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Monday Health & Wellness: On Postpartum Weight Loss

admin June 23, 2014

I’ve talked about postpartum weight loss a handful of times before.  I gave some advice on it when I was pregnant with my fourth, and then I shared some of my struggles when the baby was a few months old.

Now I’m going to tell you the whole story in one place, as well as offering advice based on what I’ve learned.

The biggest takeaway: it’s not simple.  It’s not a matter of calories in -> calories out, or just being “strict” about your diet, or exercising enough.  It’s so much more complex. Let’s start at the beginning.

After Jacob: First Struggles with Baby Weight

Jacob is my third child.  I lost all my baby weight easily after my first two were born — like, within weeks.  I was below my baby weight after a few months.  I assumed it would always be this easy.

Not so.

Jacob was born when I was 26.  He was just over two years younger than Daniel, who is less than 18 months younger than Bekah.  So, three babies in 3.5 years — pretty quick succession.  I lost the first 20 lbs. pretty easily (I’d gained about 30), but I never did lose the last 10.  My weight pretty much stalled, for 6 months or more.  And then, I was pregnant with Nathan — I found out when Jacob was just 11 months — so there were no more attempts at weight loss.

At this point, I weighed about 140.  I am 5’3″ with a very full figure, so this was a bit more than I liked but within “normal” for my body type.  I had also just discovered using magnesium and a multivitamin tincture to help with morning sickness (it was successful, I had the least morning sickness out of any of my pregnancies).

The magnesium lotion had an interesting side effect.  I didn’t gain any weight during the first 20 weeks of my pregnancy.  All of the weight went straight to the front and came off my hips, thighs, and backside.  I looked better and better!  I became convinced that magnesium was magical (well…sort of, there’s lots of science for why this happened too!) and that I would easily lose the weight after Nathan was born.

But again…not so.

Family Christmas

After Nathan: Surprise Weight Gain

After Nathan was born, everything appeared to be normal.  I lost most of the weight in the first two weeks, putting me around 140 again.  I fit into most of my pre- pregnancy clothes.  I felt impatient to watch the rest of the weight drop off, as I was sure it would.

But it didn’t. After three months, I started gaining weight.  In a short period, I gained 10 lbs., placing me in the low-150s.  My weight stabilized again there — for a few months.  And then I gained another 10 lbs., placing me in the low 160s, which was my highest non- pregnant adult weight, and, in fact, as high as it had been at 9 months pregnant with two of my babies (and 10 lbs. higher than my 9-months pregnant weight with one of them!).

I hated it.  I hated looking in the mirror.  I had to buy bigger clothes because my pre- pregnancy clothes no longer fit (and I was not about to get out my maternity clothes, nor live in yoga pants).  I was so upset that I kept gaining weight, that I had gotten so heavy.  I still hate looking at our Christmas photos, and I usually skip over any of the ones of myself.

The thing is, I wasn’t doing anything different.

  • I wasn’t eating more food.  (I was probably under-eating most of the time.)
  • I wasn’t eating sugar or junk food. (I went through weeks where I ate basically no sugar.)
  • I hadn’t changed my exercise habits.

There was nothing I had done to cause myself to gain weight.  Nothing.  And yet, I had.  And I couldn’t lose it.

The Turning Point

Nathan continued to breastfeed exclusively until he was around 11 months old.  He started to become interested in food around 10 months, but only tiny amounts, sometimes.  By a year he was finally starting to eat 10 – 20% solid food.  Now, at 15 months, he’s finally really into food and will eat almost anything — and probably 50 – 60% of his diet is food.

This was the turning point: the start of eating some solids, instead of only breastfeeding.

Right around Nathan’s birthday (three months ago), my weight began to drop. Again, I did nothing to cause this.  I didn’t change my diet or exercise habits.  Our two week sugar-free, grain-free diet didn’t change the rate of weight loss either.  I started losing 1 – 2 lbs. a month, without trying.  I’m down almost 15 lbs. now.  Less than 10 lbs. from my pre-pregnancy weight, and about 20 lbs. from where I would like to be (what I was before I got pregnant with Jacob).

It appears, for me, to be entirely related to how much I’m breastfeeding.

weight loss

What’s Happening Now

It took me awhile to research and talk to other women with similar situations to determine what was going on. Breastfeeding produces prolactin, which suppresses progesterone (responsible for fertility) and blocks cortisol (responsible for stress — my anxiety was crazy high when my hormones were trying to sort themselves out at the beginning of this year).  Progesterone can help to maintain a healthy weight.

Prolactin can cause weight gain, especially in the hips and thighs, because your body is trying to store fat to make milk for your baby. Having so many babies so close together, plus breastfeeding exclusively for so long, plus having lots of other physical and emotional demands on my body, plus under-eating and not always taking care of myself properly = weight gain.

I didn’t struggle as much with the other babies because I wasn’t as depleted, and they didn’t exclusively breastfeed so long.  They were all eating significant solids by 8 months or so.

It was an absolute nightmare this time for my hormones to straighten themselves back out again.  The major issues were from about mid-December through mid-May.  I first got my period back at the end of August, when Nathan was about 5.5 months old (which is about the same as with my other two boys).  It was irregular at first, showing up every 6 – 8 weeks.  Mid-December is when it started back towards “regular.” At first, my periods were 35 days apart (for two months), then dropped back to 28 days apart.  My fertility signs, which I’ve always tracked closely, were all over the place, not my normal pattern at all.  I either was ovulating very late or not at all.

At different points during the month (usually either around ovulation or around my period) would have several days of strong anxiety, sometimes nausea, fatigue, extreme sleepiness, lack of appetite or extreme appetite, terrible acne, and more.  I got sick more often during this period of time than I had for years prior.  It was actually really rough.

Finally, now, things are straightening out.  My period has been regular for about four months.  My fertility signs are finally (just this month) starting to look truly normal again.  Of course, Nathan is now often more interested in food than nursing, and has just moved to his own room and started sleeping through the night (10 hours straight — first of my babies to do it this “young” — pinch me!  Of course, the very day I bragged about it on the internet he quit doing it, but he’s still only waking 1 – 2x a night instead of 4 – 6x).  So I’m breastfeeding a lot less than I was a few months ago.

15 months was the point at which I finally normalized after Daniel, too.  I got pregnant with Jacob immediately.  I hadn’t normalized after Jacob and thought I couldn’t get pregnant yet, but it obviously turned out that I could, because I did.

But now I know that, for me, it takes about 15 months for my body to fully heal and return to normal, and I probably shouldn’t get pregnant any sooner than that.  Six months later than that is probably about ideal, physically.  (Which would be one year later than I actually did get pregnant, twice.  Since two of my age differences are around 18 – 19 months.)

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Advice on Postpartum Weight Loss

This post is about the very real implications that hormones and proper nourishment both play in whether or not you lose the baby weight.

So many people are anxious to lose the weight ASAP.  Some go on crash diets or exercise like crazy starting at 6 weeks.  Sometimes it works.  (But you risk losing your milk supply and crashing your metabolism, messing your hormones up more — bad, bad, bad, especially if you want more babies.)

A lot of people assume that if you can’t lose weight after your babies are born that you’re lazy, or you’re gorging on junk food because you’re too busy with baby or you’ve “let yourself go.”  They believe if you would just go on a strict diet, or just exercise more, or just care about what you look like, that you would be able to lose the weight.

This is endlessly frustrating to the mamas like me, who didn’t change a thing and couldn’t lose the weight — or even gained weight. Human bodies are not machines.  They do not work the same all the time.  Our bodies maintain homeostasis and our needs are constantly changing.  You can take in a certain amount of fluid each day, but some days you’ll need to pee more than others, depending on how much you are sweating, how much salt you are eating, etc.  I’ve personally tracked how much I drink when I’m working away from home (no little kids stealing sips!) and have found that if I’ve been sick or have my period, I pee much more often for the amount I drink, sometimes 2 – 3x as much.  Maybe that’s TMI but I think it’s really interesting.

The same is true with food.  We may eat the same amount, but how much we store as fat changes.  Our hunger levels change from day to day even if our activity level remains the same.  There are so many variables.  And all these people who pretend that there’s some simple formula to tell you how much to drink and how much to eat to be optimally healthy are just wrong…and doing us all a great disservice.

All of that said, I’m going to give you some advice on staying healthy (including losing the baby weight) throughout the pregnancy and postpartum period, based on my experiences.

Pregnancy, Postpartum, and Breastfeeding are Critical

Our culture really doesn’t get it, but the pregnancy, postpartum, and breastfeeding parts of your life are hugely important.  This is probably the biggest physical task you will ever undergo — making a new person inside your body and nourishing that person on the outside for months after.  Your basic energy needs increase by 15 – 20% at least, just based on the number of calories the baby actually consumes (300 in utero, 500 via breastmilk in the newborn period; could be as much as 1000 per day if exclusively breastfeeding at one year!), never mind the extra energy required to make the milk, plus the physical demands of carrying around the baby, getting broken sleep at night, and so on.

