Post baby weight loss – sold a pup!

Ah pregnant with my first baby.  There I was glowing – shiny hair, great skin, the shape of regular me but with a lovely firm bump which I dressed in pretty bodycon fitted tops and dresses and skinny jeans. Delighted with myself so I was.

Before got pregnant I would have been a small size 12.  I’m a tall lass so I’d cut a slim figure in that size but I had to work at it.  Even though I ate rings around my pregnant self, I ate really healthily, conscious of my daily nutritional aims – 7 a day, heaps of calcium, plenty of iron.  My mind rarely turned to my post pregnancy body – sure why would it? – and when it did, it was with the comfort of two things: the naive and false belief that my body will just “bounce back” after my first because it’s the subsequent pregnancies that are harder (ha!); and I planned to breastfeed and breastfeeding mothers get their figures back super quick.

Sold. A. Pup.

In the early days of breastfeeding my son, along with a thirst like the Sahara, I had the appetite of a bear waking from a particularly cold long winter.  I couldn’t think sometimes I was so hungry.  Obviously the last thing on my mind at that stage was “getting my figure back”, I was only interested in keeping everyone alive!  But as the weeks turned to months, the hunger stayed.  I cut down on the ridiculous instant treats that had become a temporary staple in those initial days, like those M&S fruit trifle pots that my mother kept replenishing in our fridge, God bless her.  But I had a genuine physical need to eat more food.  Look, it had to be the breastfeeding, it couldn’t be anything else.  As I watched my fellow new mums shrink back into their own clothes, I started to feel, well a bit crap actually.  I was embarrassed by my clothes.  I felt I was too long in my maternity jeans.  I felt shabby in my tshirts and tops because everything felt flabby and loose.  I even missed my bump because it had been nice and firm compared to this pouch I felt left with.  The hardest day was when when I started a post natal Pilates class where a floor to ceiling mirror confirmed to me that the old tracky bottoms and tshirt I’d thrown on were only accentuating a body that I didn’t recognise and didn’t want.  I felt cheated.  Obviously, the miracle of breastfeeding induced weight loss was not to be for me.

Another factor that added to the crap feeling was something I’m a bit embarrassed to admit to.  As a self-confident,  card carrying feminist I’ve never been strongly influenced by the media frenzy over celebrities, fashion obsession, the body beautiful etc.  Even as a devoted reader of Sugar magazine as a little teen, I was more interested in picking up bright multicoloured nail varnish and the newest tshirt from cutting edge fashion house Miss Selfridge than aspiring be like the skinny, teeny models on the pages.  Now I am quite partial to the odd bit of celeb gossip and the flick of a fashion magazine but only as a distraction, although E! News did feature quite heavily on my television rotation when I was glued to the couch feeding the baby.  But I was tired and vulnerable and Victoria Beckham had a baby the same week as me and she was just everywhere.  I have to admit, Victoria Beckham made me feel like a failure.  It’s ridiculous!  I knew she had a make up artist, a hairdresser, a wardrobe of beautiful haute couture clothes, a chef, a personal trainer and I’m hoping a drawer full of high end shapewear.  But for the first time in my life I felt like a newspaper headline, in fact, exactly like this one.  It wasn’t nice.

I wanted to feel good about myself again.  I couldn’t cut down on my food intake because I did genuinely need it.  I upped by Pilates attendance to twice a week and I started walking the baby through his afternoon nap most days.  Things started to tighten up and the weight began to come off.  In fairness, I had a good motivation: I have one work wardrobe that I can’t afford to replace anytime soon so I’m getting into those clothes or I’m going to work naked.  I still have a bit of a winter coat that I’m aiming to lose but I’ll get there.  I just never thought it would be this hard.

Is breastfeeding a precursor to baby-led weaning?

The publication of a new report from the ESRI today linking breastfeeding with lower rates of childhood obesity in Ireland coincided nicely with a new experience I had last week.

My little boy has never taken a bottle.  Scratch that, he took a small bottle of expressed milk once from his Dad, fell asleep and then promptly denied all knowledge of the event immediately thereafter!  So it’s been breast all the way in our house for 10 months now and counting.

