It can be so frustrating, hey?
You were told “Oh don’t worry about the baby weight. It’ll just fall right off when you breastfeed.”
But apparently your body didn’t get the memo because you’re not losing the weight you gained during pregnancy. Maybe you’ve even gained some weight since baby was born.
So what’s going on?
The truth is, postpartum weight loss is drastically different for every woman.
For some, the weight really does fall off with breastfeeding. For others it hangs on like crazy. Some women can’t eat enough to keep weight on – especially if they’re breastfeeding 2+ kiddos. And still others gain weight while breastfeeding.
There are so many factors to consider when it comes to breastfeeding and weight loss. It’s not as simple as eat less and exercise more.
And there are 2 main reasons that weight loss can be really challenging – if not impossible – when you’re breastfeeding, or even just because you have a newborn to take care of.
#1 – Your Hormone Cocktail
Prolactin is the queen hormone responsible for producing your boob juice and it doesn’t just make milk. It can also increase your appetite and actually slow down fat metabolism.
This means that – not only is your body saying “Eat all the things!” – it’s also saying “Store all the fat!”
This makes sense, right? In order to nourish your tiny human you need to have enough reserves to produce milk and keep yourself alive. So it’s smart that your body is telling you to eat and telling itself to store fat just in case you can’t get enough calories (which, in our developed, modern society is likely not going to happen. But your body doesn’t know that).
And the truth is, for some women, until their little one weans they won’t be able to lose all or some of the weight they gained during pregnancy.
I know this may be hard to hear. Knowing that – until your baby weans – you may not be able to lose weight, can make you feel like you have no control and it can bum you right out.
Let me suggest something…
Recognize that your body is doing what it’s supposed to be doing to help keep you and your tiny human alive.
As much as the world would like to tell you you need to be in pre-baby body shape in 6 weeks or less, you don’t. You really don’t.
And if it’s the hormones that are causing you to gain or hold onto weight the best thing you can do right now is eat some healthy goodness most of the time to produce some nourishing milk and give yourself a hall pass to not lose the weight right this second.
If you decide that after baby weans you want to drop some weight, you can make that happen.
Just cut yourself some slack right now and don’t pressure your body to lose the weight just to fit some ridiculous notion that you should look like you never even had a baby a few short months after giving birth.
#2 – You’re Not Eating Enough
In relation to point #1 – if you’re feeling the pressure to drop the baby weight like it’s hot, you might be putting yourself on a calorie restricted diet.
If you’re putting yourself on a calorie restricted diet to lose the weight, you might actually be making it more likely that you’ll hold onto the weight, or gain even more weight.
Studies show that calorie restriction can increase cortisol levels and make you stressed right out.
And when your cortisol levels are up, and your stress is up, you’re actually more likely to gain weight.
So not eating, or not eating enough can actually make it harder for you to lose weight.
That’s why it’s important to eat when you’re hungry. That’s your body saying “Feed me, please!”
If you keep constantly ignoring those signals because you think it’ll help you lose weight, it’ll probably actually backfire on you. Then you’ll be hangry and still unable to lose the weight.
Doesn’t sound fun, does it?
So what can you do to help feel better?
I get it. Maybe your doctor told you to drop some weight and you’re feeling that pressure. Maybe you just wish you could fit into your fave pair of jeans. Maybe you think dropping 10lbs or so will give you the confidence to put on the two-piece. Maybe you’re sick of your favourite pre-baby clothes not fitting.
And it’s rough when you have so many images surrounding you telling you that you should lose the baby weight as fast as the Duchess of Cambridge did.
But maybe the Duchess of Cambridge doesn’t have your genes.
Remember – every body is different.
I hear you. It’s frustrating and you wish things were different. But here are some options to help you stop stressing so much about your weight…
1. Do something that makes you feel less stressed out
Workout. Call your best friend. Go for a walk. Do some yoga. Watch your fave show instead of doing the laundry during naptime. Have sex.
Not even for the sole intention of lowering your stress, (because, like we talked about, it’s easier to lose weight when you’re less stressed) but simply because those things make you happy. You can’t be pissed off and joyous at the same time.
Weight loss can be stressful. That’s one reason why I recommend you focus on other things and not just on losing the baby weight. So do something that makes you happy instead of stressed.
2. Focus on other positives
Speaking of putting your focus elsewhere. There is so much more awesomeness that the postnatal exercise experience has to offer beyond weight loss. Getting function back. Ditching back pain. Not peeing yourself anymore. Enjoying sex again. Having more energy. Feeling stronger.
Focusing on other milestones will help you feel better about how amazing your body is – the cellulite might not even seem so bad anymore.
This isn’t about slapping a fake smile on your face and carrying on. It’s about truly appreciating the positive things that are happening in your life.
3. Remember that it’s temporary
If your weight retention or gain is related to breastfeeding, whenever you decide to stop breastfeeding you may find it easier to lose weight – if that’s what you want.
I’m not suggesting you quit breastfeeding to lose weight. Not at all. Do what feels right for you, your kiddo and your body.
Just remember that you can lose the weight in a year or two. You only get so much newborn-time before you blink your eyes and you have a 12 year old. I know I don’t want to spend those precious moments worrying about my belly or how I can force those last 5lbs off my hips.
4. Find someone who gets it
Feeling like you’re alone in the struggle is not a fun place to be in. Seek out friends and family members who get it. You can even venture online into forums.
Just make sure the people you’re surrounding yourself with are more supportive and positive than negative and critical.
Sometimes it feels good to just vent about how hard it is and how sad you are with people who understand. This isn’t a space you’ll want to constantly stay in. Because rolling around in your sadness and despair isn’t helpful long-term. But it can give you some much needed release and the ability to move on in a more positive way.
5. Make an appointment with your doctor
A small group of women develop postpartum thyroiditis.
If your weight gain is extreme, this might be you. Basically your thyroid doesn’t work properly and can’t properly regulate your body systems – including your metabolism.
So if you suspect this might be you, go see your doctor or naturopath for help.
6. Remind yourself how awesome your body is
I feel like it’s so easy to forget how incredible your body is.
You just grew a tiny human, gave birth to a tiny human, and now you’re feeding that tiny human with milk your own body is producing.
You’re a real-deal superhero, mama.
And you don’t deserve to feel pressured to fit an unrealistic idea of how your body should look post-baby.
It’s like Kerry Washington said, your body is the site of a miracle.
You shouldn’t feel so pressured to get back to pre-miracle state.
I know it can be hard to “just deal” with the extra weight.
But ask yourself, truly ask yourself, where is this pressure coming from? Do you actually want to lose the weight? Or do you simply believe you should lose the weight because some magazine is telling you you should?
Learning to love your postnatal body – extra weight and all – is not an overnight experience.
It takes time and effort but you can come to a place of appreciating what your body is, being okay with where you’re at right now, while remembering that you can always make changes now or later if that’s what you really want.
Loving your body now doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to want to change it later.
It just means you’re giving yourself some grace, appreciating your body for what it’s accomplished, and then making changes that feel like the bees knee’s for you and what you want.