We’ve all heard that breastfeeding contributes to weight loss, and that many mums lose weight while nursing. But this isn’t necessarily true for everyone, and now one mum wants to share her experience to dispel the myth that breastfeeding leads to weight loss for everyone.
Kate Schweitzer said that after delivering her 8.5 pound baby, she was already back wearing her skinny jeans. She was breastfeeding her baby, and hoped that breastfeeding would help her shed the remaining baby weight over time.
Some eight months on, Kate realised she’d put on 10 pounds rather than losing weight, and couldn’t understand why.
“I am still wearing maternity clothes, and because the extra weight has moved from my stomach to my hips, many of those garments are stretching even more than they did when I was nine months along,” she wrote in an article for Popsugar.
Kate felt quite annoyed, as she’d always heard from other mums that breastfeeding promotes weight loss rather than weight gain.
She had also heard this advice propagated in baby books, at antenatal clinics, from her doctor and, of course, countless celebrity mums who attributed their inexplicable rapid weight loss to “just breastfeeding”.
She realised that weight loss was always listed as a benefit of breastfeeding and wondered if there was something wrong with her, as she wasn’t losing weight. But when she managed to lose five pounds, she noticed an alarming side-effect: her milk production dropped.
And that’s because, although breastfeeding burns a lot of calories, these calories need to be replaced. Just like pregnant women, breastfeeding women are recommended to eat extra calories in order to adequately nourish themselves and their baby. After all, it takes almost 20 calories to make just an ounce of milk, and nursing babies can consume 19-30 ounces every day.
And when Kate tried to lose weight by not taking in any extra calories, exercising vigorously, and skipping a meal or two, her milk production dropped accordingly.
Kate says breastfeeding is being used to promote weight loss after birth when in reality there are many other factors involved, such as pre-pregnancy fitness levels and weight gain during pregnancy.
She says other factors limited her from losing weight while breastfeeding: “Also, moderate exercise, sleep, and low levels of stress help with metabolism — all things that were difficult to achieve when I was tied to a chair for up to five hours a day with a newborn baby.”
Kate has no regrets about breastfeeding and will continue to nurse for as long as her baby needs. But she says mums need to be aware that “breastfeeding is not akin to some magic weight loss pill”.