Despite Celebri-hype, Breastfeeding is Hardly an Easy Weight Loss Plan
Posted February 13, 2010
"Wow, that breastfeeding really keeps you thin!"
I've heard this a few times and I'm always tempted to reply,
"Yeah - I actually had kids because I got so sick of spending a whole hour of my time at the gym everyday. What a timesaver that was!"
The calorie-burning aspects of breastfeeding have been given a lot of attention in recent years. Although the calorie burn is real, the net effect on body weight can vary a lot from woman to woman. Regardless, it had been highlighted on websites that support and promote breastfeeding. But the place you really hear about the breastfeeding weight loss bonanza from is Hollywood.
Celebrities and public figures who breastfeed their babies do so much good for breastfeeding rates and general public health. It's truly wonderful when they are willing to go the extra mile and speak openly about their breastfeeding experiences (right Michelle Obama?). The site Best for Babes has an excellent forum for the famous to engage in productive, informative discussions about breastfeeding that can inspire moms and educate the public.
So I'm really happy about Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Garner, Rachel Wiesz, and, of course, Kourtney Kardashian, showing their fans how it's done. I do have a problem, however, with tabloidish "celeb breastfeeding" clips that invariably hone in on weight loss as THE reason to breastfeed. It's really an absurd idea.
Breastfeeding a baby is a huge commitment and one that requires much more from a mother than any diet or workout routine. Maybe weight-loss is what the editors focus on because they think it's what the readers want to hear about. Maybe celebrity-moms tend to focus on it because they feel it's a way to speak about breastfeeding in terms that Hollywood can appreciate.
Maybe the weight loss angle is how some celebrity moms deal with managers, publicists, directors and others who might not be so understanding about the intense commitment to mothering a breastfeeding mom takes on. The subtle threat of "support this or I put on 30 lbs" is probably a smart power play for a star mom who wants time out of the spotlight to spend with her baby.
Whatever the reasons for this "breastfeed your way to a hot bod" idea, it has one good (to encourage breastfeeding) but two annoying outcomes. One, is that if you are thin (usually because you have little time to eat when you breastfeed, attachment parent, cloth diaper and add any of the following: run the household, work outside the home, blog, cook, work at home, workout, coach, serve on the school board, etc...) people rudely and absurdly imply that dress size is your true motivation for breastfeeding.
The second flipside annoyance comes when this same busy schedule leads to weight gain because there is less time to eat right and excercise. If you haven't transformed into a swimsuit model by the time your baby hits 12 weeks, you start to get the not-so-subtle questions like, "So, do you think the breastfeeding will start to take off some of that baby weight eventually? Are you going to keep at it?"
Newsflash TMZ, assorted frenemies, and Aunt Judy: stars and moms commit themselves to breastfeeing out of concern for their children - not their waistlines. I enjoyed seeing a recent story about Heidi Klum's breastfeeding in which she said breastfeeding weight loss is blown out of proportion and, BTW, she does it because "Breastfeeding helps (her) child."
Don't get me wrong - I support anything that increases breastfeeding rates, including making moms aware of the high caloric burn of breastfeeding. But those looking in from the outside shouldn't use this information to make belittling (and ridiculous) assumptions that moms breastfeed (or continue breastfeeding) because it's a convenient "cheat" for keeping slim.
Just found this great post on this topic from Sustainable Mothering: