I feel it’s important that I start this post by making it clear that I never had the intention of losing weight quickly after having Theo. It just wasn’t on my agenda. I have spent so much of my adult life trying to slim down, and have tried everything from detox teas (which I strongly advise against), laxatives (so dangerous) and of course the traditional and ONLY safe and effective methods – healthy eating and regular exercise. But I’m human. I love chocolate and I certainly don’t want to spend every single second of my free time in the gym. So, like most women, my weight has fluctuated in a healthy manner and I have learned to live with it. I promised myself that I would be kind to my body after giving birth, and allow myself as much time as I needed to get back into my pre-pregnancy clothes. And, if that never happened, that was OK too. Giving birth is a huge deal, and it’s crazy that our bodies are expected to just snap back into their original form.
If we were being totally honest with ourselves, I think most of us would admit to feeling inadequate at some point or another, and largely as a result of the sculpted bodies rammed down our throats on TV, on fashion websites and through the biggest offender of all – social media, where the unachievable seems possible thanks to heavy filtering and photoshop. I’m no different, and have often compared myself to a celebrity and said, with a sigh: “I wish I looked like that.” And yet, incredibly enough, when I was heavily pregnant with swollen hands and feet and a nose three times its normal size, I felt beautiful. In the summer, when I was around seven months pregnant, we visited Greece and as I sat beside the pool in my bikini, I remember telling Michael it was the most confident I had ever felt, which is amazing considering it was also the biggest I had ever been. It truly goes to show that the only relationship between your size and how happy you feel boils down to your own mindset. Being skinny is NOT the key to happiness, or to feeling confident. It’s a real shame that we’re not kinder to ourselves, and an injustice to each and every one of our beautiful bodies that we don’t set realistic and achievable goals for ourselves.
A week or two after Theo was born, one of my friends came to visit him. I was in my happy little baby bubble until she asked: “How long do you think it will take for you to lose your baby weight?” I felt so deflated – and angry. As if carrying and giving birth to a tiny human wasn’t exhausting enough, I felt as though my new mummy bod was being scrutinised, and that I was somehow failing because I was still wearing my maternity clothes and hadn’t given weight loss a thought. I was still incredibly sore having had a caesarean, my boobs were leaking milk and incredibly sensitive and I was so, painfully, unimaginably tired. The last thing on my mind was fitting back into my pre-pregnancy clothes.
Theo was exclusively breastfed, and although I always made sure I had plenty of drinks and healthy snacks to hand before every feeding session, I still felt absolutely ravenous after each and every one, so I found myself eating and eating and eating. Finding the time to stand and cook was both challenging and painful due to my c-section, so I survived on easy-to-grab snacks and more takeaways than I’d ever eaten before. My midwives and health visitors encouraged this though, explaining that you should take on around 500 extra calories per day whilst breastfeeding to ensure both mum and baby are getting everything they need. I more than compensated for this, and loved those gorgeous cuddly feeds, with Theo nuzzled into me whilst I drank cup after cup of tea with plenty of biscuits to dunk.
My friend’s question often slipped into my mind, but I chose to be kind to myself. And then, something totally unexpected happened: My maternity clothes suddenly hung off me, and I noticed the super sexy Bridget Jones knickers I’d worn to avoid lacy trims cutting into my scar were getting baggy and rolling down, too. In fact, it was just that which made me realise they were baggy. I remember standing up after being nap-trapped and feeling the trim of my knickers pull at one of the scabs along my scar (and it was every bit as uncomfortable and nauseating as it sounds). I was so confused; I didn’t think I’d lost weight, so couldn’t understand why they would suddenly slide down. I decided to try on my pre-pregnancy leggings ‘for a laugh’ and although they were a little more snug than they had once been, they fit! I couldn’t believe it.
The next time my midwife visited, I asked her about my unexpected weight loss, and she said it was actually a very common phenomenon for breastfeeding mummies to lose weight quickly. Whilst our bodies produce breastmilk, mums can burn up to 500 extra calories every day, JUST by producing those drops of liquid gold. If you consider the hours you spend feeding (in those early days these hours often line up with the time you’d spend at your full-time job), plus the fact you’re carrying a little human everywhere you go, along with changing bags, and only eating as and when you find an opportunity to, it’s actually quite easy to get your head around! I was amazed. For the first time in my life I had lost weight without trying. No detoxing, no laxatives, no gym. No scrutiny! Just snuggles with my baby and breastfeeding.
During my pregnancy, I ballooned. My hands and feet were unbelievably swollen and my nose literally tripled in size and spread across my face. My sister-in-law took a picture of me a couple of weeks before I was due to give birth and I cried – I looked horrendous. I looked unrecognisable, especially in the days leading up to Theo’s birth when I really began to retain water. Now, even though my tummy is covered in stretch marks and I have a lovely ‘shelf’ (where your stomach overhangs your caesarean scar), I feel more confident in my body than I ever have – AND, as if by magic, I’m slimmer than I was before my pregnancy, all thanks to the beautiful art of breastfeeding and baby-wearing.
When I set out on my breastfeeding journey, I did so purely for the magical benefits for my baby. Little did I know the experience would be just as beneficial for me. We should never feel any pressure to lose weight after giving birth. It’s simply the most traumatic and beautiful thing a mother’s body will ever go through – so embrace the rolls, the stretch marks, the loose skin, the chub. These are your badges of honour. For me, a woman who is often unkind to herself, it was a relief to slim down without trying. But for those who find it that bit harder, or never feel they’ve lost any weight at all, be kind to yourself. You and your postnatal body are truly beautiful just the way you are.
Until next time!