13 Reasons I Don’t Mind Being a Chunky, Happy Mama While Breastfeeding

 

13 Reasons I Don't Mind Being a Chunky, Happy Mama While Breastfeeding // jessconnell.com

While breastfeeding, I tend to stay (how should I put this?)

  • plump
  • fluffy
  • voluptuous
  • chunky
  • heavier than I’d prefer
  • curvy
  • rounder-than-while-not-breastfeeding
  • soft

Yeah, those adjectives work. You might have other words you’d use. Keep those to yourself, please. :) IMG_3850

Basically, I’m not the gal the breastfeeding books all talked about.
Nope. 
I’m the one who holds on to every extra calorie with a tight-fisted iron grip and can’t seem to drop more than about 10 pounds after I have a baby until that baby is weaned.

(In fact, sometimes — after that initial 10-pound drop the first day of the baby’s life — I GAIN weight.) 

It happens every time, and now that I’m postpartum with baby #7, I’m (mostly) OK with it. I’m writing this out not to justify myself (because I really am, like I said– mostly– OK with it), but rather, because I think there’s a lot of pressure on moms now to be a thin, fit, “trim,” sculpted, tight, ab-possessing, thigh-gap-holding mama.

Too much pressure.

And I don’t want my silence to contribute to that unhealthy, often-unrealistic message.

Here’s the thing: If you are able to maintain your milk supply and be a breastfeeding extraordinaire AND lose weight, more power to you. For my part, I can’t manage to do both, and breastfeeding is not something I’m willing to give up to be thin.

Hear me: I am not trying to “skinny-shame” the ladies who can do both– but I do want to give encouragement and offer camaraderie to women who are like me. Instead of grumping and complaining about the fact that I can’t seem to lose weight while nursing, I’d like to share some of the positives about this not-often-talked-about situation which is, for me, a fact of life as a postpartum mom.

Without further ado, let me share.

Here are 13 Reasons I Don’t Mind Being (what I jokingly call) a “Chunky Happy Mama”:

  1. While breastfeeding, I make plenty of milk because I have learned not to mess too much with my calories. Breastfeeding can be challenging in a lot of ways, and I’ve faced many of those: tongue tie, lip tie, lazy suck, mastitis, a week-long NICU stay, and more. I don’t make it more difficult on myself by flirting dangerously close with the calories needed to keep a plentiful milk supply for my little one.
  2. My husband gets variety. Pregnant body. Soft body with a bigger chest. Smaller body without those things in between pregnancies, or toward the end of baby’s first year. He likes the ways my body fluctuates with the realities of childbearing. And then after the baby is weaned, he gets a wife with a smaller body again. (We’re not talking unhealthy obesity, just a soft mom body). This currently-chunky body is one version of a God-given variety my husband gets to experience while being faithful to the same woman for his whole life. For now, I have curves and he gets to hug them. :)
  3. I’m a woman and I look like one. I’m not a little girl or a preteen. I look like a breastfeeding mom. I look like women have looked (according to art and statues) throughout the ages. Strong arms. soft breasts, and a little plump in the middle.
  4. It’s an opportunity to learn contentment. Being chunky, for a time, gives me an opportunity to LEARN contentment while living in a state-of-being which is less than what I think is ideal, and less than what society around me says is beautiful. Like Paul learned contentment in a variety of states, I have learned to be OK with looking like a breastfeeding mother when I am, in fact, a breastfeeding mother.
  5. I have a soft tummy for my kids to lean against. It’s comfy for them to snuggle with mom.
  6. I get to give other people the blessing of realistic body expectations. By not frantically focusing on losing weight, I’m not pushing others toward an unhealthy focus on losing weight. By that I mean, maybe other women feel not so very alone by me just being the way I am. Though sometimes (often?) it doesn’t feel delightful to me, during this postpartum season, I am contributing to a healthier society for all of us by making it  “ok” for ladies around me to be normal, non-anorexic, non-workout-crazy sizes. Perhaps, by me being a normal size (higher weight after pregnancy, and while nursing), it will put less pressure on other women, and help other husbands see that there are a variety of normal, post-baby body types.
  7. A lack of focus on weight is good for my daughter. I’m thankful that I had a mom who did her best to be healthy but didn’t focus inordinately on the number on the scale. I think she gave me (among other things) a balanced body image. I hope I can do the same thing for my daughter, especially in this age of anorexia, bulimia, and the new one that’s on the rise– even among young moms: orthoxia (a quest for perfect/utterly “healthy” eating). It’s good for her to see that it’s ok to look like I’ve just had a baby, after I’ve just had a baby.
  8. By being OK with my size/weight, even when it’s not “ideal,” I’m not an easy prey for fad diets. I’m not ruining my body by buying into whatever the latest “low fat”,  “beer and salad only,” “no carb,” fad is. You keep that kale-flax-and-miracle-powder smoothie far from me, ya’ hear?
  9. Our budget isn’t strained from buying a bunch of special products or ingredients.
  10. I get to eat the food I like. I eat normal food and exercise when I can, and work to be moderate in both. I don’t have to avoid group functions, potlucks, or invites to people’s homes. I can eat whatever I want, and simply adjust portion sizes & watch liquid calories consumed.
  11. I’m at rest with reality. I’m not perpetually dissatisfied or anxious about something that fluctuates over time (my weight and curves as a mom).
  12. My body is doing what it was made by God to do, and I can find joy in His good design. Instead of potentially making an idol of my body (focusing on it above God & what He’s given me to do), I’m using this body for its unique purposes: nurturing life, sustaining health in my little ones by breastfeeding them, snuggling with the children He’s given me, and being the one who is with them, loving and training them (rather than off somewhere else, exercising for hours/day). AND I SAVED MY FAVORITE ONE FOR LAST:
  13. By not focusing on losing weight, I’ve managed to maintain a strong milk supply and breastfeed all our babies to at least one year old. 

