Breastfeeding and body image: Does anyone else feel like this?

Tracy - posted on 09/14/2010 ( 38 moms have responded )

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Hi everyone.

I'm Tracy and I'm new to this community. I'm glad I found Circle of Moms. I have been breastfeeding my daughter exclusively since birth (she is 5 months old), and plan to continue as long as possible. We have overcome a lot of challenges in our breastfeeding experience including a breast biopsy at 3 weeks postpartum, latching issues, thrush (twice), food intolerances/allergies (multiple), and others. I feel GREAT about making it this far with exclusive breastfeeding, and I just had a couple of questions for you other moms in the community.

Does anyone else find that you are experiecing negative feelings about your body as a nursing mom? I saw a couple of recent posts about moms being discouraged because they weren't able to lose weight while nursing. I guess I was always slimmer than average before becoming pregnant, and I too have found that my body seems to want to keep a few extra pounds on while I'm nursing. I don't mean to start a conversation with a negative tone, but I guess I'm asking for support. I don't plan to discontinue nursing for any reason (unless a medical reason arises), so I wouldn't quit just to lose a few pounds, but I feel like I don't recognize my body.

Does anyone have suggestions for how to have a more positive view of my body? I know I'm doing something important by providing nourishment for my baby, but sometimes I feel like I'm in a stranger's body. I thought maybe someone else could relate.

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Hannah - posted on 09/14/2010

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I have a 4 month old and your story sounds very similar to mine. We also had major problems with latching, allergies, mastitus, etc etc. I wanted to let you know your not alone in the body image department, I feel terrible about my body as well.. but you have to remember your half way there!!! I have to remind myself that this is a special time that I will never get back.. Its worth the image issues. I tell myself how lucky I am to even have this bond, and ability to care for my daughter. Enjoy the time while you have it!

Marie - posted on 09/22/2010

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Ahh I know what you're talking about. When I had my first and even my second, I was a size one, and after I delivered went into a size 3. When I got pregnant with twins I obviously grew very large very fast, wearing size 7 in the beginning of pregnancy and by the end was a size 13. After I had them I stayed a 13 for such a long time, almost a year, and finally went down to size 11. I went shopping the other day because my 11's were....too big!! yay, so I picked up a size 9 and they too were too big! I am now a size 7 and couldn't be happier. I'm still breastfeeding at 19 and a half months, but I feel confident that if I start running (when I find time) I will make it down to at least a size 5, and wouldn't care anymore than I do now because...I have 4 amazing wonderful children, and I wouldn't have them if I hadn't been able to grow!! :)

Tracy - posted on 09/21/2010

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Your body likes to keep an extra 5 lbs on when you are nursing, to make sure you have enough fat to nourish the baby. But it will come off. I lost all but the last five lbs very quickly nursing, but felt much softer than I was used to. I didn't get that more muscular look again until I quit nursing. But I'm pregnant again and can't wait to nurse! I loved it so much! And, I actually did like my softer body. It felt very feminine to me. So, love the softness while it lasts. You might be surprised at what you miss :). Good luck

Sylvia - posted on 09/14/2010

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I actually had the opposite experience (sorry!). I lost both ovaries to cancer before I was 25, and was only able to get pregnant via two rounds of donor-egg IVF, so carrying to term and being able to breastfeed actually made me feel *good* about my body for the first time in almost a decade -- finally it was doing something right!

Actually that might be a good way for you to look at it, too. You have the whole rest of your life to lose weight, etc., but only a few short years to nurse a baby :)

Also, remember that it took you 9 months to put on your pregnancy weight, so it's likely to take 9 months to take the weight off as well. I was still carrying quite a few extra pounds at 5 months postpartum, but by the time my mat leave ended, I'd lost the 35 pounds I gained during pregnancy plus another 15. Give it a little more time :)

Hope - posted on 09/14/2010

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There are studies that show that breastfeeding moms are more likely to lose weight than formula-feeding moms. Because our bodies store the fat in our breast during pregnancy, if you don't breastfeed that fat goes to other places. It's normal to feel down about your weight after having a baby. Just because we have a little more curve than we are used to. I have been breastfeeding for 10 months now. And I have lost wieght! I started eating more veggies and fruits daily. And I started doing excercises with her. Doing squats while holding her, lifting her up above my head, etc. That way I get time with her, and I tone my body. I think you have nothing to worry about. Keep it up!!

