When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I didn’t have to think twice about whether or not I would be breastfeed.
Four years of nursing school and months of working in OB had fully engrained “the breast is best!” mantra in my head. I had no idea what to expect from breastfeeding, having precisely zero women in my family that I knew of who had breastfed, but I knew that I’d read enough studies and helped enough new moms breastfeed to know it was a beautiful, rewarding, and wonderful gift to my baby.
Oh, and then there was the small fact that every expert under the sun assured me and my fellow legions of new mothers out there about the other #1 benefit of breastfeeding: How quickly it would help us lose the baby weight.
Confident that I would be providing for my baby and that a breastfeeding sesh would basically be the equivalent to a full-body workout while sitting on my couch, I smiled a smug smile to myself and waited for the weight to melt off my 22-year-old body.
And it did.
But it wasn’t because of breastfeeding.
On the day that picture was snapped, I was unknowingly running a dangerously high fever and even though my daughter was weeks old, I had already lost a ton of weight. I was hospitalized that night with a raging infection and then again, all before she was six weeks old and in combination with the fact that I was 22, the weight did fall off.
If I expected a repeat performance of the magically vanishing baby weight, however, with babies #2, 3, and 4, I was sorely mistaken.
On the contrary, I was shocked to discover that with my second and third babies, I struggled to lose any weight at all, despite regular exercise — until I was completely done breastfeeding. It felt like my body stubbornly clung to each and every last fat molecule in my cells as if they were all that stood between my baby and a miserable, slow death by starvation.
And when I stopped to think about it, I realized that biologically speaking, maybe that was exactly what was going on. Why wouldn’t a woman’s body want to hold on to all the fat — the quickest, most efficient energy source available — it could while she was feeding another human being? Wouldn’t that make the most sense to ensure that both she and her baby got the nutrients they needed to survive back in our cavewoman days?
I know all about the studies that say that breastfeeding moms lose more weight, but I’m calling science’s bluff on this one.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I am ravenously hungry when I’m breastfeeding, especially in those first few weeks (honestly, I don’t get pregnancy cravings, I get breastfeeding cravings), or the fact that I just have more energy to exercise when I’m done breastfeeding and my boobs can fit in a normal sports bra, but whatever it is, my truth is simple —
I don’t lose the baby weight until I’m done breastfeeding.
And I know I’m not alone.
I’ve talked to a lot of other mothers who have experienced the same thing and it’s left us scratching our heads wondering why on earth this isn’t something that isn’t discussed more. I once had an aunt — a very thin person by genetics and regular exercise — describe her experience with breastfeeding like wearing a heavy coat.
“It’s like this layer of fat you just can’t shake,” she once told me and I gasped because that was literally it. It’s just like a coat I can’t take off. A nice, fluffy, fat, padded coat.
Moral of the story?
Not all breastfeeding moms lose weight, you guys. Don’t go into breastfeeding your baby thinking that it will be the magical weight-loss cure you’ve been told it will be. Sorry to say, but you will definitely not be able to eat steak and ice cream for dinner every night and pretend those night feedings are 8-mile runs. (Tried it.)
Breastfeeding isn’t about us, unfortunately, and while it definitely has been a wonderful experience for me and I genuinely do love the bond it provides with my baby (not to mention the pride I feel when I look at her adorable little rolls), I’ve also had to come to terms with the fact that for me, breastfeeding means hanging onto a little extra weight and being patient with my weight loss journey.
So my fellow breastfeeding, non-weight-losing moms, just join me on the couch — where I will be happily nursing my baby and rocking a few extra postpartum rolls while my body does its thing.
We’ll be get back in shape, I promise. As soon as the baby is weaned.More On