IMG_3630Hear me: I am not criticizing others who lose weight and look amazing after having a baby. Nor am I trying to formula-shame, or any other form of writing in order to shame other people. Nor am I claiming to be some obese cow… so please, no comments like, “awww… you look great; you’re not overweight!” Because I know I am overweight, and it’s OK… it really is.

But I *DO* want to speak up and free other moms, in a way that I had to struggle to feel free, to be a little chunky, and still be happy.

I am not trying to excuse unhealthy obesity or gross negligence of our physical form. No. That is sinful, and we *are* stewards of these bodies God gives us.

So I don’t want to make it sound like your health and weight don’t matter. They do.

But, if you happen to be a woman whose body works like mine, it’s OK for you to look like a mom… a full-bodied woman… a postpartum gal… when you’ve just had a baby.

There are seasons when other things (like making and feeding a baby) take a RIGHT AND GOOD PRECEDENCE over losing weight and being thin.

And you don’t have to feel guilty about that.

  • No matter what our culture says.
  • No matter what the ripped-ab lady in the interview says.
  • No matter what the latest, trendy diet book says.
  • No matter, even, if those people writing the book are Christians.

Be at peace.

These are 13 reasons why I’m a Chunky, Happy Mama.

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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22 Responses

  1. Emily says:

    Great perspective!
    Breastfeeding isn’t the universal “weight loss plan” like it is touted sometimes, although it DOES burn & require mom’s calories, proteins, fats…. it effects women differently. If that were the only motivation to breastfeed I’m sure it would be a big letdown (no pun intended) 😉 In contrast, I happen to be one of “those” women who drops a lot of weight after pregnancy. I’m guessing it has to do with genetics because I do not diet and I don’t try to lose the weight. Lest I receive the eyerolls, I actually don’t like getting so thin or teen-ish & bony. Clothes don’t fit well and I feel healthier & prettier when I am “plumper”, such as during pregnancy. My milk supply has always been fine, thankfully, and I have nursed my boys for a long time with no issues while having a very low BMI. Doctors have just told me perhaps childbirth / breastfeeding has a big metabolic demand on my body, and everything goes to the milk production (at my expense). I don’t have a big appetite and I’m sure I don’t take in enough calories to maintain the weight. For me, it’s a struggle, although the opposite struggle as most new moms! The frequent comments bothered me a lot, like “you need to eat more” and “oh honey, you are looking thin.. are you okay?” Instead of reveling in losing the baby weight, I started feeling paranoid & anxious about my appearance.

