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G. How has breastfeeding affected you (the mother) physically? (eg, side effects, weight gain or loss, increased or decreased appetite, energy level, sex drive, etc.)


This article is from the Breastfeeding Past the First Year FAQ, by Kim Smith with numerous contributions by others.

G. How has breastfeeding affected you (the mother) physically? (eg, side effects, weight gain or loss, increased or decreased appetite, energy level, sex drive, etc.)

2. Well, I've worn a G or H cup for the last five and a half years, does that
count? This is definitely not a fringe benefit of nursing for me! I'll be
really glad when I can get back into my tiny D cup again.
Most of the side effects of breastfeeding seemed to diminish around
10 months postpartum. My libido had returned by then, my menstrual cycles
were well-established and I was getting enough sleep to function pretty well.
That's true this time, too. My libido seems to return in a rush around 10
months postpartum; I start getting antsy to be doing more, etc.
With Morganne, I had a hard time losing my extra "baby fat". I'm doing
much better this time. I'm already back in my normal clothes, although I
still have a few pounds to release. I think this had more to do with
postpartum depression following Morganne's birth than it does with
breastfeeding per se. Of course, there are shirts and dresses I haven't been
able to wear for the last 5.5 years because my bust is still too big....
Since we're considering another child, it may be another 5 years before
my bust escapes the effects of lactation.... I've also found that nursing
makes breast self-examination more difficult. Lactating breasts are firmer
and have more lumps and bumps than non-lactating breasts. Mammograms are
also pretty useless on lactating breasts - they're too dense.

3. In the first six months at least, I had increased appetite, and lower
energy levels (partly due to not making time to exercise). I was able to
shed the pregnancy pounds without dieting (in fact, I think I lost the weight
even as I was chowing down more calories). As for long-term breastfeeding,
once my appetite equilibrated, I had no problems maintaining my optimum
weight, but then, I believe I was hard-wired for leanness. My sex drive was
not affected by BF, though it was severely affected by pregnancy and
delivery. I still haven't regained the libido I had pre-pregnancy :-(. But,
I don't know how much of that can be attributed to hormonal differences, and
how much can be chalked up to being a parent :-0.

4. In spite of hoping that everything I read about weight loss and nursing
was true, I don't think I really lost any more weight while breastfeeding. I
experienced a very much lowered sex drive after the birth of my first child,
but I don't know if that can be attributed to nursing specifically. I really
enjoyed nursing -- it seems to be something wonderful you can do for your
child, and you don't have to worry about getting it "right" -- you just nurse
that baby! Some of the sweetest moments with my children were nursing.

5. Some increase in appetite esp. after menstruation. I'm more aware of
the need to eat nutritious meals; periods are shorter in duration (though not
in quantity); no effect on energy level or sex drive (having a child is
itself tiring and leaves you not much private time); some difficulty in
losing the last few pounds (correlated with increase in appetite during
certain times of the month). Not a big problem if I have more time to

6. Side effects: I hate the overfull breasts of the first few weeks and the
leaking that occurs almost constantly. I'm always glad when this is over and
I can go without a bra again. (First at night, later even during daytime).
But this has long been solved when you continue to nurse after 1yo. After
this time you only have the advantages, not the disadvantages. My breasts
even were about the same size again as before pregnancy.
Weight gain/loss: In my case it was weight loss. I was back on my
pre-pregnancy weight in about 3 months after my first pregnancy, but after
that I kept losing weight. By eating a lot more I was able to reverse this at
last, but I couldn't come back at my pre-pregnancy weight, I stayed less than
that. Now with the second I'm only 3 weeks postpartum, so we will have to see
how things will be going. But I already lost 2 kgs in the last 2 weeks and
I'm almost back at my pre-pregnancy weight. So it looks like things are going
the same as the first time.
Increased/decreased appetite: With the first one I didn't really notice
a change, but this time I'm hungry almost all day. I keep eating and still am
losing weight (but then this time I'm tandem nursing, so that takes a lot of
extra calories I suppose).
Energy level: I think nursing takes a lot of energy in the first months,
but it becomes better when solid foods are introduced. After 1 year it's my
experience it takes not so much energy any more, since the child is eating a
lot of other things. It may even boost your energy level when you are able to
get a bit of rest while your overactive toddler is nursing :-)
Sex drive: I didn't really notice changes in that due to nursing. The
real problems were sleep deprivation and getting used to having your life
revolving around a baby. And the baby used to wake up when we were just
considering sex, let alone when we tried to have it :-) (built-in way to
discourage the conception of siblings?)

7. Well, I lost 40 pounds this time around, and am still losing weight.
That's been wonderful. I happen to like the enhanced figure, also. I
haven't had a period in a very long time; that's nice, too. On the down side,
I sometimes feel like I want my own body back. It's been 4 years now that
someone is always after my breasts, and that can get old. On the other hand,
I enjoy nursing enough that I don't get those feelings very often. I haven't
noticed any change in sex drive or energy level beyond what I expect from
just having two preschool kids to take care of.

