• Tue, Apr 1 - 5:00 pm ET

Hey New Moms, Magical Breastfeeding Weight Loss Is A Total Sham

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I must selfishly admit something here and feel free to judge me. One of the biggest reasons I was so committed to breastfeeding was because of the supposed weight lost benefits. Sorry, not sorry.

I really do care about the health of my kids and was elated to hear about all the benefits breastfeeding provided. But I would say that in a very close second place, maybe number 1.5 on the list, was the potential to magically lose all of my baby weight without even trying.

Like, oh my God, this was the supernatural weight loss drug I had always dreamed of! Not only was it legal and encouraged, but supposedly, you could lose weight while lying around and watching Netflix and eating more calories than normal and bonding with your baby. SIGN ME UP. And if this weight loss pot of gold turned out to be true, then maybe I would have eight or nine kids, just so that I could eat whatever I wanted and watch Netflix in peace as part of my exercise program.

Well, new moms, gather round because I have something unpleasant to tell you. This fantastical breastfeeding weight loss benefit is a total sham. Don’t believe it for one second. I am telling you this based off of my own personal experience and all of the very scientific Internet forums that I have scoured in an attempt to figure out why I couldn’t lose the last 10 pounds.

I don’t know if I’ll be accused of humble bragging, but I am a slim person. In real, non-pregnant life, I like to work out and maintain my figure. Needless to say, I didn’t love the fact that I was going to gain 30 pounds or more in pregnancy (37 to be exact) because it made me feel totally out of control. I was looking forward to the moment when I would meet my new baby and breast feed him and watch all of the fat melt away.

WRONG. I breastfed for a total of nine months with my first kid and seven months with my second. I’m sure breastfeeding was beneficial to all of us, but I had to work hard to count calories and eat right to shake those pounds. My body wouldn’t let go of the last 10 pounds until after I quit completely, not to mention the fact that I was prone to low blood sugar and lightheadedness whenever I attempted to eat less while breastfeeding.

I’ve read online that a number of bitches women breastfed and woke up beautiful and thin the very next day. But the more I googled, I also discovered that a large number of women felt that breastfeeding caused them to retain weight to hold fat on their body in order to feed the baby. I fell into the latter category. The breastfeeding diet didn’t work for me.

(Image: leolintang/Shutterstock)

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  • Jess

    I actually did lose all my pregnancy weight while breastfeeding and eating whatever I wanted (which was mostly mac and cheese and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,) but maybe that was because I only gained 25 pounds during my pregnancy. This is coming off kind of braggy. To make it more realistic, I’ll just say that I was overweight to begin with, so losing pregnancy weight gain just put me back at my normal amount of overweight and as soon as I stopped breastfeeding (but didn’t stop eating whatever I wanted), I gained like 15 pounds. So yeah, breastfeeding helped, but what good is it if it only lasts as long as you are doing it?

    • TwentiSomething Mom

      When I was breastfeeding I paid closer attention to my diet and what I drank. I ate a lot of healthier meals and drank lots of tea and water and when I weaned, I slipped and started eating processed food and drank lots of soda. When I switched back to my breastfeeding diet (smaller meals, healthy snacks) the weight just fell off.

    • CrushLily

      I was exactly the same with #1. With #2 (6 weeks tomorrow) I’m pretty much tracking the same and the weight has pretty much come off the same way, despite eating everything in the house. The cruelty is that I may weigh the same as I did before, but its all in different places now. Finally had to succumb to new jeans to avoid the dreaded muffin top. Sigh.
      However, can not recommend highly enough the Recovery Shorts. They just sucked everything in nicely and sold for a tidy sum second-hand on eBay. Winning!

  • rrlo

    I lost weight breastfeeding as well. Supposedly feeding the baby takes about 500 – 600 calories extra- so I can see how that would help.