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Marie - posted on 09/23/2010

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Oh yeah, I loved being pregnant and getting bigger and bigger without having to worry about anyone saying anything about my weight. If I had a choice, I would be pregnant my whole life!! LOL ...I also just love being pregnant, everything about it is amazing.

[deleted account]

I know! My stretch marks are so depressing. It seems like half the time I feel good about my body and the other half not. During pregnancy I felt great about myself, knowing that my body was doing exactly what it was made to do. Now I feel like I should be back to what I was before. We just have to move through the transitions of life gracefully and do the best to take care of the body we have.

Gretchen - posted on 09/23/2010

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I think I read in a Dr. Sears book (or it could have been online, I can't remember) a thought that helped me a bit when I felt like that. He said something like: "Your body should be soft and comfortable for your baby while she's nursing -- you are a comfortable and cozy place for her." Again, not a direct quote, but that helped me a lot.

I am like you, thinner than average, and even weight wise, I lost all my pregnancy weight by the time my daughter was 6 weeks. HOWEVER -- that did not mean I was all back in shape!! I had to tell myself over and over that my body's #1 priority was caring for my child, and that it would just take time to get back to normal.

I think part of it may be that we see our stomachs so much while we nurse (and pump if you're me)! Who likes to sit there looking at a stretched out belly? So I would just look at my baby instead, and GIVE HER EVEN THAT. . . it's really another gift of love to her -- to make her coziness more important than your figure. Does that make sense?

If it helps, I sort of noticed by her 1st birthday that my stomach was flat again! :) And I never did anything major with working out or dieting. I just did what I could to be healthy and care for her. Your baby is still so little. You will bounce back, too! :)

Jenna - posted on 09/23/2010

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Yes I can relate. I nursed my daughter for 13 months and thought I was going to lose weight but I didn't. You have to remember that your are producing milk so that alone could add some weight. You also have to remember as a new mom you kinda are in a strangers body your a Mommy now and that is new and somethimes strange. You will loose the weight it will take time and work. I am not nursing anymore and I have lost 2lbs I still have 10lbs to loose to get back to my pre prego weight, but I will get there. My advise is to enjoy the closeness that you are getting from your baby while nursing and worry about your body and weight later. My little Heidi is 14 months now and she doesn't even want me to rock her to sleep half the time anymore :0(.

Malina - posted on 09/23/2010

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you're body did an incredible thing, almost what seems crazy but your body gave life to a loving, living human being. i've been sad about how my body looks too but i realized that my post-birth body is a testament of your love & how amazing you are. you accomplished something many people can't. be proud of those stretch marks & flubs of fat! when i feel down about my body image, i remind myself of those things. as a full time mom, i know how hard it is to stay pretty 24/7. but every now and then, treat yourself to a mani/pedi, throw on a little makeup, run that flat-iron through your hair a few times lol. little things like this will definitely help. its helped me :)

Ania - posted on 09/23/2010

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Your stomach is squichy because of extra skin not because of fat...my son loves to pull and squeeze my skin I hate it....because it only makes me feel like I will always have this stretched out skin, but it is only visible when I'm sitting :) When I'm standing I still can see my six pack! :)

Ania - posted on 09/23/2010

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That is so weired....Everyone told me that breastfeeding is the best weight-loss solution and it makes sense because to produce milk you need 700 extra kcal so if you eat just like you ate before pregnancy you should loose weight. I actually love my body...I lost even more lbs than I was before I was pregnant and I was always skinny. Of course skin on my stomach will never be the same, and I know it is normal, that makes me a little selfconcious, but not my weight. Are you sure you are not snacking too much? What do you eat in general? Think about it

