Tuesday, October 13, 2009

You Have Got to be Kidding!

Years ago, I remember visiting my dear friend in the hospital hours after she had given birth to a healthy baby girl. Holding her infant daughter, who was swaddled in a hospital blanket decorated with pastel colored teddy bears, my friend was beaming.

"She's beautiful," I said.

My friend smiled and responded, "I know. She only weighed 6 pounds and 3 ounces, and I'm hoping from day one, she'll always be petite and thin."

All I could think about was this poor little baby, only hours old, and already her mother was preoccupied with her weight and her wish for her daughter be be thin. While I was appalled, apparently the insurance companies approve of this sentiment. This was what I read about today:

A Colorado health insurance company denied 4 month old Alex Lange coverage claiming he has a pre-existing condition - obesity - which makes him a financial risk. Alex weighs 17 pounds and is breastfed. After gaining national attention, The Rocky Mountain Health Plan said this past Monday that it will reverse it's decision for babies who are "healthy but fat."

Alex's mother, Kelli Lange, said that her baby has had nothing but breat milk and that the brief insurance rejection didn't change how she fed him. She stated, "I'm not going to withhold food to get him down to below that number of 95 {the 95% on the bell shaped curve}. Good for her. Although I do worry a bit when Alex's parents joked that, "when he is ready for solid food, they will start him on slim-Fast."

I remember being in a play group way back when. There was a woman who was a nurse and the mother of 6 month old Kyle. Kyle had a healthy appetite and was exclusively bottlefed. Kyle was a big, happy, health baby until his pediatrician and mother became concerned about his weight. They decided that Kyle's intake must be reduced. They cut out a predetermined number of ounces, reducing the number of bottles he was allowed each day. From that point on, when we met for our weekly playgroup, I came equipped with a bottle of Excedrin. Kyle would scream, cry and howl. The once happy baby became miserable when he was up, and would no longer go down for his nap. He just cried and cried. Kyle was hungry, and his mother refused to feed him, "for his own good." His mother, I should add, was a chronic dieter who, I have to say, was a bit on the moody side herself.

We need health care reform, and major changes in the health insurance industry, for sure. The Alex Lange case is outrageous. But we also need some intensive care as a culture. The hope for a lower weight infant daughter to stay petite and thin? The withholding of sustenance from a happy, thriving 6 month old because he's deemed "too fat?" No wonder there is such body shame in our culture, and so many people engaged in an unhealthy relationship with food, their bodies and themselves. I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes, that babies, before the interference begins, can model for those of us who forget:

"When hungry eat your rice, when tired close your eyes. Fools may laugh at me, but wise men will know what I mean." -Lin-Chi


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