So, you’re fat, expecting a baby, and you want to breastfeed?
Good news! The size of your body doesn’t have to stop you from trying. Breastfeeding as a fat mom might require some adjustments, but you can totally do it. Since I’m just a mom and not a lactation professional, I’m not going to give you a long, technical list of tips and tricks to make it work. I’m just here to share my experience, set your mind at ease, and cheer you on.
Your best bet for practical help is to contact a lactation consultant. You’ll want to find one that is board certified (look for the acronym IBCLC), and be up front about your concerns with body size. Any IBCLC worth their salt will know how to assist you in getting comfortable feeding your baby from the breast. They’ve seen breasts and bodies of many shapes and sizes. Your body won’t confound them. Promise.
I always knew I wanted to try breastfeeding. I liked the idea of the possible health benefits to both of us, and it sounded so simple. Fewer things to wash. No getting up to make bottles at night. Nothing to buy or pack in the diaper bag.
I have PCOS, so while I was pregnant with my first, I prepared myself for the idea that I might run into a physical inability to breastfeed. It still seemed reasonable to plan on nursing as long as I went in eyes wide open to the possibility of difficulty. I just kind of hoped it would be an easy road. I’d provide the boobs, and the baby would provide the know-how. Done.
Three kids in, and it was never that simple even once. Each of my kids presented their own nursing challenges. But all three times, we have made it happen. My size has never been a factor in whether or not I could feed my babies in the way that works best for us.
It always takes some finagling, though. My body isn’t like the illustrations I always see in breastfeeding literature. I have a round belly that limits my lap space. My breasts are gigantic next to a tiny newborn head. I can’t just stick my baby in the crook of my arm and have at it. I have to work a little harder to find positions that are comfy for baby and me. It takes a bit of trial and error every time I have a new baby.
But we get there.
If you live in a fat body, and you’re about to have a baby, please listen to me. There are only two reasons not to breastfeed.
1. You can’t breastfeed for a physical or mental health reason.
2. You don’t want to breastfeed (for any reason at all.)
Notice how body size is not on the list?
If you are fat and you want to breastfeed, your size doesn’t have to be the reason you don’t try. It might take a while to get it right, and you might have to look harder for a fat-positive lactation consultant if you run into any snags. I’m not saying it will be super easy. But I am saying that you don’t have to look at your F cups and your baby’s seemingly tennis-ball sized head and think, “Well, this will never work.”
It can totally work.
Take it from Ashley Graham, who recently made waves posting a photo of herself nursing her brand new nugget in public…
Or from Tess Holliday who famously nursed her baby, Bowie, at the LA Women’s March in 2017…
This gorgeous mama is having no problem feeding her sweet babe with her plus-size body…
This sweet moment is brought to you by a mama in a fat body and a gorgeous baby who adores her…
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Today @plussizebreastfeeding reached over 3000 followers. I am in awe of what just going for it has done. When I started the account 9 months ago, I had no plan for how to run it. I had no ideas for how I wanted to carve out this space in the Internet for plus size breastfeeders. But I just kept going. And it helped ME keep going. Finding purpose postpartum seemed like it should have been easy. I had a new baby who needed me. I had a surgery to recover from. But my bigger sense of life purpose was gone. It disappeared literally overnight after my son was cut out of my body at 11:14pm and I didn’t see him until 2:30am. Every feeling of Hope I had for the future was gone and I found myself just praying that the next minute would bring good news about the life I grew inside of me. Through being honest with my OBGYN at my six week postpartum visit, I started my journey of healing. I started medication. I started going to counseling again. I started babywearing with the help and encouragement of @miaomalley of @plussizebabywearing. I read everything I could about ways to bond with my baby but I kept waiting for that moment. You know, the moment when mother and baby connect after birth and are both separate people and one at the same time? I don’t know that I ever got it, but I am now clearer and I feel bonded to my child in a way that I haven’t before. I know the things that make him smile. I can anticipate the things he’ll want to eat. I know how to soothe him when he’s upset compared to when he’s hungry. I know this baby as the same baby who lodged himself in my ribs and punched at my bladder. That took time. It all took time. But it also all took showing up. Showing up and claiming the #plussizebreastfeeding space changed my life. And it helped me stay motivated to feed my child the best way I know how. So here’s to showing up, even when we don’t know how to do it perfectly.
Or you could take it from me. Here I am, breastfeeding my first under a cover because that’s how I was comfortable back then.
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I’m writing an essay about breastfeeding while fat. I was looking back through photos, and I realized I don’t have many of my first nursing. Just this kind where he’s fully hidden under a cover. It makes me sad. Breastfeeding has been so important to me. I had a traumatic emergency c-section the first time around, and nursing helped me trust my body again. I wish I had taken photos. Regret is a good teacher. I have a million with each of my other babies. I’ll post them next because boobs are for babies and there’s no reason to hide. #normalizebreastfeeding #plussizebreastfeeding #breastfeeding
Here’s my second–who breastfed, but also had pumped milk and formula because he needed them.
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My second was my biggest challenge. He nursed, but not adequately. I also had to pump and supplement with formula just to keep him on an adequate growth curve. He only liked a football hold and I had to hold my breast away from his nose or he would give up. But we did it! He made it 15 months, just like his older brother. #plussizebreastfeeding #normalizebreastfeeding #breastfeeding
And then, there’s boob baby number three, eating in the car as she often does because two big brothers mean we are always on the move.
I am a huge believer in the idea that as long as a baby is getting adequate nutrition, breastfeeding and formula are each valid choices for any baby. Breastmilk has been shown to have some exclusive health benefits, but formula doesn’t only exist as a fallback option when nursing doesn’t work out. You can choose it from the start and raise a happy, healthy baby. If you don’t want to breastfeed for whatever reason, you shouldn’t. Your body is your own, and if you’re a bottles and formula kind of mom, I am into it. Do what makes your family run smoothly.
Just remember that your fat body is a good body. There’s a good chance you can feed your baby breast milk if you want to. It’s okay to need help figuring it out. The idea that breastfeeding is intuitive is largely false. For many moms and many babies, nursing is a learned skill.
I promise, moms and babies of any size can learn it.