Surely, you’ve heard of the “Freshman 15.” That well-known term for the extra pounds that magically appear the first year of college. What you may not have heard of is the “Breastfeeding 15.” That new term (yeah, I just made it up) for those extra pounds that magically appear the first few months of breastfeeding.
When I gave birth seven months ago, I knew the pounds wouldn’t come off right away. I was prepared to lose them slowly and steadily. What I wasn’t prepared for was dropping a ton of weight the first three weeks— and then watching the scale slowly and steadily creep back up 10, then close to 15 pounds.
There are decidedly two sides to the breastfeeding-baby weight story. We have the women who watch it all melt away… and then we have the rest of us (super lucky) ladies who experience the opposite effect. Of course, just as every pregnancy is different, so is every postpartum body.
So, why aren’t more women talking about this? How come, like everything else that pertains to breastfeeding, I have to feel like I’m Doing It Wrong?
Not only did they give me a chance to commiserate with someone in my same situation, they also broke down a bit of the science behind the issue. In short, yes, breastfeeding burns calories. But there are also a lot of other factors— like hormones, raging hunger, and exhaustion— that can keep your new love handles firmly in place.
The problem, it seems to me, is that this newly energized movement to encourage and promote breastfeeding (which, for the record, I think is amazing) has been touting weight loss as one of the main incentives for mothers.
They really could have stopped at “it’s best for the baby” and maybe thrown in “it’s free!” as a bonus. The weight loss element feels a bit like false advertising. Breast milk is basically the food equivalent of a magical unicorn. So let’s just leave it at that.
But enough with the whining. Let’s talk solutions.
I’m no medical expert, so please take the following with an ounce of breast milk. (Yes. I just made that joke.)
First, the obvious— getting back your post-pregnancy body isn’t easy. At the end of the day, you have to do what’s right for your body, your mind, and your milk supply. For me, poor food choices mixed with constant, hormone-induced hunger was my biggest enemy. So, here are three pieces of advice I wish I’d taken sooner:
1) Stock up on healthy snacks. Now.
Yes, it’s a “duh” tip. But it’s so easy to forget when family and friends are so very kindly showering you with homemade casseroles and comfort food. Below is a list of snacks I swear by. (FYI: You can usually find pre-sliced organic apples at HEB, and Sprouts sells THE YUMMIEST chocolate-covered frozen banana bites.) Also try making your own Lactation Cookies and Lactation Brownies for milk production.
2) Throw it out.
The well-intentioned cookies a friend brought by. The leftover birthday cake from a party. If it’s not healthy and it’s going to tempt you, throw it away. (Ok, throw some of it away.) Yes, it seems wasteful. But so will the hours you spend crying over your new mom body.
3) Plan ahead for late-night cravings.
My weakest time is late at night. As soon as I wrap a breastfeeding session, I have the fridge open, ready to reward myself. These times are tricky because I’m exhausted and willpower is at an all-time low. My advice is to choose a few healthy-ish options (like these or these) and arrange them in the very front of the fridge. And if (like me) you really can’t trust yourself, give each snack a label. Something like “12 AM,” “4 AM,” and “Desperation AM.”
Oh, and a bonus tip: Stop reading “how to drop the baby weight” posts while you nurse and start reading a good book instead.