Breastfeeding and Losing Weight After Pregnancy: Did a Chunky Baby Make for a Skinny Mommy?

I faced plenty of challenges after the birth of each of my sons — dressing them appropriately, finding baby-friendly songs to sing, not getting attacked by seagulls while feeding them…

But one thing that happened to come easily, postpartum, was losing weight.

I had no trouble slimming down after both pregnancies. I like to think I earned my weight loss after the birth of baby no. 1: I was religious about taking long, daily walks. I had large breakfasts and ate reasonably sized meals otherwise. I know that’s not a recipe for weight loss for every mom, but it worked for me.

What happened after baby no. 2, however, I can’t take credit for. Because Scrunchy Face was a winter baby, daily walks were out of the question. We were lucky to get outside for fifteen minutes at a time, and even then, most of the time I just hovered over him shivering instead of actually going anywhere. And with two little kids to worry about now, I’m not exactly killing it in the self-care department: exercise? Um, nope. Healthy eating? Er, Doritos have fiber, right?

Nonetheless, less than three months after the baby’s birth, I wasn’t just at my pre-pregnancy weight — I was below it. (Which is not to say I am in awesome shape, as this post makes clear.)

But how did I lose the weight? The only explanation I could think of was my baby — my very, very large baby. The one who I’ve been breastfeeding since birth.

Scrunchy Face was born at nearly 9 pounds and has continued to tip the scales since, recently hitting the 98th percentile in weight for his age. I had to wonder: was his precipitous weight gain the reason for my precipitous weight loss? Did he somehow suck my pregnancy weight right off of me? Was I skinny because my baby was fat?

Feeling curious and more than a little bit guilty, I reached out to lactation consultant extraordinaire Nancy Mohrbacher to find out if, indeed, my weight loss and Scrunchy Face’s abundant baby fat were intertwined.

Mohrbacher, the author of several books on breastfeeding, assured me that  from what I told her, my weight loss and Scrunchy Face’s weight gain are likely coincidental. She pointed out that multiples consume much more milk than a single breast-fed baby, and yet she’s never seen a link between nursing multiples and greater weight loss in a mother — not even when said multiples were quintuplets!

Side note: Mohrbacher said there are two sets of fully-breastfed quintuplets mentioned in scientific literature on nursing. Can you imagine nursing FIVE babies? There just wouldn’t be a tub of lanolin big enough…

But I digress. Mohrbacher said that my weight loss is likely due to my “unique metabolism” and how it’s affected by breastfeeding.

I’d also be remiss not to mention that, Scrunchy Face’s heft notwithstanding, some studies have found that breastfed babies are less likely to be overweight later in life…though there have been studies refuting that too.

“Bottom line, there are many things about breastfeeding that promote good feeding habits, namely baby-driven regulation of volume intake and variation in flavor of breastmilk with mothers intake broadening acceptance of flavors in infants,” Christopher Bolling, a member of the Executive Committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Obesity, told me. “There are plenty of reasons to promote breastfeeding while we continue to deepen our understanding of the relationship between breastfeeding and weight status.”

As for Scrunchy Face’s weight status? I’m going to try to follow the advice Dr. Bolling gives in a BabyZone piece I interviewed him for here in time for National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month… and I won’t be sharing my Doritos with my baby anytime soon.


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