This is a major hard time in your life, physically. Take it seriously.  Don’t try to shrug it off and assume you’ll get through.  Sure, we all do.  But the cost can be things like thyroid disorders, adrenal fatigue, autoimmune disorders, and more.  You’re risking your future health by pushing yourself to meet these demands without slowing down or taking special precautions to nourish and care for yourself.  We’re so go-go-go that we really don’t think about it — until it’s too late.

Of course, for women who don’t experience a serious health crisis, they still will be unlikely to see postpartum weight loss.  It’s their body’s way of trying to compensate for all the lost nutrients, sleep, etc.  This period of time is critical in your life.  Treat it that way.

Nourish Yourself Well

A major part of taking care of yourself is to nourish yourself well.  I am terrible at this, admittedly.  It’s not that *what* I choose is unhealthy (usually), it’s that I skip meals a lot.  I grew up with friends and family who thought that low-calorie, low- fat diets and skipping meals were the right way to maintain a slim figure, and I learned to take pride in not “needing” to eat.  When I get busy — which I pretty much always am, with four kids and all my other projects! — I just don’t eat.  Please know I’m talking to myself here as much as all of you.

Don’t count calories.  You don’t need to go for any specific number, and you definitely shouldn’t limit calories!  Anywhere from 2000 to 4000 a day is probably about right, but let your appetite guide you.  If you are hungry, then eat!  Even if you’re not that hungry, but it’s been several hours, eat something.  (I find myself so used to restricted calories that even if it’s been several hours I’ll feel hungry, but not really hungry, so I won’t eat because I’m not totally starving yet.  Must.stop.doing.that.)

More specifically, include a number of rich, nourishing foods in your diet.  Especially:

  • Whole milk (I craved it massively in the early postpartum months)
  • Whole eggs + egg yolks from pastured chickens (also craved)
  • Nuts (properly soaked — yup, cravings)
  • Butter from grass-fed cows (more cravings)
  • Cheese, made from grass-fed cows
  • Soaked or soured whole grains (I make whole wheat sourdough at home)
  • Pastured meats — chicken, turkey, beef, whatever you like
  • Salmon or other wild-caught fish
  • Liver (I take these liver pills daily — 4 of them — experiment to find out what dose you need, I usually tend to be lower than most)
  • Fermented foods ( probiotics for gut health are very important)

But honestly?  Eat what makes you feel strong.  Whether that’s animal heavy, or plant heavy, or somewhere in between.  Don’t avoid certain food groups because someone else says you should.  Don’t go overboard and eat a ton of any one food or food group.  Be omnivorous and open to many different foods, and figure out what makes you feel the best, then eat that.  We’re all different. Skip the sugar and the refined grains and any source of empty calories — most of the time.

(I sometimes had homemade ice cream, which is low-sugar, topped with lots of walnuts, and a little homemade fudge sauce.  I can’t claim the fudge sauce was healthy — at all — but it sure was fun.  We all need a little fun sometimes.)

Yes, what I recommend is animal-heavy.  Animal foods have a ton of nutrients in them per serving.  They’re especially rich in iron, vitamin A, and B vitamins, which you need quite a lot of to make babies.  The egg yolks and some of the foods I craved are actually high in vitamin K2, which is really needed while breastfeeding.  

A lot of seeds, fruits, and vegetables have an okay amount of certain nutrients per cup or two, but it’s not realistic for people to eat that much at once.  I did, and do, also eat quite a lot of greens, berries, potatoes, squash, coconut, and other non-animal foods.  For budget reasons, 1 – 2 meals per day usually have little to no meat in them (but I do use a lot of homemade chicken stock).   I love to include olive and hemp oils in what I make ( olive oil for salad dressing or dipping crusty sourdough bread; hemp oil in smoothies).   Hemp oil especially makes me feel very strong.

I also take or use certain supplements as often as possible:

These are the ones I found really made a big difference for me.  You may have a different experience.  A friend of mine feels very strong when she takes spirulina regularly; I haven’t found much difference for me.

I also like to make herbal tea.  I make probably a gallon a day, when I’m in the habit because my kids like to have some too. 🙂  I blend together red raspberry leaf, blackberry leaf, nettles, alfalfa, and a bit of spearmint to make tea.  It’s very nourishing, (usually) pregnancy-safe, and yummy.  (I say usually because women with clotting disorders should not use alfalfa, and women who are especially sensitive to mint should not use spearmint during pregnancy or breastfeeding.  I have neither of these issues.)

