From the moment a mama finds out she’s expecting, she begins thinking about pounds. I know at least I did. As the scale crept up, it crossed my mind a handful of times, how exactly, it would go back down.
I say a “handful of times” because I’ve never been very involved with my weight. I’ve got good genes from the women in my family and I know that plays a lot into how I gain, lose and maintain weight, especially through my birthing years. But, even though I’ve never struggled per se, I still think I’ve got an interesting thought on this whole “losing baby weight” obsession. After all, I have wavered between 135 and 180 pounds over the last few years.
I gained 41 pounds with Jemma and 39 with Max. The higher end of “normal” with each pregnancy. With both postpartum rounds it took me a year to shed the weight I gained during pregnancy. I’ve always thought this was normal. I think because my very first midwife preached the mantra, “It takes 9 months to grow a baby and it will take at least that long for your body to return to its’ previous state”. It makes a lot of sense, and yet, that’s not what I see or hear in motherhood media. But not even just the far off “media”, I hear contrary words from my friends too. It’s sad, really sad. Because it’s not real or realistic. It’s actually quite harmful to our psych and bodies – to think that the leftovers from birth, our solo bodies, aren’t beautiful or useful or worthy of praise. As moms, caring for ourselves is crucial in order to best take care of our families. This definitely includes mental and emotional care.
In my opinion, here’s the spiral – the problem – and maybe a fix or change in perspective …
By month 3 or 4 of your new baby’s life, mama is tired of baggy maternity clothes, the baby blues are in full swing and life is starting to feel normal, but oh-so overwhelming. And you’re chubby. Because, well, you just had a baby. I’ve been there. I’ll probably be back there someday. I know what it’s like to be mad at your yoga pants for giving you a muffin top.
But, if not just in the name of giving your body grace to slowly move back to its’ former shape, I’ve come to believe that postpartum weight loss just might be impacting breastfeeding success too.
Sound crazy? I really don’t think so. And if I was a scientist, I’d be hypothesizing my heart out and running a little study to gather some data. Scientist I am not, and thus, I’m just going to word vomit my idea on you and maybe you can chime in with your experience in the comments.
Here’s the deal — you give birth and still look pregnant, it makes you feel crappy and so you start to think about losing the weight. Baby bump with baby on the inside … super cute. Baby on the outside with squishy non-baby bump … not my personal favorite. Then you see some movie star swaggering the red carpet mere weeks after birth and the whole world comes tumbling down, because how do you go to the gym when your lady bits are still throbbing? So, skip the gym, and hit the perimeter of the grocery store for some greens and foods marketed at the dieting desperate. Not to mention that grocery store adventures are easier said than done with children in tow. Anyways, for months and months you’re working your mind and body overtime to lose baby weight to get back to “normal” and then you notice your milk supply dropping. Why? Why another struggle? Why another parenting obstacle? Where are the freakin’ rainbows and roses???
Well, perhaps one “problem” is feeding the other? Could it be true?
This is what I think. The 4th trimester, baby weight, baby blues, the first year — they have a reason. They’re meant to slow us down. They’re meant to ease us back into normal. Not rush us back to something that used to be. Even more, after baby is born, mama is still nourishing two, just in a new way. It takes quality food, rest and … you guessed it, NO DIETING. No focus on losing weight. Rather, a focus on quality calories, frequent, small meals, copious amounts of water, and vitamins and supplements; the same things your body needed while pregnant.
If you cut your energy source after baby is born, something will suffer. And it seems that for many mamas, the first thing to go is their milk supply. Do you see the correlation? Do you agree?
Honestly, while nursing both Jemma and Max, I’ve found myself to be more hungry and thirsty than I was while pregnant. My body craves protein, fats and water. And I think there is a reason for those cravings. It’s my bodies way of telling me to fill up so it can do its’ job.
If I listen and go slow with postpartum weight loss, I’m honoring my body’s natural cycle back to “normal”. It’s good for me and good for my baby. I gain the benefits from breastfeeding while my little one gets the milk they need. The weight slowly comes off, on its own accord. And although I’m not always happy in my skin during this process, I’m content because I know there is a purpose behind it. And, most of all, just like I want to normalize breastfeeding, I want to normalize the beauty of the postpartum body. Motherhood changes us. Our perspective of beauty is revolutionized as we experience birth and the miracle of our new baby. That same revolution needs to happen for ourselves. Be kind to your body – it’s beautiful, has worked hard and deserves grace and acceptance in every shape it takes on. Love the season you’re in and don’t rush out of the present and the reason you’re there.
These are just my ramblings … here is some further, more substantiated reading on the topic:
How Does a Mother’s Diet Affect Her Milk?
Can Eating Too Little Affect Milk Production When Breast-Feeding
Breast-feeding Nutrition: Tips For Moms
What do you think? Do you feel your milk supply was at all connected to your postpartum weight loss?
Photo Credit /// LCS Photography
Life Breath Present says
I had the fortune of shedding the pregnancy weight pretty quickly, which I attribute to nursing. I do strongly believe that getting to "my new normal" body/weight is different. I'm still struggling with it, the body not the weight, but taking it slow because I also strongly believe that it takes longer than "just 9 months" to recover from pregnancy.
I find myself being a lot harder on myself this time around than I was PP with Penny. With Penny, I had no idea what to expect, and silently accepted that if I was forever to have a squishy mom body, so be it. She was worth every second of it. Then the pounds literally sloughed off around 6 months PP and by 9 months PP I was 20 lbs under what I was when I first became pregnant, and I looked like a sliver of my old self. Part of me was shocked, because I had been unhappy with my figure since senior year of high school and here I was, less than a year after having a baby, when I expected to never be thin again and now I struggled to keep weight on. ?? (ALL thanks to nursing, btw. This mama never could keep up an exercise routine)
Now I'm 12 weeks PP with Ruby and as a more seasoned mama, you'd think that I would be more forgiving of myself. But I'm harder on myself. I know what is possible to attain and I want to get there soon. As always, your posts give me the food for thought that I need..
I didn’t struggle losing weight after either child which I attribute to age, nursing, running, and playing with my kids. While nursing though, I ate a ton and I ate well and drank at least 70 oz of water each day. Good carbs, meat and spinach were my best friends. I do realize though that not every mama is the same – we have different needs and our bodies move at different paces. I don’t ever encourage nursing mamas to diet! And even though I may be considered “skinny,” my body is not the same as it was before. I’m weaker here, floppier there, and stronger here. It’s more about how you feel and to feel good, your body needs healthy fuel!
Thank you so much for posting this!!!! I wish there was not so much pressure or the idea to get back what you had before. Birth changes your body!!