  • candyvines

    Bummer! This is one of the reasons I was looking forward to breastfeeding. That and keeping all this luscious hair I’ve never had ever in my life. Just watch, you’ll see me on the cover of Newsweek with a ten year old on my boob just so I can have hair.

    • elle.m.jay

      So in my highly scientific study of me and my two pregnancies/breastfeeding experiences – you may halfway be in luck! The weight did come off pretty easily, despite me eating everything in sight (seriously, pregnancy hunger has NOTHING on breastfeeding hunger)… but… so much of my hair fell out! I actually had bald patches on my temples. : ( Or maybe, you’ll be super magical and get to keep your hair and drop all the pounds! Good luck!

    • candyvines

      Oh nooooooo! I guess even in the worst case scenario I’ll lose weight from all the hair falling out.

    • elle.m.jay

      There you go! : )

    • Maria Guido

      Keeping hair? Mine fell out in chunks after I had the baby – and I’m still breastfeeding 10 months in. While we’re dispelling myths – I’ll also tell you I got my period back a mere 2 months post partum with BOTH of my kids – both whom I was exclusively breastfeeding.

    • candyvines

      Why do you want to ruin everything? JK – it’s probably better that I know all the possibilities. I’m going to find the woman who told me otherwise and punch her in the taco.

    • Nica

      HA – same here. I thought I was going to go bald at around 4 mo pp with each kid. Hair falling out everywhere. My gorgeous pregnancy mane was gone within a couple of weeks after that.
      Also, EBF both kids and STILL got my 1st pp period at 9 weeks pp after each and let’s not forget I bled for about 6 weeks after birth each time so I got a whole three week break before going back to by the clock, regular periods. Good times, good times…

  • Tinyfaeri

    I didn’t really start to lose weight until she was weaned at 20 weeks, and I went through Insanity. It really doesn’t work for everyone.

  • Megan Dishong

    Thank you!! I am a longtime Mommyish lurker and don’t normally comment, but I am glad to know someone else feels like the breastfeeding weight loss story was a damnable lie. In February, I weaned after 13 months and am just now making progress on the last 10 pounds. I actually had someone suggest to me recently when I mentioned working to lose the rest of my baby weight that I should have breastfed longer. I tried to kill her a death stare from my eyes, but it didn’t work.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Lol! Thanks for commenting!

  • Ali

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this! I have six kids and gain about 25 lbs per pregnancy. I’m pretty slender and most of it comes off right away but that last 5-10 lbs will not go away until I stop breast feeding. When I do stop, the weight goes away without any effort on my part. It drives me crazy when I hear people say they are stick thin from breast feeding and “chasing their kids around.” Lies!!!!!!!

  • shel

    I suppose it helped me in the sense that I ate a lot and whatever I want and didn’t keep gaining weight… but I’m sill up 10-15lbs from pre-pregnancy and it doesn’t want to go anywhere. Finally reaching the point of weaning completely, so we’ll see what happens then.

  • Kelly

    For some people the weight just falls off no matter what they do. I have a cousin who didn’t breastfeed at all and she left the hospital wearing the size 2 jeans she was in before her pregnancy. Although, she had her second child a few years later and she’s been hanging onto a good extra 50 pounds since that pregnancy 10 years ago so it can not only vary by the individual but also by each individual pregnancy.

    I struggled like crazy to breastfeed for the first two months after my son was born. I didn’t lose an ounce. In fact, I gained weight during that time, probably due to all the stress concerning my “defective” boobs and my starving infant who was dropping all the weight I wasn’t. Honestly, I wish I had just said “fuck breastfeeding” as soon as it became an issue instead of letting people guilt me and stress me out over it (and endanger my son’s life) when it’s really not that big of a deal.

  • TwentiSomething Mom

    I’m sure some of the women retained fat because they weren’t taking in enough calories, forcing their body to go into starvation mode and store fat. When breastfeeding you need to eat frequently and take in more calories than if you were not breastfeeding. When I cut out breastfeeding at around 6 months, I quickly gained about 10lbs forcing me to have to pay closer attention to what I ate and the frequency.