On Postpartum Weight Loss

Don’t Have Babies Too Close Together

I learned this one the hard way.  The really, really hard way.  My age gaps are 17.5 months, 25 months, and 19 months.  I am not pregnant at this time (and do not plan to get pregnant for at least a few months) and Nathan is 15 months old.  So we’re looking at 27 – 30 months for a gap next time, which physically is going to be much better. Making a baby is a major strain on your body, and continuing to nourish one via breastfeeding is still a big strain.  

All of those nutrients go to the baby first and are pulled from your diet.  If your diet is insufficient (if you’re skipping meals or consuming empty calories), then nutrients will be pulled from your bones and muscles to go to the baby.  This is not a good thing. It’s a good idea to take time to rebuild your stores before getting pregnant again.  Most recommend age gaps of 3 – 5 years between babies.

They also recommend fully weaning at least 6 months before trying to conceive again.  I have never done this, and maybe never will, but I would definitely recommend waiting until your baby is only nursing a small amount, and not exclusively or nearly exclusively relying on you for nourishment.  I expect by the time I’m considering another pregnancy that Nathan will be getting no more than 10 – 20% of his total calories from me.   If you are more sensitive or if your health is already struggling, consider waiting longer before getting pregnant again, and wean your current baby before you do.

Your Needs ARE Important!!

Kind of like above, you really have to take this seriously.  There’s so much pressure to “do it all” — be pregnant, raise other children, have a full-time job, etc.  Once the baby is born, people think you should be up and about just a couple days later, caring for the house and children, and you should be back at work after six weeks.  Lots of moms think this is “fine” or “just the way it is.”

This is not fine. It’s not always possible to have an ideal situation.  But do what you can.  A lot of companies are now offering paternity leave, and if your husband’s does, use it!  Let him stay home and take care of you and the new baby for a week or two.  If you have friends or your mother willing to help, let them.  Allow people to do your dishes or laundry or bring you meals. Pack your freezer full of nourishing meals before baby comes, that anyone can heat up.  Make a pact to stay off your feet even if your house is messier than you’d like in the weeks after baby is born.

(And if you’re no longer in a season of having babies, consider offering to help a new mama.   Clean her house, cook her a meal, watch her older children, hold her baby for awhile so she can shower or nap.  We weren’t meant to do all these things alone.)

Prioritize rest, eating well, and taking your supplements (if you choose).  I sometimes feel “too busy” to take my supplements, and I decide I really feel “okay” without.  This is a mistake, though — how can you be well-nourished if you’re just shooting for “okay?”

Have Patience

The baby weight may not come off right away, no matter what you do.  It may not come off at all while you are breastfeeding exclusively.  Our culture loves to enshrine post-baby bodies and how quickly women lost the weight, but this is just not realistic.  Do not even read that trash or look at those pictures.  You are not a celebrity, with a nanny to take care of the baby, with unlimited time to eat well, exercise, and sleep.  You are a real mom, with limited help.  That celebrity might look great, but her photos are air-brushed and she might be destroying her health unintentionally with crash diets.  Do not compare yourself to that.

It’s hard not to be frustrated when you don’t look or feel like yourself.  Toss in some postpartum hormones and it’s a recipe for feeling crazy.  Let yourself have a good cry if you feel like it, and then remember that your body grew a person.  And is now nourishing that person.  That is pretty awesome! Despite still being a bit heavier than I’d like (I mostly want to lose a little belly fat now), I actually like my body better than at any time before in my life.  It feels more balanced and strong than it used to.  No complaints from my husband, either. 😉  He’s been quite supportive of all this!

Exercise…Maybe

I do exercise if and when I feel like it…lol!   I’m more interested in strengthening my core than using exercise to lose weight.  I do go out with my kids a lot and walk or run since it’s summertime now.  I have done Zumba videos and a few exercise classes (like…four sessions).  I’m very inconsistent though. I sometimes do some simple strengthening exercises my husband taught me, that his personal trainer taught him.  (That sounds weird…he has a gym at work and bought a couple of sessions with their staff personal trainers.  He doesn’t actually have his own.)

One involves lying on your back with an exercise ball between your feet.  Lift your feet and arms slowly up into the air until they meet in the middle.  Pass the ball to your hands, and slowly lower them back down.  Repeat 10x.  This is really, really hard on the core and is the one I do the most often.  I *think* this is safe for diastasis recti, but as I don’t have that (so grateful), I can’t be sure.  Check with someone who does know, like Fit2Be or the Tupler Technique.

It’s important to know, though, that if you have any sort of adrenal fatigue or serious thyroid issues that exercise could actually make things worse, not better, so don’t necessarily push yourself to exercise.