    I read an article once about a woman who didn’t lose much baby weight (and gained some) while breastfeeding and actually stopped for that reason as if breastfeeding was the cause. She had been told that nursing “makes you lose weight” and was disappointed. That made me sad. Every woman’s body and shape are different and although typically breastfeeding can contribute to some weight loss, that shouldn’t be the selling point. There are a whole host of other benefits to focus on! :)

    • Carissa says:

      I am the exact same way! I lose the weight so fast and get even more thin the longer I breast feed, despite eating lots! I make just enough milk and would love if I had extra, but thankfully I seem to have enough…most of the time. I am used to the comments now, but I have struggled with comments about my weight most of my adult life. I have learned to be content, but i Iove being pregnant because then I have more to me and don’t feel so skinny! And after having a baby I feel so unattractive and frail because of how thin I get. Being on of “those” women isn’t always as glamorous as it appears and we struggle in other ways. We all have to do our best to take care of ourselves and learn contentment and view ourselves the way God views us. Fearfully and wonderfully made!

      • Emily says:

        Isn’t it funny how we can be tempted to be discontent either way? :) I agree, it’s not as glamorous as it appears to have our “problem” and losing the baby weight doesn’t equal happiness. I think it caused me more anxiety. (“Is something wrong with me? Will my milk supply be okay?”)

        I love how God designed women to carry and deliver babies, and then provide nourishment for them as well. There is so much focus on “getting your body back”, but I don’t know of any mom who goes back to the way she was exactly… and I don’t feel we need to. Plus, I think curves and a full face are pretty and feminine, like Jess said. :)

  2. Candice says:

    This is good for women to hear, Jess! Sadly, my breastfeeding years are over, but I often did try to lose weight too quickly and it would affect my milk supply. Thankfully I was able to nurse all eight of my babies for around a year each, but I regret that my focus was wrongly skewed to self much of the time. Seasons! I still need to learn contentment in different seasons of life!

  3. Emily Jensen says:

    Oh wow – this hit really close to home today! I also heard that ‘breastfeeding makes the weight fall off’ and that has NEVER been my experience, despite watching lots of friends become really skinny while nursing. When I’m nursing, my appetite is even bigger than it was in pregnancy and it’s very difficult to cut back calories (even when I’m eating mostly healthy foods!). I remember I was anxious to lose the last 15 pounds after my first pregnancy and I did a sugar fast just 12 weeks postpartum. It definitely impacted my milk supply, and just month or so later I had to wean because our son wasn’t gaining weight. After having twins, I pumped exclusively for 3 months (they were premature and had to do bottles) and again, my experience was that I was unable to lose any weight until I switched to formula. This time I’m enjoying a baby that nurses beautifully, but I feel really bummed because after my 3rd delivery, my body is really resisting ‘bouncing back’ and I know it’s mostly due to breastfeeding. I still have a good 20lbs to lose! I feel really torn because I want to love the stage I’m in and enjoy nursing, but I also don’t feel like I look like myself. I really appreciated reading this because it gave me some things to think about as I search my heart and stay committed to nursing. One thing that has helped a little bit, has been investing in some in-between clothing. So at least this fall I have a few outfits that fit my current body instead of wearing maternity shirts or feeling bad that I can’t squeeze into pre-pregnancy clothes!

    • Jess Connell says:

      YES!! I’ve had to quit looking at the numbers and do what the folks on “What Not To Wear” always said– look at the way it FITS YOUR BODY not the number on the tag. It makes a big difference to have clothes that fit and not feel like sausage squeezed into a tight casing. LOL

  4. Jennifer says:

    Oh, Jess. Thank you so much for writing this! I feel like everything you said is RIGHT ON. We’ve had four kids in three years (a year and a half between pregnancies and twins the last time around), so my body has been through the ringer a bit. I’m still nursing my twins, who turn one this week. And while I’m wishing I was about seven pounds lighter and down to my pre-twin weight, I am so very thankful I’ve been able to nurse my babies. I know that I will have plenty of time to lose the weight when this time is over, but I do still sometimes find myself wishing my old clothes fit, and being tired of feeling lumpy. 😉 This was a wonderful reminder of what I know, but sometimes forget. Blessings on you!

