Breastfeeding and the Battle of the Bulge: Why You Might Not be Shedding Those Last Few Postpartum Pounds


I gave birth to my second child not too long ago. I promised myself that I would enjoy the time with my baby and refrain from pressuring myself to shed the postpartum pounds. After dropping most of the excess weight within the first couple of months after birth, and then eating healthy and working out consistently thereafter, I still had what I not-so-affectionately termed a little “postpartum pooch.”


I’d excitedly slip into my pre-pregnancy jeans, zip up the zipper, go to button them up, and then, POOCH! Yeah, those weren’t going to button around that. Frustrated, I’d cast my favorite denim aside, rummage through my closet, select a stretchy sweater dress, sashay over to the mirror, and POOCH! There it was again. Sure, the dress still fit, but it didn’t look like that on me before baby. It seemed like whatever outfit I chose, there it was, taunting me. Call it vanity, if you will, but I was anxious to fit back into my pre-pregnancy clothes, and just feel more like myself again.

Where were my pooch-proof ensembles when I needed them?! And if I was eating healthy and working out, all the while breastfeeding my son, WHY were these pesky postpartum pounds still sticking around like they served some kind of purpose?!

I concocted a small theory in my head, based upon a personal hunch and no factual input whatsoever: could my body be clinging onto this leftover weight because I’m breastfeeding my son? I hastily sought an answer where all the answers to life’s complex little queries can be found: the internet.  After poring over article after article after forum, I found it. In short, yes, breastfeeding can prevent a woman from losing all of her postpartum pounds (it sometimes even causes women to gain weight they’ve subsequently lost!) What? Breastfeeding isn’t actually the magical weight-loss elixir that your OB, the media, celebrities, and even your best friend has advocated it to be?! (Pause for dramatic effect.) 

In my quest, I found out there are a variety of factors that influence a woman’s post-pregnancy pound presence. The main culprit is hormones (because for a woman, when are hormones not to blame?!) Specifically, the hormone prolactin can be one of the biggest reasons why breastfeeding mothers have trouble losing weight, because it keeps the body’s milk supply up, but in high levels also suppresses the body’s ability to metabolize. Throw in lack of sleep (my baby is now ten months old and still rarely sleeps through the night), high levels of stress (check!), and quite possibly some genetics and you have a perfect cocktail for keeping that post-pregnancy pooch nice and comfy on a nursing momma’s frame. 

Sure, there are also plenty of new moms that drop their postpartum weight in a hot minute. However, if you’re like me in doing everything right, have a healthy milk supply, and still aren’t dropping the weight, these could be the reasons. But hey, at least we know we’re not alone in our postpartum poundage plight. It turns out there are a lot of nursing mommas who are experiencing this. It’s just not given the exposure that the “breastfeed and lose all your baby weight” camp is. 

I wouldn’t change anything knowing what I know now, but it would have certainly saved me a little bit of frustration. I would have fretted a lot less over my perpetually present pooch, and instead embraced the fact that while these pounds weren’t going away anytime soon, they would drop off eventually. In the interim, flowy tops, Boho-style dresses, and less-constrictive jeans are my pooch-proof friends. I’ll continue to work out and eat health. I will strive to mitigate my stress and do what I can about getting more sleep (although sleep feels like the quest for the Holy Grail). When I get frustrated, I’ll vent to a friend, and then I’ll move on. Lastly, I’ll focus on the fact that I’ll only get this time with my son once in our lives, and I’d much rather relish that than worry about some pesky extra weight I’m packing pro tempore. 

weightElle Baumann is a wife, momma, daughter, friend, and working professional. A native Oregonian, Elle grew up in a small town in rural Eastern Oregon, and then moved west to the “big city” of Portland to attend college. Once there, she quickly fell in love with Portland for its lush beautiful summers, and its proximity to a plethora of different geographical locations, i.e. just an hour or two away from the beach, mountains, waterfalls, or the more urban setting of the city. She currently resides in Beaverton where she shares a home with her husband, daughter, and infant son right across the street from her parents. She is super close to her family, literally, and thanks God daily for all of the wonderful blessings that He has bestowed on her. When she’s not writing you may find her juggling four different tasks, having three different conversations, and trying to be two places at once, in the midst of chasing after one of her little munchkins (or husband).