Crystal - posted on 09/23/2010

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actually you should loose anywhere between 200-500 calories a day. i am still full time breastfeeding my daughter which turned 2 sept 13th and i am 12 weeks pregnant. i want to wean but im afraid of gaining those extra calories. anyway, a more positive note.... i wouldnt worrie about it especially if your not over weight. i tried something simple like no fried food or no eating after 6 p.m. that seem's to help.. good luck

Liz - posted on 09/22/2010

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I know how you feel. Although I was too heavy before I got pregnant. I lost all of my pregnancy weight but my boobs are 4 sizes bigger now and my stomach is squishy. I just keep it in my mind that I am keeping some back up fat for my baby. She likes how soft I am. I have a hard time because my husband complains daily about how I need to lose weight. He is not attracted to me at all anymore. He thinks my huge boobs (Fs) are gross. I think I would be a little more comfortable with my body if I didn't get the comments from him all of the time. I have told him that it hurts my feelings but he just says I obviously need daily reminders so I stay "on track" with my eating and exercise.

Beth - posted on 09/22/2010

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I know EXACTLY what you mean, and have in fact said the same thing "I feel like I'm in a stranger's body". It's hard to explain to my husband who will tell me I look great or that I "was too skinny before"- to make me feel better. It certainly didn't help a few days ago when my brother asked me "Don't you start to feel like a cow?" referring to breastfeeding and using my breast pump. Seriously!? Thanks!

Michelle - posted on 09/22/2010

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I found the same to be true for me as well. I had a hard time losing the weight with my first son even with exercising and eating right. Your body does tend to hold onto some extra lbs for the baby. I think that it really depends on your body and how it responds to pregnancy and nursing. Every body is different and not everyone loses weight easier while breastfeeding so don't be discouraged. They say that it takes 9 months for your body to get where it was and that's how long it should take to get back. I lost the weight with my first son by doing weight watchers and adding some, not all, the extra points for nursing. My body wasn't losing the weight with how many points they said I should have. Don't be discouraged, you'll get there. I'm trying to lose the weight now with my second son and find it's as slow of a process as it was with my first. I needed to be aware of every calorie I put in my mouth and increase my exercise level a lot. Just remember, your body may not look the same as it did before, but reaching your goal weight is possible with some effort.

Bryanna - posted on 09/22/2010

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I'm on my second child and I have actually found it easier to lose weight while nursing. They say that you need approx 500 extra calories a day while nursing exclusively and that amount goes down as your child starts to eat regular food. I found that if I just stuck to my regular calorie allotment, and a walk every couple of days, the extra weight has been coming off easily.

Penny - posted on 09/22/2010

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I kept a few extra pounds on while nursing. I was so hungy all the time that I really thought I was pregnant again. I was way under what my weight was suppose to be before I got pregnant so the extra weight has been good for me. My husbabnd does not complian that I look any fatter in fat he likes the extra weight and says I should keep some from this pregnancy as well. As for feeling like a stranger in my new boby I gotover it cause I have kept the really nicely huge breasts so it all workes out. Hope the weight just becomes part of you and not a burden it's really nt bad thing.

Lynne - posted on 09/22/2010

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I breastfed my older daughter until she was 16months and i was 3 months pregnant. now i am still breastfeeding my 13 month old (2nd child) so i havent had a break in 3 years. pregnant /nursing, pregnant/nursing. so i know what you mean about wanting your body back. BUT BF is soooo worth it. it really is. hang in there!!

