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…
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.
Here’s my second–who breastfed, but also had pumped milk and formula because he needed them.
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.