This is one seriously massive post at this point.  I hope hearing my story and recommendations is helpful to you, honestly.  It’s been a long road for me and I’m taking any future pregnancies and postpartum/breastfeeding very, very seriously.  Especially because I’m not some “young thang” anymore — lol!  I’ll be at least 30 next time I have a baby (which isn’t old, but it’s not 22, either).

Have you struggled with postpartum weight loss and hormone balance?

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37 Comments

  1. THANK YOU for sharing your story. I too gained weight postpartum, then got pregnant while continuing to nurse through my whole pregnancy.

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  2. thanks for sharing! 🙂

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  3. Hi Kate,

    Thanks so much, first of all, for sharing your story. I’m 23+2 with my very first little one, and I’m wondering how exclusive breastfeeding tends to play into weight loss. Lots of things I’ve read indicate that breastfeeding mamas actually lose their baby weight faster, but your experience suggests otherwise. Do you think it was simply because you got pregnant again so soon, or do you think there’s other important underlying factors?

    I ask because I’m about the same size and build as you (5’4 – 130ish pre-preg). Thanks again!

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    • I am one that gains weight while breastfeeding. I know many women that do. I think it’s weird that medical establishments still say that breastfeeding makes you lose weight when that is clearly not the case for many women.

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    • After all 4 of my pregnancies, while nursing I didn’t loose a bit, I probably gained just like Kate did, because of so many life factors coming into play.

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  4. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! I really enjoyed this article! I am 8 month pp and am struggling to accept my body, mainly because I only gained 17lbs in pregnancy, lost it all with 2 weeks of birthing, and now, like you, have gained back 10-12lbs from breastfeeding! I’m sick of hearing about everyone saying breastfeeding helps you lose weight! I guess for some it does, but not me!
    It makes feel better after reading this article. Glad I am not alone. My 8 month old is still exclusively breastfed, no interest in food yet. So making nourishing milk is my top priority, not being skinny 🙂

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  5. Thank you for this post. I wish I had had information like this before I had my second baby. I suffered from major depression issues during the pregnancy. And I felt like everyone was judging me (I know they weren’t but it felt like it) for not having a clean house, etc. I really put more on myself than I should have and it resulted in some pretty serious health problems after her birth, culminating in emergency surgery that then shot me into post-partum depression. It was not good. I have since been working through restoring my hormone levels (possible adrenal fatigue issues) and getting myself healthy again. Although I would love to have another baby, I know that right now I need to work on healing my body and leave the rest to the Lord. Thank you for writing this! You said what I couldn’t express.

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  6. I love this, Kate! I even felt a little emotional reading it.

    I lost weight so quickly after my first and second, even getting a little too thin after my second without trying. After my third, though? My thyroid levels were swinging so much that I started gaining weight around 3 months postpartum, and it was really hard. Once that got under control it still didn’t just melt off like before. Same story with baby 4 and now baby 5.

    I’m taking a Family Herbalist course right now and read in one of our introductory units how the bodies of nursing moms and infants hold on to “brown fat,” fat that has lots of capillaries and blood vessels. It’s for the protection of the baby, like you said. Our bodies are designed to keep that fat around as reserves. It’s like an insurance policy for healthy breast milk! That helped me so much just to know that I’m not failing. My body is just doing what it is designed to do.

    All that to say that this is an excellent post that I’m certain will help lots of mommies who don’t understand what is going on with their bodies. Thank you for sharing!

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  7. I so appreciate you writing and sharing your postpartum story! A few things “clicked” for me and a few things helped me feel validated that stone things I feel are right for me are (or at least for someone else it’s right, too).

    I haven’t gained, though I do seem a little stuck, but we’re still actively breastfeeding (though quite less) at 14mths and I recently had my first postpartum period. 🙂

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  8. This is really interesting! I’ve had 5 babies in 5 years(so I’ve gotten pregnant more than once while exclusively breastfeeding), and I’ve noticed that this time around I have had such a hard time trying to lose the baby weight. Thanks for this!

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  9. This is pretty much my story (except I only have 2 kids). I always knew breastfeeding was making me hold the pounds, but I really didn’t know why. My youngest breastfed for 2 years (and she’s three now); however, I’m still producing milk! This makes so much sense to me… now, to figure out what to do. I don’t mind that I still produce milk, and think it would be awesome to BF an adopted baby, but I know that’s why I can’t get some weight off. Thanks so much for this post!