Lisa - posted on 09/22/2010

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I can't absolutly relate. I am a very healthy active person. I get gestational diabetes when I am pregnant and even with vigorous exercise I gained 60lbs with both my kids. I am still bf my 21month old. I have been trying to wean mostly becasue I can't drop tis last 20lbs no matter how healthy I eat or how many classes or lifting I do. Its very frustratin that my ood clothes are to tight and my preggo ones are huge. Also one boob is bigger than the other. I had large breasts to start with a dd and now they are still in the F-G area. they look like something out of a national geografic magazine. Its very depressing sometimes becasue I am trying very hard. I am tired of looking five months preggo still. I am glad I was able to bf my daughter and have enjoyed the time, but I am readyt to be done at this point. I think you shouldn;t be so hard on yourself. Enjoy the time you are spending with her now. And just try to keep being healthy!

Danielle - posted on 09/22/2010

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I gained 52 pounds with my son. He was 9 pounds at 37 weeks (im petite) and after birth I lost 31 pounds. Within the next 6 weeks, I lost another 11 pounds. Than I was stuck with 10 extra pounds FOREVER! All of a sudden, at 5 1/2 months, I lost 12 pounds in 2 weeks! I was doing light pilates 4 times a week and that was it. My DR said it can take up to a year to lose it all! I wouldn't worry. :)

now if only the 'baby pouch' would go away!

Krystal - posted on 09/22/2010

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Honey you are not alone. I have always been heavy but before I got pregnant I was pretty much obese. In the first 3 months of pregnancy I lost 40 pounds and didn't gain all of that back before he was born. When he was 2 months I was back down by those 40 pounds again and was soooo happy. My body was still squishier and all but I was glad I had at least dropped those pounds back off.
Well...now they're back. I am still BFing and plan to continue until he weans. I know I don't exercise enough but I do really try to eat right. I think one problem is that I need to take more time for myself. I'm not always upset with my looks. I think like everyone else, my baby will only be a baby for so long and I can loose weight later. But when I am trying to get ready to go out with my husband and my maternity clothes don't even fit it is really disheartening!
Sarah, I have HAD to go clothes shopping and that made me feel WAY worse than before. That was incredibly depressing so I now avoid buying new clothes if at all possible!
Hang in there honey. We will all eventually get back to 'normal', whatever that is LOL.

Dawn - posted on 09/21/2010

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I can totally relate!! It'll get easier as you keep going. My baby is almost 16 months and she weaned herself last month. It broke my heart but I'm pregnant with the next one so BFing was becoming a little uncomfortable. I absolutly feel like I sometimes don't recognize myself because I struggle with my weight and body image. Some things that I found that helped were making sure that I put myself first sometimes-which is hard but you'll be a better Mama for it :o). For instance, I found a gym with excellent daycare so I could bring my daughter and sneak in an hour spin class per day. We really don't have a lot of money but when we had a little extra or I had birthday money I bought myself clothing or underwear that made me feel attractive. I try to get my shower in when my baby naps so that I have a little extra time to do some quick makeup or blow dry my hair. Lastly, I love reading so I would treat myself to a bubble bath and an hour of reading at least once a week after I put the baby down. I find that since I started doing this I feel better about myself and I have more energy than I did before so I can accomplish more throughout the day. I think it's also important (and you seem to be doing really well with this) to take pride in what you are giving your baby (and yourself :o)) because confidence grows out of that knowledge. Your body will bounce back over time. Keep your chin up and I'll send a prayer out for you tonight! *hugs*

Rebecca - posted on 09/21/2010

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I started out heavy and actually lost weight while nursing, my little boy ate every 2-3 hours for a year though and continued to nurse another 7 months past that. I think hardest part for me was after, not during. I was never had very large breasts but now they are just sad looking. I am still fighting to lose weight. Sorry doubt this helped you! What helps me is to dress up and go out and do something special with my husband. Makes me feel better to get to relax without the little ones and feel pretty again. Enjoy the extra curves and make the most out of it!