11. I did not have any trouble losing my pregnancy weight either time (to
within 5 pounds effortlessly after 3 months and the last 5 as a result of
conscious but not too drastic effort at around 1 year), but that could be
due to lucky genes rather than breastfeeding. My appetite is enormous (it is
a little embarrasing when I visit my husband's family because I eat three
helpings to thier one), so I guess the breastfeeding helps control my weight.

I did notice when each boy turned 1 and I stopped pumping that my weight
started to creep up, so I am afraid of what will happen when Nick finally
weans. My breasts are a good bit larger than before. No noticable changes
in other areas.

14. I took a year to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight (but did no
exercise, too lazy!) I have not gotten my period back at 12.5 months, I have
had a slight decrease in my sex drive but I think part of that is due to not
wanting to get pregnant again so soon, and not to the breastfeeding!

16. Well, I gained 60 lbs while pregnant and still have not lost it all, but
I don't think that has anything to do with nursing at this point. As far as
sex goes - when he was nursing a lot (mostly before he was 1) my drive seemed
to be pretty low, I suspect because any need I had for physical contact was
more than being satisfied. Now he only nurses occasionally and it's less of
an issue. We do have a family bed, though, which requires some, shall I say,
logistical adjustment in any case (whether he is nursing or not).

17. For me, once you're past 13 months, it's dramatically easier. I'm
down to 2 nursings/day, and life is somewhat survivable. The only affect I
still had/have from nursing was that the last 3 or 4 lbs. were/are still
hanging around. They don't seem to go away until nursing is completely over.

(I'm nursing #2 these days, so we'll see if my theory really holds true!)

18. Nursing my child in her first year helped me to lose weight, increased
my appetite, was a big drain on my energy level, and didn't seem to have much
effect on my sex drive (but exhaustion did, and nursing was part of that) (on
the other hand, my husband found my 4 size breast increase rather attractive
:-) ). But by the time she was a year old, we were only nursing 2-3
times/day, and all of these effects diminished significantly or went away
entirely. Now my daughter's 2 years and a few months old and I'm still
losing weight, but very s-l-o-w-l-y, my breasts are only one size away from
their pre-pregnancy size, my appetite is back to pre-pregnancy levels, and I
no longer feel so tired (yeah!).

20. My appetite surged after I gave birth, and I was absolutely ravenous for
the first few months. I had to work really hard to make sure I had nutritious
food at arm's reach, since hunger would strike and I would have no energy to
cook at that point. This appetite has eased somewhat by now, but I still feel
that I have to be conscientious not to overeat, especially junk foods that
are easily accessible. I'm back at my pre-pregnancy weight, maybe a couple of
pounds over, but I would like to weigh less since I was overweight to begin
with, and I've been unable to go on a weight reduction diet while
breastfeeding. The problem is finding time and energy in this new parenting
lifestyle for exercise and such! The other side effect I've had which is
related to breastfeeding is called atopic vaginitis, related to low estrogen
levels (like in menopause). It presents an uncomfortably dry and sometimes
irritated vagina. It can be partially helped by applications of Replens-type
gels, but I understand it will not go away completely until after nursing
ceases. Of course, this affects not the libido, but the ability to have
comfortable intercourse :(. It forces you to be creative!

22. I had low estrogen for months during the first year -- lousy sex. I also
found it hard to lose those last ten pounds until I weaned my babies (25 mo.
each). These drawbacks were more than made up for by the closeness, physical
thrill, and convenience of breastfeeding.

24. I feel I was able to get back into shape easier because of all the
calories I burned breastfeeding. Plus, you are busy breastfeeding and don't
have time to eat. Breastfeeding does stimulate your appetite, so you can't go
around eating double portions. I also do alot of running and exercising,
there is absolutely no conflict with breastfeeding. I had someone tell me
that she thought exercise affected her milk supply, but I think it was
because she didn't spend enough time with her baby just nursing.

25. I'm hungry more when I'm breastfeeding, but I don't gain any weight. My
energy level is the same, but my sex drive is lower.

26. I lost my weight over a year. I'm even a few pounds below my pre-pregnancy
weight, in fact I'm lighter than I've been in a while. I do exercise
regularly, take Jeff for walks in the stroller to reduce my stress level.
My appetite is about the same. My energy level waxes and wanes with the
demands of job, family and motherhood. I have to be careful to get enough
rest or I get a plugged duct. My sex drive returned almost immediately, but
sometimes I just don't have the energy.


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previous page: F. In what ways do you feel that you and/or your child have benefitted from long-term breastfeeding? Why would you encourage someone to continue past the first year?
page up: Breastfeeding Past the First Year FAQ
next page: H. Anything else I left out?