that size at 6 months! The preemie comments can definitely get to you. Hang in there, mama – happy to hear you have a supportive ped. That makes all the difference!

  6. Ashleigh April 20, 2016 at 10:43 pm #

    So much yes to this! My daughter has consistently been in the bottom 5% or below for weight since birth. I had to take her in for weekly weight checks for the first six months Of her life. I met with lactation consultant after lactation consultant and supplemented when all else failed to make my lazy suckling eat well. I cried my eyes out thinking I had failed as a mother because she just didn’t gain enough! I made myself crazy for the first test of her flow until finally I found a pediatrician who looked at the charts (can they please throw those antiquated guidelines out the window) and looked at me and said, “Nora’s just tiny.” And you know what, I now have a 4 year old who just today made the 13th percentile for weight! She’s a happy, healthy, smart, skinny, and perfect girl. You got his mama! Your baby is just find!

    • marjorieludwig April 25, 2016 at 2:06 pm #

      I have been to the point of tears many, many times – due to excessive worry about my son’s weight and due to other people’s comments. Being a mom is not easy, but throw in worries about child’s weight and health in the mix, and it becomes even more difficult. I wish we could stop focusing so much on the charts, as well. Instead, let’s focus on a child’s development and overall appearance. My pediatrician has always said that although my son’s weight is very low, he looks healthy. He doesn’t have ribs showing, he’s proportionate – he’s just thin! Thank you for the kind words. Your little girl sounds perfect!

  7. Becca April 25, 2016 at 9:07 pm #

    I nodded along to this whole post, right down to wearing newborn for the first three months. I once had a lady at the library ask how old my baby was, and when I told her she asked if he was a preemie and then gave me a disgusted look when I said no. It turned out he was tongue tied which did affect his weight gain, but his genetics are still long and lean. He’ll be 7 this summer and has a pair of 24 month shorts he can fit in (they’re just finally too short this year!).
    I resolved back then not to comment on a baby’s size anymore. Three babies and 7 years into being a mom, I still acutely recall the tears, the worry, the sting of thoughtless words (and genes are strong so we ran into the same thing with future babies). I now stuck with, “He’s growing so much!” with a big, encouraging smile for mom no matter her baby’s size.

    • marjorieludwig May 12, 2016 at 12:51 pm #

      Sorry to hear you went through this, too, mama! I also try NOT to comment on a child’s size – or anyone’s, for that matter – because I understand what those comments can feel like at times. I like the “He’s growing so much!” comment. Always a good one. 🙂

  8. April April 26, 2016 at 10:28 am #

    My 11 month old has consistently been around 25th percentile for weight and 95th for height so he is very long and lean! The struggle to find proper fitting clothes is real! I love the Old Navy girls skinny jeans (the boys are so wide!) for him! They are the only ones I’ve found that fit his little waist without being too short.

    • marjorieludwig May 12, 2016 at 12:52 pm #

      He does sound very long and lean! I will have to check out those jeans – thanks!

  9. Erica P May 30, 2016 at 5:09 pm #

    This is my life! I’m still working on not letting other’s comments bother me. My little girl is 1 1/2 and comfortably fits 6-9 month tops and 3 month shorts. She is smart and happy so I know I need to relax. She has severe eczema and a thyroid problem. She also comes from a long line of skinny legged family members. I’m still learning to let go and trust God that my girl is just how he wants her to be. I pray for all moms who go through this same issue to have faith in God’s plan for your child:-)

  10. Stephanie May 31, 2016 at 12:37 am #

    My son was a premier born 5.2 pounds now 18 months only low on weight active. But skinny and can eat all day. Lower body says 12 months but long upper body. But he goes through shoes like crazy. Love this article made me feel not alone with wow he’s such a little guy.