  • Emily Wight

    I’m still holding onto the 25 pounds I put ON breastfeeding. I came out of the hospital 17 pounds below my pre-pregnancy weight. Four months later, I was up 35 pounds. No amount of salad and Zumba is making this new neck fat and spare tire go away.

    • ChelseaBFH

      It didn’t dawn on me until about three months postpartum that if you run half marathons and eat reasonably well before you get pregnant but then have no time to exercise and eat pizza three times a week after the baby comes, the weight you put on while pregnant is the least of your worries.

    • Maria Guido

      Yup. I put on weight breastfeeding, too. I’m hoping it goes away when I stop like it did with my first but we shall see.

    • BW2

      Maria, I thought you were trying to wean your baby a while ago?

  • Amanda

    I also bought into the breastfeeding makes you skinny, and worked very hard with my first to breastfeed. Lies. All Lies. I actually don’t gain a lot of weight while pregnant (less than 10 pounds for each kid, but I was heavy to begin with), and when breastfeeding I hoard fat like crazy. After my second, I exercised and followed weight watcher simply so I would not gain weight in the months after giving birth (it worked, but it was a lot of effort for hardly any weight loss). After I weaned at a year, I have lost about 15 pounds in the last 6 months, which has been nice, but it was only after I quit breastfeeding that my efforts paid off.

  • Jen

    Yes. This. I will say that the breastfeeding helped me lose weight pretty quickly. But then those last pesky 5-10 lbs stuck around till I was done breastfeeding. I think this is pretty common. Your body tries to hold onto a little extra “just in case” or something? I dunno. I was happy to have some early quick progress but def was disappointed a bit. But I have been pregnant and/or nursing for 5 years now so I have no idea about anything related to my body anymore. Hormones always out of whack, weight always shifting….looking forward to being done soon…..baby #3 due next week! Yay!

  • http://fakegeekmom.com Aimee Ogden

    My kids are four months old now and I’m BELOW my pre-pregnancy weight despite horking down a pack of cookies every three days and lying around with babies attached to my boobs all day. I recommend having twins for magical post-partum weight loss purposes. (Although to be fair, I’ve lost the weight, but what’s still here is … shall we say, rearranged? And squishy. It’s definitely squishier. All I know is most of my pants still don’t fit despite me being 3 or 4 pounds under what I was at before Pee Stick Day last year.)

    • shorty_RN

      Yes, my pre-preg pants fit on my legs but will not button around the waist. My arms, legs, butt, and boobs are back to pre-baby size, but the extra weight I still have has all settled strangely in my lower abdomen.

    • Natasha B

      Oh so it’s not just me? I’m like, face, arms, etc skinnier…and this unshakable flap of fat on the lower abdomen. KIDS

    • Iwill Findu

      I’m 10 pounds under the pre baby days yet I still have a muffin top. Pretty sure it’s not going away any time soon.

    • MLSKC

      10 points for Pee Stick Day!

  • Valerie

    Totes. And I too am slim and was in good shape pre baby and totally excited to look like Giselle after nursing. Noooope. Nope nope nope. Not even a little. Couldn’t lose the last 15 lbs until I stopped the boob feeding.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Fucking Gisele!

    • koolchicken

      I’ve just accepted she’s built like that. Nursing makes me ravenous and if I try to eat less my supply drops dramatically. Once I hit my pre pregnancy weight I stopped dropping pounds. I stay at 143.2 pounds no matter what, I just substitute fat for muscle when I get lazy. I think she’s probably the same. And quite frankly I wouldn’t have an issue with it if she weren’t such a jerk. No one that mean deserves to be that skinny.

    • Bethany Ramos

      I also noticed supply drop after cutting back on food. That was my whole crossroads, couldn’t diet too hard, as you aren’t supposed to, if I wanted to keep producing!

