If you are a mom, if you want to be a mom, if you are friends with a mom, or if you just know a mom, you’ve probably heard some pretty strong statements about breastfeeding. And it is likely that you have your own strong opinions about those statements.
The heat of the controversy is pretty much everywhere these days. And while I am a mom, I can definitely say that these controversies were in my face far before I ever became pregnant.
It seems to me like there was some sort of drastic shift a few years ago. All of a sudden there were all of these breastfeeding debates swarming around social media that I had previously never seen or been aware of. I don’t really know what flipped the switch, but the switch was definitely flipped.
A news feed that had previously been filled with simple photos of my mom friends and their sweet babies was suddenly filled with articles and videos created by breastfeeding activists. The agenda in each was the same: to normalize breastfeeding.
(As a small side note, I never knew that breastfeeding wasn’t normal. I just thought, “that’s what you do!”)
So with this new movement to ‘normalize’ breastfeeding came the phrase that we all know, and either love or hate.
Breast is best.
And with that statement flying around everywhere came a large number of articles and researches with ongoing lists of the benefits of breastfeeding. Everyone began sharing why ‘breast is best.’
And that’s awesome.
Before you think that’s the lie, don’t. I do believe that breast is best. And I also believe that every woman that is both able, and has the desire, should.
But in that ongoing list of reasons why, there is a pretty little lie about breastfeeding that everyone is believing…
Breastfeeding is the best way to lose your baby weight.
You may have heard it like this in conversation: “Don’t worry, if you are breastfeeding, the weight will fall right off.” Or perhaps you heard it like this: “If you don’t breastfeed it will be harder to lose your baby weight.”
Y’all, while I do believe that some women lose weight while breastfeeding, it is not a one size fits all weight loss plan. In fact, breastfeeding shouldn’t be your weight loss plan at all. Breastfeeding should be your way of nourishing your child and keeping them alive. If you happen to lose weight in the process, that’s great.
But even if you have those intentions, to breastfeed to lose weight, it might not work. Why? Because it isn’t a weight loss plan. Every single woman’s body is unique. Some women breastfeed for a year and don’t lose their baby weight until they stop breastfeeding. Other women lose weight right away, but then gain a ton of weight back when they finish breastfeeding.
Those things alone make the whole “breastfeeding is the quickest way to lose weight” thing false, but that’s not even the biggest lie.
The biggest lie is that not breastfeeding will make it harder to lose weight.
That is the biggest bunch of bologna I have ever heard.
Just like a woman who breastfeeds is not guaranteed to lose weight, a woman who is unable to breastfeed is not guaranteed to keep her baby weight. That just simply isn’t how the body works!
I have so many friends that have been able to breastfeed like a CHAMP and yet cannot seem to lose the baby weight and ‘get their body back’ to save their life! I also have friends that were either completely unsuccessful at breastfeeding, or were only able for a few weeks, who have totally rocking bodies and were under their pre pregnancy weight in less than six months.
Breastfeeding is not the ticket to weight loss, and we need to stop saying that.
As someone that has a long history of struggling with body image, AND someone that had a great deal of trouble with breastfeeding, I can honestly say that lie does more damage than good. Maybe people say it to encourage mamas that they will just bounce right back. Maybe they don’t mean any harm.
But when people tell you for nine months that you will bounce right back as long as you breastfeed, and then breastfeeding doesn’t go as planned, it can really mess with your head.
I’ll never forget being about eight weeks postpartum and struggling with the decision to keep pumping round the clock or just make the switch to formula. Both a friend and a family member said to me, “just remember, it’ll be a lot harder to lose weight if you stop,” as if that was the single most important factor in the decision.
I would love to say that I just brushed it off and kept my priorities straight. As someone who has a history of body image struggles, that wasn’t the case.
I mourned at the thought of losing my ticket to get my body back. I fought hard with my own selfish desires for another month straight. I kept pushing forward for all the wrong reasons, while losing my emotional and mental sanity and giving my baby far less than my best self.
When I finally made the decision to stop breastfeeding, I mourned that decision for another month. Only a handful of people knew that I had made that decision, and I was ashamed to share it because “breast is best.” (Also, I’ll never understand people asking you if you are breastfeeding as if it’s any of their business).
When I went to the doctor a little while later, I was completely terrified of the number on the scale. I just knew I was in for a good cry session, and that I had sacrificed my weight loss ticket.
Much to my surprise, I found out at six months postpartum that I had not only reached my pre pregnancy weight, but I was under it.
I found myself in the midst of a completely different cry session. I am not sure if they were happy tears or just the kind you shed when you are super overwhelmed. Or perhaps they were tears of relief.
Because I had been believing for three solid months that I had compromised my own progress and that I would not only have kept my baby weight, but that I had also probably packed on a little more.
I had been believing the lie that if I didn’t breastfeed, it would be harder for me to lose the baby weight.
If that’s you, if you believe the lie, I challenge you to shift your thought process. First of all, our sole concern in breastfeeding should always be the health of our child. That has to come first. Second, there is no formula to recovering after having a child. Finally, a good diet and active lifestyle can do just as much, if not more, for helping your body recover.
And if you are someone who says this to people, please stop. You never know what someone might be struggling with, what their breastfeeding journey has looked like or will look like, and you never know how this lie might affect them.