Melissa - posted on 09/21/2010

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We all tend to forget that it took us 9 months to put on the weight. To be fair, we really oughtta give ourselves at least that amount of time to take it off (if not longer). But I agree with some of the other posters, I am enjoying my extra softness. I have also always been thin, so nursing is my excuse to experience a different body that is healthier for my baby. I know that when the time is right, I WILL get back to my target weight. Until then, I will just enjoy having a little pillow for my daughter when she wants to cuddle her momma...and some big girl curves, rather than my old "teenage girl" body. lol.

Lisa - posted on 09/21/2010

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my ninnies are my body issue. two TOTALLY different sizes now. i have tried to switch sides while bf and everything. i was a small b pre-pregnancy. now one is back and the other is a c. i HATE it and plan on getting ' bolt-ons '

Lisa - posted on 09/21/2010

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my weight fell off like crazy w breastfeeding. however, i have a high metabolism, so i reckon that probably helped. seriously. dont drive yourself crazy about the body. it will never be the same, enjoy being a mommy, it'll come back. one thing i did find, binding, my tummy slimmed down FAST.

Krista - posted on 09/21/2010

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With my first, I didn't notice I had dropped down to my old weight until about 9 months. That is a healthy amount of time to lose that weight. That being said. The "smoosh" I have is not exactly where I left it. That is to say, when I nurse my son (#2) and have my shirt up and see the smoosh it really bothers me. I try to ignore it but it is tough to deal with. I know I have to understand my body won't be the same as it was pre-pregnancy but I still wish it could be.

Jodi - posted on 09/21/2010

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I completely understand! My issue wasn't so much my weight, it was the size of my breasts. Pre-pregnancy I was a c-cup (and barely that!), by a month into breastfeeding my daughter, I was an E-cup!!!!!! I HATED my breasts, they were huge and made my back hurt and I couldn't find bras that had support AND that I could wear with my wardrobe. (I was a fan of scoop and v-necks, supportive bras would be completely visible in those cases) My daughter is 18 months, we are still nursing, but my breasts are down to a D-cup (thank goodness!). Just remind yourself that breastfeeding is not a lifetime commitment, and once your baby is eating solids, it's safe to start a low-key exercise program to try to encourage those last few pounds to melt away! Best of luck! And GREAT job!!!

Katey - posted on 09/21/2010

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I wouldn't be too worried about losing weight when you are nursing anyway. You still need to take in extra nutrients to keep yourself nourished. It's also going to take time to lose that baby weight. I also wouldn't get too discouraged about your body...not that I had much of a figure to begin with...but I personally feel the best about my body when I am breastfeeding. There is no better use for my body than giving life to and nourishing my little ones! You're doing a great thing and should be proud of yourself!

Suzanne - posted on 09/21/2010

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your feelings about your body don't sound breastfeeding related as much as postpartum related, you could check out theshapeofamother.com. i didn't loose weight, since i stopped nursing i have been hitting the gym and have been gaining muscle so my shape is changing but my weight is unchanged. i still feel like this body is a wilderness :P

Dora - posted on 09/21/2010

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You just need to keep in mind that your body has changed since you have begun breast feeding just like when it changed when you became pregnant. Your body is just adapting to your current situation which is a breast feeding mom. It is normal. Try to think of your body changes as a positive thing. The way I looked at it was that I now had big boobs LOL. I never had boobs before breast feeding so this was the fun thing for me. I was able to wear shirts that didn't always fit me right before. We as women have to stop putting so much pressure on ourselves because of body image. We are beautiful creatures who have been blessed with the most amazing gift of being able to give life and then maintain that life through nutrition which comes directly from our bodies. It is an amazing thing.