    • koolchicken

      I am one of those women you’d like to slap who forgets to eat. It’s true though I swear. So knowing I had to stay on top of taking care of myself if I wanted my son to stay healthy was a good thing.

    • JJ

      lol that Gisele. That women must eat unicorn sprinkles for breakfast or something because everything she does or says seems impossible. Oh labour wasn’t painful at all it was beautiful and magical. lol okay. I just lost all the weight (that I didn’t gain in the first place most likely) from chasing my kids around and breastfeeding. That Gisele is not human she a mythical goddess creature out of folk lore.

    • Karen Milton

      I’ve never understood “chasing my kids around” as a thing. Neither of my newborns required much chasing.

  • CatherineBBenson

    In February, I weaned after 13 months and am just now making progress on the last 10 pounds. I actually had someone suggest to me recently when I mentioned working to lose the rest of my baby weight that I should have breastfed longer. http://qr.net/rPST

  • Linzon

    I actually had two totally different experiences with each kid so I provide anecdata for each side!

    I gained 50lbs during each pregnancy on top of my already-overweightness. First kid, I started going to the gym 3-4 times a week and watching what I ate, and while I did eventually lose all of the baby weight it took months for that last bit to come off. Just when it did, bam, pregnant again!

    Second kid, I lost it all plus 7lbs more (bringing me to my lowest weight since I was a teen!) as of 8 months postpartum with kind of watching what I ate and a lot less exercise. And still going!

    I’m wondering if the difference is that #2 is still waking up 2-4 times a night to seriously chow down while #1 was only getting up once starting at 2 months.

    • Bethany Ramos

      I love hearing different stories like this! That’s why I was all crazy on the forums…

  • koolchicken

    I don’t know, I think it really does work for some people. Granted I was tall and thin (and in my 20′s) when I first got pregnant. And everyone I know said I’d rubber band back into shape in no time. But I really think breastfeeding is what caused me to loose the weight. My son was a premature c section, but I still gained 40+ pounds during that time. And guess what I lost after I had him 6.12 pounds, exactly what he weighed. That doesn’t even make sense! (Note I had to be weighed less than 24 hours after the birth because they were planning to put me on his med flight). So after he was born I was horrible to myself. When I finally started eating again it was only the worst foods in copious amounts and I couldn’t move for months. So it’s no surprise I looked 7 months pregnant forever. Then one day five months out I just woke up skinny. I truly have no idea how but it had to be breastfeeding because I wasn’t doing anything else. Either that or it was some sort of miracle from God. Like a trade off for still being in pain. You can’t win them all…

  • mims

    Dude what the heck. Why are you gonna call me a bitch like that

  • waffre

    I haven’t had kids yet so I can’t weigh in (uh, no pun intended, ha!) on the breastfeeding/weightloss thing, but that Bill Cosby magic hotdog gif is creeping me the hell out.

    • noodlestein

      Hahaha! And here I was thinking it is everything good and right in the world. :D

  • ChelseaBFH

    PLEASE don’t disprove the “once you finish breastfeeding, your body just lets go of all of that baby weight” myth next! It’s what’s keeping me hopeful!

    • Bethany Ramos

      For me, it was mostly true!

  • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

    The body needs a certain amount of fat to lactate… so yeah. The last 10 pounds will hang in there.
    And if you’re a formula feeder like I am, it’s the ice cream’s fault.

  • shorty_RN

    Breastfeeding didn’t make me lose weight, but I think it let me eat a lot of food and still maintain my weight. When I stopped I was like “Wait, I can’t eat whatever I wan’t now? Boo!” 5 months out and I’ve just decided to lovingly embrace the extra 15ish pounds I still have. Dieting? Psh. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

  • EX

    Meh. I never lost the last 10 pounds. And I was already 20 pounds overweight when I started. I’ve lost 25 of the 35 pounds I gained with this pregnancy in the past 7 weeks since baby arrived but, if you’re keeping track, that still puts me, like, 40 pounds in the hole, so to speak. I think it’s gonna take a lot more than breastfeeding to get me there. Although it would be so awesome if I could do it while sitting on my ass watching netflix and eating chocolate.

