This article was written by mama and guest contributor Michelle Lepp.
Do you remember that episode of Desperate Housewives in which Lynette decides to breastfeed at work because it helped her lose weight? Maybe you never watched that show but you probably saw that fitness blogger on Instagram. You know the one with a 6 pack just 4 months postpartum! Maybe tv or social media isn’t your jam but your best friend was SO SKINNY from breastfeeding, wasn’t she?
Well, here’s the thing. That is just not how it works for everyone. As a personal trainer and yoga teacher, this was a hard pill to swallow. During my pregnancy I had a consistent workout routine and a healthy diet, yet my body gained 50 pounds. YES 50 pounds, much more than the “recommended” 25-30. Now, postpartum I am still holding on to a solid amount of weight. I breastfeed on demand and because I am feeding a growing child my body is requiring I hold on to this weight.
Let’s dissect this a bit. What is the science to calories, breastfeeding, and weight? Why do some women lose weight rapidly, others lose it at a snail’s pace, and some even gain weight? Well, two things are happening. Firstly, your body requires additional calories to breastfeed. A quick google search tells you it’s around 500. Secondly, breastfeeding burns calories with Dr. Google estimating 200-500 per day. Okay, so if you consume an additional 500 calories and your body only burns 200-500 of that, you’re not going to drop that baby weight. To lose weight you must be in a deficit. So, if Suzy Q on your social media is able to produce rich and healthy breastmilk with only 350 additional calories while burning a whopping 500, boom she fits in those pre-pregnancy pants 6 weeks into motherhood. Others, like myself, seem to be about even with the 500 calories to produce and 500 burned. And guess what, that is TOTALLY OKAY. You’re feeding a tiny human for goodness sake!
How do we come to terms with this when society is expecting us to be “skinny” right away? When people comment constantly on how you look postpartum? How many times have you heard “omg, you look so good already” or “don’t worry it took 40 weeks to grow the baby so it takes 40 weeks to get back your pre-pregnancy body”? As a someone in the fitness industry I definitely felt pressure to look the same as I did pre-babe. How can I get up in front of a bunch of clients and still have my baby pooch and less toned arms? Why would anyone trust a fitness professional who doesn’t look toned and fit? Having had my baby only a few weeks after Kate Hudson I even went as far as to copy her and try the new weight watchers “breastfeeding” weight loss program. I fell into society’s skinny trap and let myself feel bad in my own skin.
But then one day, I decided that this is my mom bod, it isn’t forever, and I feel proud of what my body has accomplished, so why obsess over changing it? I maintain a healthy fitness routine, I eat healthy (except some occasional treats), and I do my best to not obsess with how I look. With this healthy mindset my body is naturally dropping 1-3 pounds a month and I am fine with that because the important thing is my child is getting what he needs from my body. Sure, there are days I get upset because I still can’t fit into some of my clothes (just ask my husband) but if breastfeeding is part of your journey, just know that rapidly losing weight is not actually the norm and this is simply the next phase of motherhood. Be proud of your body. Breastfeeding will end so cherish these moments and know that your body will one day be yours again!
Hailing from the Sunshine state, Michelle initially left Florida after college to pursue a career in fashion. After several years of craving a more physically and spiritually engaging lifestyle, Michelle transitioned to becoming a yoga and fitness instructor in 2016. She is NASM certified, pre/postnatal certified, and has over 500 hours of yoga training en route to becoming an oncology focused yoga therapist. She loves to teach the why in your fitness routine and her goal is help you feel well in your body. You can learn more about her work here.