So last week I had my first encounter with a bottle of formula and a small baby.  A good friend and mother of three needed to pick up her eldest from school and left her beautiful sleeping bundle with me.  Her new daughter is both breast and formula fed and I had 2oz to give to her if she woke while her mama was out.  No probs.  Except then I found myself a little out of my depth.  When I went to feed the baby, I found I wasn’t able to read her cues.  I wasn’t sure if she was hungry or not.  It took her a few tries to properly get into taking the bottle which she then drank readily but then I couldn’t tell if she was finished or not.  2oz looked like a small enough amount in the bottle but I really have no idea how much that is so I wasn’t sure if she needed to finish it all or not. In the end I left some behind.  Her mum told me later that she had taken more for me than she does for her Dad.  Is that a bad thing?  Did I give her too much?  Now, she was a little angel so there was no crying – like that desperate, insistent “I’m starving”! cry I remember my son having at that age when he was hungry – and she was a pretty chilled out little lady so I can only presume that she was a bit hungry, took what she needed and was satisfied.

But it got me thinking that in some ways, breastfeeding is like the precursor of baby-led weaning really isn’t it?  At that age, my son let me know when he was hungry – and boy did he let me know – he’d stop when he was finished and when he didn’t want a feed, he was pretty clear about that as well.  So he was totally in charge of his intake all the time.  That’s what caught me off guard with the little lady.  I was in charge – and I didn’t like it!  Breastfeeding and formula feeding are really two very different ways of nourishing your baby.  It makes sense that exclusively breastfeeding mothers and exclusively formula feeding mother would struggle to understand each other’s methods. I know I do but that’s my issue.

You can read the full report here.  But if you’d prefer to skip the economist-speak, the Irish Times have a summary here.   On an aside, I was shocked to read in that article that nearly half of all Irish babies are weaned on to solid foods by four months.  I had no idea it was that high.

In praise of muslins

Putting away the laundry, I just realised that the 30 odd muslin squares that we have seem to be staying in the drawer for a long time instead of making their daily appearance in the washing machine.  Who’d have thunk this day would come?

Ah, the muslin square, I’ll remember it with affection.  A new parent’s best friend.  Always within arm’s reach.  There to catch the puke, mop up the puke, over Dad’s shoulder, under Mum’s boob, over Mum’s boob to stem the flow of an over enthusiastic nipple shooting across the room.  A makeshift bib. A face cloth. A handy stemmer of the flow of little boy piddle when you turn your back for a second to reach for a fresh nappy…their usefulness is endless.  You can never have too many in those early days.  Praise the muslin!

PS I have IKEA ones.  They rock.

Dragon Mamas? A Dad’s perspective

I met an old friend today who I haven’t seen for the best part of a decade.  He has gotten married and had two babies with another on the way since the last time we met.  He was waxing lyrical about the joy of being a father and how it has changed his life and perspective utterly and he said a few things that struck a chord with me.  Maybe two chords – one harmonic and one inharmonic.  The first thing he said was he wonders what he was afraid of all this time.  He had been terrified for years of becoming a father to the point where he considered returning to singledom at one point when it looked like there might a chisler on the horizon (false alarm).  I find  this totally understandable.  I think if you’re not there, you’re totally not there when it comes to thinking about having children.  For me, it was like a switch: not even slightly interested in children to all about babies!

The second thing he said was that he was so lucky to be married to the beautiful, wonderful wife and mother that he was.  Because all of his mates’ wives turned into dragons after they had their children.

Hmmmm.

I need to think about this a little bit more.  It’s not the first time I’ve heard something like this but it’s the first time I’ve heard it since becoming a mother.  It’s funny, when you’re busy trying to make babies and have babies, the husband/wife father/mother dynamic is something that never crosses your mind.  That is until your baby arrives and everyone’s life changes forever and those relationships change forever too.  Suddenly there’s this whole other element of having a baby that never blipped on your radar.  And apparently some men experience dragon mamas.  I don’t know what to make of this or whose perspective to take it from.  I think I’m going to park it for now, have a mull and maybe come back to it at a later stage.  Anyone have any thoughts on the concept of dragon mamas or otherwise?

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