  • J

    It was slower for me with baby #2, but even with nighttime wine and Oreos I’m back in my 00 jeans at 6 months post birth with just my normal hour-long workout. I think it can work for some. Depends on a lot of factors though.

    • Kara

      Please go brag somewhere else

    • koolchicken

      I don’t see J as bragging. She may well have lost the weight breastfeeding. Some people do. For others it ends up being a life long struggle. So please don’t be a downer.

    • J

      Thanks Koolchicken, I can see how it can be read as bragging but it is what it is. Breastfeeding and some luck can get weight off for some. That said, actually getting ab muscles back is taking a lot of sit ups and crunches and I’m still not there. The whole “uterus contracting during nursing is like doing ab work thing” someone told me about isn’t working for me and my son nurses nonstop now that I’m on maternity leave. My ab definition feels like it may be gone forever

    • koolchicken

      I remember the feeling of my uterus contracting. It was horrifically painful. So there have been no crunches for me. Now my muscles are still there, I can see them. For whatever reason people in my family build muscle quickly and it takes a lot to loose it. Thank God, otherwise I’d be screwed. But I do have some loose skin so it’s not like I’m a 10 or anything. Very few people get everything.

      You weren’t bragging and I certainly didn’t read it that way. It was simply a statement of fact. I think this post is nice for those who can’t shift the weight bfing, but for some if us it does work. It did for me, and lots of other people I know. It’s just not a universal cure for weight loss.

    • BW2

      I am 5’8 and naturally slender. Most of the weight came off for me with breastfeeding and the last when I finally went back to the gym 5 months after my second kid was born. This is not bragging but rather stating an opposite view than Bethany since her article was about how breastfeeding does not take off the weight. Works for some but not others. Just like how diet impacts some people’s weight more than exercise.

  • Nica

    Ummm, I lost 30 lbs quickly after I STOPPED breastfeeding. Seems my body had to hold on to every.single.calorie while I was breastfeeding… Thought I was alone on this, but I have since met a number of bf’ing moms who have had the same experience!

  • Geogirl

    I have argued that this is a lie for years. With all of my kids I was completely unable to loose weight while breastfeeding. Whatever came off in the first week or so was it. Also I have never been so hungry in my life. I tried to limit my intake to a more reasonable amount only to become shaky and ravenous.

    • C.J.

      That was what it was like for me too. Sometimes I felt like I couldn’t eat enough no matter how much I ate.

  • lpag

    It worked with my first baby, but it’s not working with my second. I’m actually eating well (and had to cut out dairy entirely b/c it makes the baby break out), and working out, but the weight is just stuck. And I don’t mean the last 10 lbs either. I mean the last 25. Incredibly frustrating, and I’m super depressed about it.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Sorry to hear that! I was really stressed too. :( Just try to remember that it will likely get better whenever you stop, especially if you’re eating well.

  • Marie

    I have a friend who didn’t lose any of the baby weight while nursing. Aside from the 15 lb or so of baby and fluid it all just stayed, and she was fairly active and slim before baby. She tried to get super active and healthy when her baby was a couple months old and said she immediately noticed a drop on her milk supply as soon as she lost a pound or two. She toughed it out for a year and then as soon as she weaned her daughter the weight fell off. She doesn’t regret it now, but she said her “fat” year was really hard on her self esteem.

  • val97

    Yeah, it’s a lie. The body needs fat to make milk. For me, with both kids, those last 10 lbs hung on until just weeks after weaning when they seemed to fall off. Plus, breastfeeding made me so hungry, hangry even, that couldn’t even attempt to watch my calorie intake.

    • Bethany Ramos

      100% HANGRY.

