Search
  • Christina Hughes

Chestfeeding While Fat

CW: intentional weight loss, gendered language of feeding


It never ceases to amaze me that when I start to research for a post like this, how obscenely fatphobic the birth world is. For example, I did a google scholar search on “Fat” and “breastfeeding*” and most of what comes up relates to losing weight while nursing, how to avoid weight gain, or how ob*se people are unable to chestfeed. UGH.


*I use breastfeeding here as that is the term used in the scientific and research community and I recognize not all those who bodyfeed use this term, so I used chestfeed and bodyfeed in their place and interchangeably.


Y’all… this is why I’m here, this is why I do what I do.


These narratives need to stop.


You do not need to lose weight while chestfeeding. You do not need to bounce back. You do not need to occupy any bit of your exhausted parent brain with this nonsense. While it is true that some bodyfeeding parents may experience a drop in weight (aka a body's relative mass to downward force, not a measure of value or worth), this is not the case for the majority of folks, nor is it the goal of feeding our littles.


It has also been shown that fat birthers have lower percentages of starting chestfeeding (4% less) and continuing to feed this way past 6 months (almost 10% less) than straight sized birthers. Birthers who experienced a “medicalized pregnancy and childbirth did not always receive adequate support form their physician in their breastfeeding decisions”1 and “after being deemed high risk by health professionals (regardless of their overall health status) and often receiving interventions in labor,”2 they did not feel capable of making their own decisions. This lack of autonomy is then bolstered by social and practical barriers, like not being able to find size appropriate feeding tops and bras, as well as the lack of representation of fat bodies participating in chestfeeding.


A little science for you:

There is a biological pressure to eat more after birth: the hormone prolactin increases appetite, while sleep deprivation – a common side-effect of having a baby – skews the balance of the “hunger hormones” leptin and ghrelin, prompting cravings for sweet, salty and starchy foods. Chestfeeding is also a sedentary activity, (or at least I never mastered it on the go!), and new parents are often too busy healing and/or too exhausted to include any more than small movements in their routines.


Diet culture plays a part in this, medical anti-fat bias plays a part in this, and provider treatment of fat bodies plays a part in this.


What can you do about this?

  • Focus on the positive reasons for choosing bodyfeeding: great nutrition for baby, immune-strengthening antibodies, helps your uterus contract to pre-pregnancy size and minimize bleeding3,4, reduces your risk of depression.5,6

  • Educate yourself on where you might encounter dismissal or myths about what fat birthers and large chested birthers can and cannot do.

  • Find a provider that supports you birthing and feeding in the body you have now.

  • Take a feeding class from a fat positive educator.

  • Reach out to trusted friends, family, or me on examples and languages of how to push back and get the support you need!


1 Lyons S, Currie S, Smith DM. Learning from women with a body mass index (BMI) ≥ 30 kg/m2 who have breastfed and/or are breastfeeding: a qualitative interview study [published online January 4, 2019]. Matern Child Health J. doi.org/10.1007/s10995-018-2679-7.

2 Lyons S, Currie S, Smith DM. Learning from women with a body mass index (BMI) ≥ 30 kg/m2 who have breastfed and/or are breastfeeding: a qualitative interview study [published online January 4, 2019]. Matern Child Health J. doi.org/10.1007/s10995-018-2679-7.

3https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22371471/

4 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10728621/

5 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12911800/

6 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17391475/












15 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All