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  10. Wonderful! This is so close to my own story! I no longer lose weight unless I am not nursing AT ALL and my period is regular. It has absolutely nothing to do with what I eat. And about the peeing more frequently, I learned from Matt Stone that frequent urination is a common sign of a stressed metabolism. Very true for me!

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  11. I’ve never really been skinny, but I’ve not had a problem losing the baby weight until this baby or even really cared. I’m thinking of trying Trim Heathy Mama with whole foods, but it makes me tired just to think about it. But I don’t feel like I’m in a healthy size right now and it’s making me more tired, achy, and I have a current sugar addiction that I have to kick. I remind myself that I did GAPS, I can do anything. Haha. Thanks for this post though. I needed it. I’m enjoying my 3mo and not stressing (too much). I will keep working on nourishing and maybe the other things will fall into place.

    Oh, I know when I’m getting sick because I start peeing a lot too! So crazy!

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  12. Thanks for sharing your story. It’s just what I needed to read. I have a 17 month old that still nurses frequently and I am still carrying an extra 40 pounds from pregnancy.
    My husband has been very supportive but he’s a personal trainer and is pushing me to work out. It is hard to see your body after pregnancy and be so tired that you don’t feel like working out nor cooking much.
    Anyways, thanks for this post because it really put things into perspective for me.

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  13. Thanks so much for sharing your story, Kate. I know it is encouraging to so many moms- including myself- who watch other moms just “skinny up” right after having babies, but we tend to gain more weight. A major overriding point you bring up is that our priorities are off. We should be focusing on nourishing ourselves and our children via breastfeeding at this time and not focused on weight loss. We have plenty of time in the future for that, and, as you experienced, it is much easier when you are patient.

    Thank you also for bringing up the child spacing point. As a Nutritional Therapist with extensive study in traditional diets and cultures (via Weston Price’s book ‘Nutrition and Physical Degeneration’), child spacing is a very important element of traditional cultures. Most cultures expected women to keep children spaced 3-4 year apart, and some would even shun women who had children any closer. This is because a community could not handle the strain of a family who could not contribute to the community, or risk a less healthy child being born who would put strain on the community. I’ve wanted to write a post about this but want to make sure women know I’m not coming from a place of judging them for having kids too close. At the end of the day it is all GOD’s timing for our families, and while I think child spacing is important, my 2nd pregnancy was a surprise before my first turned 2, even though I wanted more space between them. And, of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way. 🙂 I did, however, have to really commit to nourishing my pregnancy and baby to ensure optimal health. I had the same experience you had with way more weight gain a few months after baby #2 was born.

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    • Let me add to the first sentence of my second paragraph: child spacing is important to HEALTH and was/is a very important element of traditional cultures.

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  14. I really appreciate this article! Though I’m only 4 months postpartum with my second, I’ve already noticed my body doing things differently this time and feeling frustrated with how I look, even though my diet is good and hasn’t changed. However, we are committed to not ‘planning’ ourselves when it comes to spacing and number of children. Our first two are two years apart, which was perfect for us and happened naturally, but I don’t know if it will always happen that way. I suppose this just means I will have to work extra hard to take care of my body, but it’s troubling to hear so many things on this issue because I do believe it’s what we’ve been called to do. I’m tandem nursing my two year old, and sadly I know I should wean her should I get pregnant while she’s still nursing…I’m comfortable nursing while pregnant but I sense that two would be too much, so I hope she chooses to self wean before that happens.

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  15. I really enjoyed this. Thank you for writing it. I have one question if I may ask… How do you know how many calories you are using/burning while nursing a toddler that is eating solids too? Thank you again.

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  16. Thank-you for sharing your story, it is so important for Moms to take care of themselves while growing and nourishing babies/young children. I had the opposite problem after 1.5 years tandem breastfeeding I was dangerously low weight. I am still struggling to gain and to eat enough. I am still nursing my 2 year old and when my period came back at 22 mo post partum I had serious PMS with anxiety, insomnia, racing heart, serious fatigue and just generally feeling like I was dieing! I am thinking estrogen is causing all this. Us nursing Moms go through a lot! I am relying on a lot of dairy, meats, and fruits but my diet is definitely lacking because I don’t really like vegetables don’t eat enough eggs etc. Thanks for really drilling it in how important this is.

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  17. It’s true, we all have to respect our bodies and what is good for them individually. BTW, red raspberry leaf tea was recommended by my doula to bring on contractions when I was overdue so I wouldn’t give it to anyone pregnant or looking to get pregnant.

