For nine blissful months of my pregnancy, there was no food item off limits to me and my insatiable appetite. It was super easy to never be hungry because everywhere I went people would offer me food. At work, people would leave me donuts on my desk. At my MIL’s house plates of crackers and cheese would be near me at all times. I even got free decaf mochas at my favourite cafe for a little while there. So, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that by the time I welcomed my sweet pea into the world, I was 30 pounds overweight.
“Oh, but you can drop those pounds superfast if you nurse,” was the rallying cry of almost every woman I came within earshot of. My doctor suggested that not only should I breastfeed but that I invest in a good pump and start pumping on the side. While staring at my lumpy belly, she pointed out that every ounce of breast milk is worth 20 calories and those suckers add up.
For weeks I devoted myself to never missing a pumping session in between nursing my baby. Honestly, I felt like my boobs were on some kind of sick treadmill. It was all pumping or nursing all day and night. I was exhausted, but also, I wasn’t losing weight.
Not. Even. A. Little.
Here’s the thing about all that advice to use breastfeeding to lose the baby weight: It’s bullsh*t. As a new mother, calculating pumping times, water intake, diet, and exercise are far too stressful when one considers the lack of sleep, constant hunger, and the hormones going haywire as they fluctuate out of pregnancy mode and back into normal mode.
For me, this meant that I was crashing and irritable…and still 30 damn pounds overweight.
This advice puts pressure on women to lose weight when they should be feeling supported and loved by friends and family. Although our culture assumes that a woman can recover from birth in a mere six weeks, the truth is that full recovery can take months. Just because a mum has been cleared do jumping jacks and crunches doesn’t mean she should.
In my case, using breastfeeding and breast pumping in order to “enhance” my weight loss experience turned out to be dangerous and desperate at best. I found myself more worried about counting calories and then feeling a world of guilt (and like a complete failure) when I didn’t magically start dropping pounds..
For some women, breastfeeding indeed does lead to naturally effortless weight loss and kudos to them. But their experience should not equate to ubiquitous advice. In fact, can we please separate the ideas of breastfeeding and weight loss altogether? Seriously, the last thing I need to be freaking out about is my waistline, when honestly, I’m pretty worried about my ability to have a good milk supply to begin with.
For many women, breastfeeding already comes with a tightly wound up package of fears about latching on successfully, bonding with baby successfully, pumping successfully, avoiding mastitis, and basically not feeling like a Jersey cow every two hours. In other words, creating milk is already damn hard, let’s not make it worse by throwing body image bullsh*t on top of it.
My 30 extra pounds, for now, translates to a squishy, warm, safe belly and arms for my child to sleep on and to feel loved by. It’s not this dirty thing that I need to get off my body like yesterday. When I am done nursing my child and my focus can turn to my own needs — without fear of disrupting the needs of my baby — I will happily try a diet and exercise regimen that will help me shed this weight at a normal and safe pace.
But until then, keep your damn dieting advice away from my boobs, thankyouverymuch.