By Guest Blogger: Justine Roth, MS, RD
From a mother’s weight gain during pregnancy to the day of delivery and after, it seems like motherhood is coupled with a continuous stream of judgments about our size, the way we eat and how we are feeding our kids. Now I know people mean well and am confident enough not to be too bothered by these things but how do comments and advice affect moms out there and eventually their children?
Mothers might internalize these comments, which can potentially affect the way they feel about their own body image and thus the children. It is challenging enough to be a new Mom, let alone questioning if what we are feeding our babies and ourselves is exactly “perfect.” In reality there is no perfect; rather the goal can be to create a healthy relationship with food and our bodies while keeping in mind what makes the most sense for you and your family.
My little girl is now 6 months old and I have been fielding comments regarding my size and hers since the day she was conceived. Throughout my pregnancy, various people told me how big I was getting (you must be having a girl!) to how my face hadn’t changed a bit (it must be a boy!) After she was born however, the attention and comments shifted to my daughter, “Look at those thighs, what do you feed her?!” Similarly, I have also heard the opposite in cases where mothers carrying small or who have smaller babies feel sensitive to comments regarding both their own and their children’s size.
As a registered dietitian, I feel it is very important to focus more on nourishing yourself and your child both during and after pregnancy, and less about the weight gain that naturally occurs during pregnancy or where your child falls on the growth chart. Whether you are breast-feeding, giving formula, or introducing solid foods to your little ones, it is crucial to not listen to all of the “shoulds” and “musts” about feeding your family and go with what you feel the most comfortable with.
As new mothers, comment (no matter what they are) may feel like a judgment hitting on something we might already be nervous about. Truthfully, many times pregnant women and new mothers receive more advice than they may like to hear or know what to do with. Pregnancy and motherhood can be filled with conflicting emotions and ideas. Remember that weight gain during pregnancy is natural and when the time comes, focus more on nourishing your newborn the best you can, rather than their weight or size. When it comes to fielding comments, the best we can do is to learn how to weed through what we feel is helpful and try to let the negative or less beneficial comments roll off our back.
Justine Violante Roth MS, RD, CDN ., is a registered dietitian who specializes in eating disorders, medical nutrition therapy, and general nutrition counseling. She is the director of the nutrition department at the NYS Psychiatric Institute, an inpatient treatment hospital affiliated with Columbia University. Justine has almost 10 years experience working with the eating disorder population in various settings including inpatient, day program, and private practice. She has also shared her expertise with st