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    • Hi Wendy,

      Red raspberry leaf tea actually helps to tone uterine muscles to prepare for labor and make it smoother and easier, but doesn’t bring on contractions. Most herbalists agree that it’s safe to use throughout pregnancy. 🙂

      Reply

  18. […] couple months ago, I talked about my postpartum experience.  (If you haven’t read it, and have struggled with postpartum weight loss and hormone […]

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  19. […] Modern Alternative Mama on Postpartum Weight Loss […]

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    • Thank you so much for this! I thought I was the only person in the world who could actually gain weight whole breastfeeding! My pregnancies were about 16 MO apart and now again 16 MO apart with #3. Since I have 10 from #1 and 10 from #2 they have me in the “obese” range for this pregnancy which is devastating to me. I too avoid processed and refined foods. I definitely think hormones have a huge play in my weight / health. Thank you so much for sharing your story and your encouragement!

      Reply

  20. Thank you so much for sharing this. I was starting to feel crazy because I’ve gained 15 lbs since the birth of my son. I hate the way I look! But reading this has been a huge encouragement! Thank you.

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  21. Thanks for sharing your story and insights! I have a similar story to yours, it is long, but I wanted to share. With my first two I was able to fairly quickly get within 10 pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight and when I attempted weight loss when they were around 1-year and weaned I was able to lose that as well. They are 26 months apart. #3 is 19 months younger than #2. Oddly, the month before I got pregnant with him was when my period came back and I gained 10 pounds with no changes in my life. #3 was a very difficult baby and we were extremely sleep deprived for over a year. I was feeding him around the clock ever 1.5-2 hours (more often at night) for over a year. I struggled with post-partum depression. I did not have my usual initial weight loss in the first month of 20 pounds. I actually came home from the hospital weighing more than I went in 9 months pregnant. What a downer. When he was weaned at 16 months I calorie-counted to loose weight (something that had always worked in the past). In two months time I did not lose any weight but started to gain again. My body was really messed up. I wanted to lose weight before getting pregnant again, but I was fed up and decided to go ahead with pregnancy anyway. I started that pregnancy 60 pounds heavier than my first 2! I only gained 8 pounds total in the end (I had lost 10 in the 1st trimester), which is odd for me. I usually end up with a net gain of 35-40 pounds. #3 and #4 are 33 months apart. I was excited to see that I lost 30 pounds in the first month post-partum. It was odd, but it seemed that the pregnancy had somehow “fixed” whatever was wrong with me. I was then able to slowly lose another 20 pounds in the first year while breastfeeding. I am now pregnant with #5 who will be 26 months younger than #4. I am still nursing 2-3 times a day. I am nervous about what is going to happen post-partum with this one. In my last pregnancy, this one, and in between I have been taking your vitamin tincture along with other supplements, so maybe that made the difference 🙂 It frustrates me when people assume breastfeeding helps you lose weight. That has never really been the case for me. It makes me feel like I am doing something wrong, or they are assuming I am. Thanks again for the great post!

    Reply

  22. I am 11 months pp with my third child and haven’t lost any of the 30 pounds I gained during pregnancy. Katie, please tell me how Trim Healthy Mama fits into all this. We eat pretty much full GAPS and have a hard time seeing THEM as a good way to eat all the time. But feel.pressured to do it to lose this weight as everyone around me is doing it, losing lots of weight, and I’m desperate! I have yet to see a real food blogger like yourself review THM and I want to hear an opinion.

    Reply

  23. I am 35 and started having babies at 26. My gaps between my kids are 17 months, 19 months, 23 months, 21 months, and 17 months, plus nursing more than a year for each child (once over two years and tandem nursed). I lost all the weight plus 10 lbs the first 3 times, and lost all the weight again (back to my healthiest weight) after the 4th. At that point, I started showing signs of adrenal fatigue. My 5th pregnancy ended in a stillbirth (cord entanglement, not hormonal reasons) and after that I struggled with major depression, confirmed adrenal issues, and probably thyroid issues as well, though I wasn’t diagnosed. I did not lose a single pound after that pregnancy (granted, I wasn’t nursing) and actually started to gain weight. My 6th pregnancy (currently 9 weeks postpartum), I started out as heavy as I’d been at the end of the 5th. I gained a normal amount of weight. At 2 weeks postpartum I was back to within 5 lbs of my prepregnancy weight (40+ lbs above my “ideal” weight), but then started to gain again and stabilized at 10 lbs above my prepregnancy weight. I’m still there, a month later–and my period has already returned, but I think my hormones are completely screwed up. I’m fully nursing and baby is gaining extremely well, but apparently she can gain 8 lbs in 2 months from my milk and I don’t lose a thing. 😉 We’re done having babies now, but I definitely need to take some steps to improve my future health outlook. My midwife wants me to see an endocrinologist to check my adrenals and to see if I’m developing postpartum thyroiditis. So, ladies, take this advice seriously…