  • val97

    Yeah, it’s a lie. The body needs fat to make milk. For me, with both kids, those last 10 lbs hung on until just weeks after weaning when they seemed to fall off. Plus, breastfeeding made me so hungry, hangry even, that couldn’t even attempt to watch my calorie intake.

  • Anne

    Personally I actually lost weight from breastfeeding exclusively. By the time my soon was 5 months I was small than I was before I got pregnant. However, I didn’t change my eating habits during my one-year mat leave (I live in Canada). Once he weaned around 12 months and I went back to work I gained it all back. Who knew you actually had to exercise and not eat an entire bag of Sour cream and onion chips in one sitting.

  • Kristen

    I feel like I gained a little too much weight while I was pregnant and that breastfeeding helped me lose most of the weight, but I have like 15 pounds that never should have been gained and won’t come off until I work out a lot and diet a bit and unfortunately, dieting has to wait until after I stop breastfeeding.

  • JulesInFL

    As with most things, I think it depends on the individual. My little monster fed every 2 hours (and all night) for what seemed like forever. I lost the weight plus a few lbs, but looked like death warmed over. (She looked extremely plump and delicious.) Big cakes with lots of frosting, and the return of an occasional beer or glass of wine, were my only consolation. I was so sad when she self-weaned abruptly at 9 months and I suddenly had to think about my food intake again.

    *Not trying to brag here, just adding my two cents’.

  • Zettai

    But… but… they say it burns 800 calories a day! I mean… I just can’t… it’s… it’s not fair! I feel like the pot of gold at the end of my monochromatic rainbow was stolen. :(

  • meghancnyc

    I’m really enjoying all the humble bragging going on.

  • Bria

    Didn’t work for me either! Holding on to 20lbs of it at this point and it does not want to go anywhere. I gained a holyshit amount of 60lbs while I was pregnant (I had a 10lb baby, ok?) and dropped 30 of it almost immediately, 10 more came off about 2 months after he was born. This last 20 though. Omg.

  • Kittydelite

    I weighed 10kg more than my pre pregnancy weight when my daughter was born, after having lost 5kg in the first trimester from vomiting (I do not recommend you lose more than 10% of your body weight when you are pregnant- it is not fun).

    By six weeks postpartum I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight…and then I kept losing…
    When I went back to work when my daughter was six months old I weighed 42kgs and looked like death.

    She was a chubby little bundle of cuteness, I was eating like a horse and making lots of milk…but still losing weight.

    Thankfully the weight loss bottomed out at 40kg and I got back to my pre-pregnancy weight of 45kgs when I stopped feeding her when she was 14 months or so.

    I don’t work out and I eat whatever I want (although not much of it) I’m just very petite to start with, with an odd metabolism.

    Be careful what you wish for…if breastfeeding DOES make you lose weight, it might not be what you want either.

  • Megan L

    I was one of the “lucky” ones where just two weeks after giving birth I was down to my pre-pregnancy weight. I was shocked when I realized it and felt like I’d been doing something wrong (yay post-partum crazy hormones!). BUT this is not to say I’m all fit and fabulous now. Nope! No one would ever guess that I dropped that weight because I’m still lugging around an extra 25-30 lbs just from bad eating/exercising (or should I say non-exercise?) habits I had long before even the idea of a baby popped into my head. In fact, I’ve been asked numerous times since giving birth (1.5 years ago) if I’m pregnant. :D

  • freemane

    Ugh. I try to tell my self the my metabolism is “efficient” and that I’m obviously designed to survive famines, but I’m sitting here nursing twins (and occasionally their big brother) and running around like a crazy woman and Oh My God the last 10 lbs will Never go away. Sigh.

  • Angela Brown

    Eh. It works for some people and doesn’t for others. I know women who did nothing but breasfeed and weigh less than they did pre-pregnancy, and I know women who breastfed for eons and it made no difference whatsoever. I gained 35 lbs, formula feed, and the weight came off in six months because I worked out and paid attention to what I ate, which ALSO doesn’t work for everybody. You just have to do you.

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