Why Having a Gerber Baby With Down Syndrome Matters

Sometimes the news isn’t as straightforward as it’s made to seem. Ellen Stumbo, The Mighty’s Parenting Editor, explains what to keep in mind if you see this topic or similar stories in your newsfeed. This is The Mighty Takeaway.

On Wednesday, Gerber announced Lucas Warren the winner of its yearly photo contest. Lucus is the first Gerber baby with Down syndrome.

It’s not news that disability representation is lacking in media, and this applies to baby magazines and baby products, too.

Ten years ago, as we arrived home from the hospital after the birth of my daughter with Down syndrome, I grabbed the stack of baby and parenting magazines laying on our kitchen table. I quickly flipped through them, searching for a baby who looked like mine. There were no babies with Down syndrome — no babies with visible disabilities. As a new mom dealing with a new diagnosis and needing to find a sense of normalcy, those magazines made me feel utterly isolated. Bawling, I grabbed the magazines and threw them in our trash compactor.

Where were the families like mine? The babies like mine? They certainly were not shown and celebrated.

When my daughter was almost 2 years old, my cousin, who worked at Target at the time, sent me a message letting me know they were casting for models with disabilities. This move by Target was new in the industry. Today, it is not unusual to see kids with Down syndrome or other disabilities in their advertisements and catalogs. Target has also created a clothing line for children with sensory issues, expanding now to include comfortable clothing for adults, too. (This means I am fully justified when I run to Target to buy bread and eggs and come out with a cart full).

And today, a baby with Down syndrome was chosen, to be the face of Gerber. Baby Lucas will be seen in Gerber’s social media; his beautiful physical features characteristic of Down syndrome will be front and center.

There will be a mom coming home from a hospital with a baby with Down syndrome, wondering if there are babies like hers — and baby Lucas will be there.

And I know I am not the only person who feels this way.

We live in a world that does not often value people with disabilities. One of the most common questions I get asked is, “Did you know your daughter had Down syndrome before she was born?” To me, this question implies children with Down syndrome are not wanted. My daughter is wanted, and she was wanted even when a level II ultrasound revealed several markers consistent with Down syndrome. Her diagnosis was unexpected, but she was always wanted.

TODAY co-host Savannah Guthrie said it best in an interview with Lucas’ parents, “It says so much; the Gerber baby is the ideal baby.” Then she said, directly to Lucas, “and Lucas, you are the ideal baby.”

The new Gerber baby of the year has Down syndrome. He will be the symbol of the “ideal” baby. Amazing! Baby Lucas will break stereotypes and perceptions. That is a reason to celebrate.

Yes, indeed, our babies with Down syndrome can be the ideal babies.

Image via Instagram

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