As someone with little experience with babies (outside the uterus) before having one, I had a lot of misconceptions. Like I knew I’d get woken up a lot at night with a newborn, but I had this image that I would feed him, put him back in his bassinet, and he’d sleep there while I was in the bed nearby.
The reality was that he’d wake up to get fed, but then he’d require a lot of holding and soothing to go back to sleep. And he never slept flat until he was 5 months old. By the time I was able to go back to sleep, it would be approaching an hour, by which time I’d be hungry and need a snack. The reality of it all was very different than I’d envisioned.
I also naively thought that I wouldn’t be one of those women to gain a ton of weight after having a baby. Especially since I’d done well gaining the recommended amount of weight during my pregnancy, I thought I’d be fine, and go back to my Paleo ways. A good number of my patients are close to their pre-pregnancy weight when they come in for their postpartum appointment about 6 weeks post-baby. So I was hoping to do the same.
The pregnancy weight initially came off quickly, then I plateaued at about 10 lbs heavier than my pre-pregnancy weight. I came across this article, which granted isn’t the most scientific source ever. It says that although breastfeeding does burn 300 to 500 calories a day, it can require you to keep ON an extra 10 lbs or so:
When I read that, I felt vindicated. YES! I knew there was a reason I wasn’t losing those last 10 lbs. I thought, ok I can deal with 10 lbs until I stop breastfeeding, and then I might have to work a little to get it off.
But then what I discovered was that the combination of chronic sleep-deprivation, being extra hungry all the time, and not having any free time is a deadly one. It’s a well-known fact that lack of sleep is associated with weight gain, and there’s nothing like having a new baby to mess with your sleep. Thanks to breastfeeding, I am always hungry- I’ll eat a meal that is a normal size, and then still feel hungry and end up snacking on more. And with the lack of time (and energy), I don’t want to put any effort into food prep. Plus when WZW is awake and needing attention, I can’t spend forever eating. My husband makes fun of me for how long I spend chewing a salad- I definitely don’t have time to be eating one if I’m alone with the little guy.
Thanks to all of the above, my weight has slowly creeped back up, which is depressing as my clothes have been getting tighter. I am now the heaviest I’ve ever been non-pregnant. The small scrub pants that I was able to fit into until 30-something weeks are now tight after eating a large meal. And frankly, after a large meal, I look like I’m still pregnant. I can’t help but feel gross not just because of vanity, but also because I know my habits are less than healthy.
I struggle between reminding myself that this is common, and that working my full-time plus job and taking care of my little guy are already enough to test my limits. It’s tough expecting to be able to do much more. So when food is available, I’m happy to eat it, carbs and all.
And exercise? Forget about it. I haven’t done anything regularly since I was pregnant. Thanks to my long work days, I need to come home as soon as I’m done with work, and there is definitely no time to exercise after. If I don’t have a meeting at lunch, I’m trying to catch up on work so I’m not there as late. So going for a walk at lunch is possible on some days, but probably means a longer work day.
What I also worry about is that at some point, we would like to have another child. At 35, I don’t exactly have forever. So I’m potentially looking at breastfeeding for a year, then getting pregnant again at some point in the not-too-distant future after that. And then going through this whole process again. I would definitely like to get healthy again before conceiving baby #2, but I also don’t want to wait so long that my fertility declines and I have trouble getting pregnant.
I didn’t realize until having WZW that it’s not just with the pregnancy that my body is taken over by the baby. Breastfeeding is causing significant changes in my body as well. If I end up having two children fairly close in age, that’s quite a bit of time that my body will be “out to rent” for the sake of the babies. What I initially thought of as a brief temporary state is potentially going to turn into like 4 years of being pregnant or breastfeeding.
I know I should stop worrying so much and getting too ahead of myself. I’m lucky to have a healthy baby, supportive husband, and a stable job. But it’s funny how women and men react so differently to weight gain. My husband gained about 20 lbs from all of the lifestyle changes post-baby, and his response was- I haven’t even been pregnant and I feel great! In reality, he does intend to work on eventually getting back into running & cycling and eating better. He looks forward to the process of getting back in shape. Whereas for me, it sounds like a lot of work.
So, we’ll see. It’s definitely too much for me right now to go back to eating strictly Paleo. But I do want to see if I can work on not being quite so free with the carbs and sugar.