‘Obese’ ‘sumo’ babies, morality and maternal identity
Women's Studies International Forum
Reason for embargo
Historically, a big baby was seen as symbolising good health and care: the ‘bonny bouncing baby’. In the context of the ‘obesity epidemic’ and increasing prevalence of diabetes, in the UK large babies have been re-conceptualised as ‘obese’ ‘sumo babies’, prone to chronic disease throughout their lives. Data from a qualitative longitudinal study of 30 women with co-existing ‘maternal obesity’ (BMI ≥ 30) and Gestational Diabetes Mellitus or Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in pregnancy, conditions which carry a high risk of ‘foetal macrosomia’ or ‘big baby syndrome’, and an analysis of postings to ‘pregnancy’ Internet fora, show how having a high birthweight baby at this socio-historical juncture is seen as a source of stigma, with potential to jeopardise a woman's identity as a ‘good mother’. Drawing on the sociology of accounts, I discuss various ways in which women rhetorically defended themselves against the threat to a moral maternal identity that having a big baby posed. Furthermore, I assert that it is women from lower socio-economic status groups who may be differentially more likely to experience the stigma associated with having a ‘sumo baby’.
This research was funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from the publisher via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 54, pp. 20 - 28