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When Breastfeeding Doesn't Help You Lose the Baby Weight

Photograph by Twenty20

"Breastfeeding helps you lose the baby weight!" We've all heard this. It’s touted as one of the reasons to breastfeed your new little nugget. Mother Nature may have just effed you over by giving you that extra 20 pounds, but she's also handing you the way to get it off. Eat that extra piece of avocado toast! You truly are still eating for two!

Armed with this comforting knowledge, I dove straight into the deep end of the breastfeeding pool. What I wanted, I ate. I was gloriously happy and full—just like my baby, who was chunking up nicely.

But suddenly, she wasn't the only one chunking up.

After an initial weight drop and reduction in cankle size, I noticed the numbers on the scale were starting to go back up. Were all the breastfeeding gurus wrong? Was I the one exception to the rule? This made me start to wonder: What if breastfeeding doesn't actually help you lost the baby weight?

Just to be clear, I'm not talking about binge-eating Doritos. I'm talking about eating large quantities of healthy, nourishing foods while working out several times a week. So what was this new mama to do?

Enter macro counting.

If you haven't heard of this, it's essentially tracking and limiting your fat, carbohydrate and protein intake. I had my goals, I had my limits and I had my food scale. I weighed and measured and, for the first time since I got pregnant, I started seeing results. I lost weight and inches, and for a few days, I gained immense pride. I looked in the mirror and imagined that I was seeing visible changes in my postpartum "mom bod" that I had such a love-hate relationship with.

Three days later, during a feeding, my milk wouldn't let down at all. I tried for almost half an hour, switching between breasts and trying to get my baby girl to keep up the fight. But she was done and she was still hungry. Through tears, I made her a bottle of formula and fed it to her. (For the record, I am not anti-formula. But I had chosen the path of breastfeeding, and my body was suddenly not cooperating.)

I had been so excited to get my body back that I neglected to realize that my baby still needed something from it.

After swearing off breastfeeding forever, and just plain swearing to anyone who would listen, I calmed down enough to talk to my lactation consultant. One of her first questions was: “Any drastic changes in your diet?” I didn't want to admit to this goddess of lactation that I had been cutting my food intake. Would she think I was selfish? Hell, maybe I was. When I did confess, she bluntly told me, "Breastfeeding and quick weight loss are not friends."

I'm sure for some women, the weight truly does fall off. And to those women I salute—and hate—you. For my body, the sudden drop in weight that I was so proud of had shocked my body and my boobs. This left me with two seemingly simple, straightforward options:

1. Stop nursing all together and work on the body I wanted.

2. Continue nursing and put weight loss on hold.

But to me, they didn't seem that cut and dry. Option one was to be selfish and option two was to be selfless. As a mom, wasn't I supposed to be programmed to choose my mini-me over my own superficial needs? So I struggled to decide. While pregnant, I saw my body morph into an unfamiliar shape that, while decidedly feminine, didn't strike me as all that sexy. I had been so excited to get my body back that I neglected to realize that my baby still needed something from it.

Now here I am, 11 months later, still breastfeeding, and still struggling with my decision. I want desperately to be all corners, collarbones and crazy hair à la Carrie Bradshaw. Instead, I'm all squish, fluff and leaky boobs. I want to be a sex goddess and watch my husband's eyes light up when he sees my muffin top melt into a figure that I’m proud to display in a bikini, but that’s on hold for the moment.

As moms, we're making decisions like this every day. Balancing our needs with the needs of our babies and often feeling guilty no matter what we choose.

I try to remember that this is such a short season of time in my little one's life. That soon, she'll be off my chest and out of my arms. I’m fighting every day to see myself as my babies see me—their mama who loves and provides for them—instead of the critical way I see myself.

So for now, I will hang that bikini in the back of the closet, roll with the one-piece (pun intended) and focus on the sweet baby in my arms.

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