Jessica - posted on 09/21/2010

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I loved my body before and i'll love my body after yet during this time in my life i'm nothing more than a Cow dispencing milk on demand to a cubby faced smiling bundle of joy. My 7 yr old told me the other day i needed to feed more off one side to make sure the other side didn't drop off. My pre baby clothes are too tight my pregnancy clothes are too big and i'm stuck in the middle, and although i don't like the look in the mirror of the extra weight, stretch marks and scars i look to the side instead, see the picture of my Three Beautiful Children Smilling at me and proud of me for doing it all or them - they woudn't want less of me to cuddle and my son learned how to say tickle by poking my belly button if it pop out from my top when i sat down. and my youngest gets all the vitamins, minerals and sweetness she needs from a good breast feed. So for now i'm a cow yet to them i'm a goddess

Leah - posted on 09/19/2010

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Sweetie, you're only 5 months post partum! It took me almost twice that much time to lose every last pound of baby weight, and I have always been a very thin woman. VERY few women look exactly like they did before so soon after giving birth...and they are freaks of nature. LOL Do you work out at all? I think even doing so for 20 minutes a few times a week would give a self esteem boost. Not only will it help you shed weight, it will make you feel good about yourself and energized. I know it's hard to get motivated when you have an infant to care for, but I think the results would be worth it! In the meantime, chin up buttercup! I think you look great!

Kayla - posted on 09/19/2010

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I'm so sorry you ladies have to go through that.. I have always been STICK thin and now after having a baby im not as thin and I love my body.. But i couldnt imagine having to deal with that.. But just remember that if you excersize and eat right then it will be ok.. just remember you are doing the very best thing for your baby.. Like another lady said, you have the rest of your life to lost weight.. but only a few years to spend with your baby..

Sarah - posted on 09/19/2010

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I can relate! It took me 9 months to finally get back to my pre-pregnancy weight... mind you, I haven't really been trying to lose weight, other than walking and of course breastfeeding. I've always been quite slim too, and to be honest I did battle with some self-image issues too and getting used to carrying around a little extra weight. It helped that my husband always tells me how beautiful and attractive I am to him, and I haven't really gone clothes shopping in a whole 9 months (I think that would just get me depressed!). I also try to get out for a walk fairly regularly (although it doesn't always happen), because the fresh air and exercise makes me feel better about myself. It's easy to slip into the habit of eating just any old food when you're breastfeeding, but I find that when I make an extra effort to eat healthy myself, I feel better too. And just know that it won't be forever! You're doing a great thing for your precious little one and you should be very proud of yourself!! It's totally worth it! =)

Aicha - posted on 09/19/2010

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I am breastfeeding and have held onto a extra 10 pounds while breastfeeding my daughter until she was 81/2 months old then found out I was pregnant again and lost 12 pounds not by choice from morning sickness now I have gained back the weight I lost but can't seem to gain more weight am 20 weeks pregnant now and my daughter is still nursing

Sara - posted on 09/18/2010

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Sorry, but I had an opposite experience from most of you. I was always a bit chunky before becoming pregnant. My son is 8 months old and I have not been able to EBF, try as I might. I don't get the time I need at work in order to pump sufficient amounts. :( However, I weigh 10 lbs less than I did before I got pregnant. [To be completely unfair :P I don't exercise much and I hate veggies] Studies do show [as someone has already mentioned] that BFing moms tend to lose weight faster than FFing moms. Your belly goes down faster because nipple stimulation in turn stimulates your uterine contractions; you use about 500 extra calories a day [someone correct me on the # if I'm wrong] just to make milk for your child. Breastfeeding moms need to eat more to compensate for the calories they use for the milk, and generally the extra calorie output assists with the weight loss. BUT nursing can also make moms fatigued because of the extra calorie usage. I was told before we left the hospital that sleepiness while/after nursing is normal.... I think it just makes me plain lazy. :P Maybe that's slowing down the weight loss, but add some extra things like healthy eating, and exercise, if that's what you feel you want/need to do. :)



I really wouldn't feel bad... stay positive. Everyone's body is different. If it makes you feel any better my sister has always been smaller than me. She just had her 8th child about 2-3 months after my son was born and for the first time she weighs more than me. :P Know what I tell her? It's something to be proud of, so don't get yourself down. =)

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