    Reply

  24. This was a great post, and encouraging since there are so many voices telling us that it should be easy to lose weight after baby. I’ve had six kids and each one has been different. I will say that I was easiest with the first four (boys) and I’ve had lots of struggles with the last two (girls). I feel like pregnancy keeps triggering weird problems with my body (food sensitivities, etc.) and I just don’t feel like myself. I haven’t lost any weight this go-round and my baby is 18 months old (and nursing for 12 months) – so frustrating! A friend suggested magnesium to counter-act another issue so maybe I’ll try that.

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  25. Thanks for sharing your experience! I have done much internet searching on this topic since my baby was born in November 2013. I started out that first pregnancy at 5’2 and 122lbs, gained about 28lbs and came back home from the hospital at 138lbs..I was thinking, hey did you guys forgot maybe a second baby in there?! I luckily didn’t gain anything while exclusively breastfeeding (which I did for 6 months), but with daily exercise and calorie counting was so frustrated that I couldn’t lose a single lb. I think what makes it the hardest is people assuming you are too lazy, or that you just pork out all day, or that you have given up…that, for me, was the worst. Of course no one says it, but sometimes I got comments like “I know how it is, you just try to grab anything to eat”..as if I was eating chocolate bars and chips as my meals. After I stopped EBF, I did lose about 8 lbs, but the weight loss stopped at around 130lbs shortly after, (also after not changing anything) and stayed there until now. Now I am pregnant again, only about 6 weeks, but obviously weight loss is no longer a goal. I had hoped for an extra weight loss when I completely weaned when my baby was almost a year, but no chance! I guess it is too late to hold off on the next pregnancy, but after this one I will aim for a longer gap, to give my body time to get back to normal. When I got pregnant my cycles were still not back to normal (about 32-35 days between periods), and AF only came back a month after I completely weaned. My goal for this pregnancy is to keep weight gain at about 20 lbs, if possible, because I feel like the 10 lbs I still carry were not really needed for pregnancy or breastfeeding. I will eat healthy and when I am hungry but will make an extra effort to stay active, which shouldn’t be hard with a toddler!

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  26. My wife and I had a cute baby boy almost two months ago. He’s great, and so is my wife. Honestly, I don’t know what she’s complaining about, but she keeps saying she needs to go on a diet and lose the “baby fat”. I’m not convinced weight loss is a very good idea as she wants to do that on her own and I don’t think she’s overweight. I’m trying to convince her to consult a dietitian first.

    I’ve been researching postpartum weight loss over the last couple of days. Luckily, there are so many useful sites with a lot of great advice about weight loss after giving birth.

    While surfing, I stumbled across this book on Amazon – Plus-size moms: Lose baby weight fast.

    This book is pretty useful and I decided to get a copy for my wife. She’s thrilled with it, as am I because I no longer have to worry my wife is going to go on some crash diet that’s going to be bad for her health.

    Michael

    Reply

  27. Thanks a million times! I am 4 months post partum, just recently stopped breastfeeding and so frustrated because I am gaining and I have been doing everything the “right” way. Eating less, eating healthy etc. I’m hoping it’s just hormones adjusting but its been tough. Nice to hear I’m not alone and I’m not crazy.

    Reply

  28. Thank you so much for posting your story! I have found it really hard to get honest, real information on postpartum weight gain. I am 6 months postpartum with my 4th child and am 39! I gained almost no weight with this one, felt so good during pregnancy, lost everything within 2 weeks and have now gained 12 pounds back! No change to eating habits. Ugh, I share your frustration. I’m inspired and challenged just to hang tight as long as he’s breastfeeding and not wonder what I’m doing wrong. Thanks!

    Reply

  29. I lost my pregnancy weight and belly fat with the help of drinking an organic tea called mummy magic weight loss tea. While taking this tea I was successfully breastfeeding my baby and it won’t affect my supply.

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  30. Thank you for writing this article! It’s reassuring and comforting to know that I’m not the only one having these issues.

    Reply

  31. Nice post! Your blogs are really informational I must say. Thanks for posting!

    Reply

  32. […] Postpartum didn’t exactly go the way I wanted.  I didn’t lose much weight at birth…and after a couple of months I started to gain more (I stopped weighing myself when I hit 165).  I was exhausted…heavy…and my hormones were all messed up. Read the whole story HERE. […]

    Reply

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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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