Having a baby at any age is difficult. Having a baby at 23, really threw me for a curve ball. My game plan was to get married and have a baby at 27, at the earliest.
Most all of our other 23 year-old friends were out partying every weekend while I was feeding, burping, changing and trying to keep a baby alive.
Gaining 50+ pounds while pregnant at 23 was also very difficult for me. I had always been thin and actually told I needed to gain weight, but I was just small. I never imagined I would gain so much weight while pregnant. It was startling when the scale read 185 lbs.
My first concern after having my son was to lose the baby weight and I went to extremes. I worked out at 5:30am, I skipped meals and I counted my calories to keep them under 2000 per each day. I was not healthy. My obsession with weight loss soon began to affect my son.
During the first two months of my son’s life I was adamant that I would breastfeed him and I did. What I didn’t realize was that my obsession with weight loss was also affecting my milk supply. I am sure you are thinking “well, duh Sarah!” But, I was a new mom, I did not know any better! I also kept hearing that breastfeeding would help me to lost the excess weight. Anything to do that, I was all in!
However, after a few months and some visits to friends with babies of similar ages, I realized something was wrong. Our baby was always fussy and he was VERY small. Now, I know some babies are skinny, but he really just did not look healthy. Unfortunately, for me, we also had a terrible pediatrician. Again, new mom, I did not know any better. I finally realized when his office scheduled an appointment for us on a day they were not open, that he really did not have a great operation.
Needless to say after another visit to our friend and talking to my mother I realized our son was not getting enough to eat. Fortunately, formula is easily accessible and he was happy to have the bottle! He became a pleasant and plump baby. Unfortunately, I did not connect the dots between my weight loss obsession and his lack of milk until 3 years later. When we lost a child, because, again I became obsessed with weight loss.
After this loss I finally realized what was happening and when we became pregnant again, I ate whatever I wanted! After my son’s birth, I continued to eat what I wanted and I had a happy, healthy, chunky baby who I was able to breastfeed for eight months! I would have happily breastfed him longer, but he decided he was done and preferred the bottle at this point.
So, why do I share this with you? While some of you may have quickly realized that my lack of milk supply was due to my weight loss obsession, not everyone does. Many women assume because they are still eating a healthy diet and exercising there will still be enough for their baby. However, this is not always the case. Some women need to eat more than others. Some women, like myself, will even hold onto that excess weight while they are breastfeeding. Not everyone who breastfeeds loses weight.
My son is still affected by my mistakes. He is very thin for his age and I cannot help, but blame myself. If I had not been so vain and obsessed with weight loss he would have had enough to eat. I know this because when I ate what I wanted the second time around my milk production was sufficient. Now, I am not saying this will be true for everyone, but it is for me.
Even though my son eats very well, he is still thin. So thin, in fact, that I lay awake at night worrying that someone will call CPS on us, thinking we do not feed him enough. My mistakes will probably affect him his entire life and I will always feel guilty about this. It is also why I am so passionate about new moms embracing their postpartum bodies and loving them as they are. Use my story as a cautious tale to love yourself and keep your baby healthy!
*Please note, a mother’s milk supply can be affected for many reasons and this is just my personal story. If you are having trouble with your own supply please contact your physician or lactation consultant. None of the information in this article is meant to be medical advice.