  5. Katie Hughes says:

    I’ve had both happen. When I was breastfeeding my triplets (no, not a typo), the weight fell off ridiculously fast. I’m now 8 months post partum with my singleton and haven’t lost a single pound despite breastfeeding exclusively. I’ve decided to be content though, and not wish our breastfeeding time away in favor of a slimmer body. That will come in time.

  6. jhart says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. My body works the same, and with number 3 I’ve finally surrendered to the fact that my body needs to be this way for my babies proper milk supply. And because I don’t worry about anymore, I can focus on the more important things. Its nice to read the other side, and not the same old same old, you lose if you breastfeed etc! Thanks again for speaking out and the encouragement. This mama appreciates it. Also, congratulations on 7 children, God bless your family. Stay Strong in the Lord. <3

  7. Cathleen says:

    Ok…just want to say…I love you! Amen to everything you said! I just had baby #7 at almost 43 and I am learning to embrace my outer “fluff.” It is such pressure to drop the weight and this right here is so encouraging and has blessed me tremendously! You are so right on about every detail and I feel like you were speaking just to me! Thank you for sharing! May the Lord continue to bless you and your family!

  8. Jesse says:

    I loved this! What freedom it is to learn to love how God MADE YOU and not someone else. I have had both sides of this. My 1st and 3rd boys have been bigger babies and have helped me lose weight although never to the point of frailty. My second son was leaner and I had a much harder time losing the weight. Coming from a family of 4 girls I have really had to choose contentment because I am the biggest built of my sisters. However like Jess I continuously mgo back to what I know to be true, my husband loves me, I am healthy and I am doing exactly what God has equipped me to do at this time in my life. I have been

  9. Jesse says:

    Whhoops. To end :) I have been canning, gardening and nursing a 28 lb 16 month old all summer and I feel strong! I am thankful to do what women have done for thousands of years with the God given strength of our fearfully made bodies. Thank you for your much needed encouragement!

  10. So much of it, I think, has to do with genetics. I tend to gain a fair amount over the “recommended” pregnancy weight gain and ease out of it over baby’s first year or so. Even still, I tend toward the skinny side.

    I always remember my mom and some of my grandmas on her side being so cuddly. :) I seem to have inherited more of my dad’s genes, and that works, too. I am what I am, too, and I’m willing to go with the flow, just doing my best to be strong, healthy, and there for my precious children. <3

    I really appreciate your reasoning here and will pass this along. Priorities!

  11. Charisa says:

    I like what Rachel Jankovic says in “Loving the Little Years”: something along the lines of “cheerfully carry the weight until you can cheerfully lose the weight”. I so appreciate your wisdom here. Having just had baby #5, I looked this up again to give it another read. :)

  12. Danielle says:

    I can’t even begin to tell you how much I needed this. I just had twins, my fifth delivery, and I’m tempted to throw my scale away. After my initial drastic weight loss from the birth of TWO 7lb babies, I’ve slowly gained almost 20lbs back. My midwife told me it is mostly due to the large muscle loss during pregnancy. Now I’m gaining that muscle back ever so slowly it’s still discouraging to have none of my normal I-just-had-a-baby-fat clothes fit. Logically I know I had twins and it will take longer. I was always the other person before with my other 4 pregnancies- loose weight while breastfeeding. I really needed this encouragement tonight. I need to BELIEVE my husband when he tells me he loves the changes my body goes through. I guess hearing it from someone else encourages me that he isn’t just saying it and it really is Satan lying to me.

  13. Danielle says:

    I just wanted to add….I need to stop worrying about the weight and be thankful I’m able to nurse twins! I should plaster that on my walls…I’m nursing twins. God granted me my dream that I was never even brave enough to voice- healthy, full term twins, born at home, and I’m successfully breastfeeding them. I just need to dwell on that for a while. Thanks again.

    • Jess Connell says:

      Yes!! PLASTER IT on those walls, girl!

      What a great thing you’re doing. It’s so hard, living in this cultural air of “thin is everything”… but live in this moment with your twins. Do the best you can by them, now, and then, at some future time, when your body is not sustaining 3 lives… you’ll find ways to get moving and dealing with the weight.

      But for now, put it on your walls, READ what’s on your walls, and believe it more than the lies in your head and your culture. :)

      So glad for the chance to encourage you!

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