why do overweight mothers quit breastfeeding?

An interesting new study seems to indicate that OVERWEIGHT MOTHERS ARE LESS LIKELY to stick with breastfeeding.

I have my theories on why this is the case; what are yours? Comment below.


Anonymous said...

maybe it is not the obesity per se, but the fact that obesity is more common in lower socio-economic groups and breastfeeding rates are lower in those groups as well.

Katharine said...

I was a good weight after my first pregnancy, at 23, and breastfed that baby (my daughter) for only 3 months.

I was overweight after my second pregnancy, at 35, and my last pregnancy, at 42. I breastfed my first son for 3 years and my second for 4 years.

My breastfeeding much longer the second and third times around than the firs time around had nothing to do with my weight and everything to do with my self-confidence in all areas of life, how much emotional support I had from my husband and family, and being old enough to not give a damn whether anyone disliked seeing a fat woman breastfeed.

karrie said...

I have some issues with that study and with the way it was presented on the linked to site.

Anecdotally, I know loads of overweight women who breastfeed succesfully. My mom is one of them, and she tandem nursed two of my siblings.

OTOH, I did have problems, but the only way I can relate those issues to my weight gain during pregnancy, is that I ended up with a c/s(after a long labor, and 6+hours of pushing), which resulted in severe anemia, which in turn resulted in supply issues. I do know that larger women have a higher c/s rate, and there are ties between larger babies/weight gain and hemorrhaging.

I'm not modest, and would have had no issue bf-ing public had it worked out for us. The pp's thoughts about socio-econimc standing do not apply. We're comfortable, and I had access to LCs.

I linked to another one of your Mamasink members in the piece on Blogging Baby, because I thought her point about lactation consultants and large breasts was excellent. I'm normally a 40 DD, but while pregnant and postpartum, I had enormous breasts. In pics of me breastfeeding my almost 10lb son, his enormous head looks like a lemon next to my breasts.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it is because people who don't care enough to optimize their own nutritional program also don't care enough to optimize their infant's nutritional program. I'll bet fat adults have more fat kids too. Why? Because these adults don't care enough to optimize their older kids' nutritional program.

dedanaan said...

Yeah, anonymous, the only people I see eating 'tater chips and Big Macs are stick figure people. Get real.

dedanaan said...

And BTW, my boyfriend's two uber-scrawny, make-Kate-Moss-look-fat nieces are NOT breastfeeding their babies.

Katharine said...

Anonymous #2, I'm fat, but none of my three children (23, 12, and 5) are fat. You know what they say about making assumptions ...

karrie said...

I'm happy to prove that anonymous wrong as well. We eat a predominantly whole foods diet and my son, while solid and tall, is a healthy weight. The deck is stacked against him genetically, so I encourage healthy feeding choices and *lots* of exercise.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm...I don't know. Maybe more discomfort breastfeeding in public?

Netmom said...

I don't have any idea why anyone doesn't breastfeed (medical reasons aside), but simply producing breast milk uses about 500 calories per day, no effort required.

That's incentive on its own, as though the many health benefits for baby and mom were not enough.

Debby said...

As an overweight woman who had trouble breastfeeding it was because of my insulin resistance that made it a problem.

My weight is not due to sloth, its due to a combo of bad genes and a diet high in processed foods for the first 25 years of my life.

I nursed for 6 months, watched my milk production drop as my blood sugars went more out of control, then I stopped. I went back on my meds and gradually lost the 35 pounds gained during my time of breastfeeding. Go onto a PCOS or Syndrome X board and you'll hear the same story over and over again.

As more women with PCOS or other disorders are able to have kids, they're going to have trouble breastfeeding. This is especially true if they do not have proper support from an endocronologist. Even women who are not formally diagnosed (and that is a huge number) are going to have problems breastfeeding because milk supply is damaged.

I don't know how many overweight women feel that they're so ashamed of their bodies that they won't do it in public. Breastfeeding is done with such a minimal show of skin usually. But often, overweight women have low self-esteem. I agree with Katharine that a successful breastfeeding relationship is strongly based on self-confidence...that your body *can* feed your baby.

*off soapbox*

Anonymous said...

It's not that people 'don't care to optimize their nutrition.' Overweight has many causes and one of them is being put on a 'diet' by your mother or father when you are young.
Judgemental attitudes towards those who are 'fat' are a big part of the problem. Walk a mile in their shoes, anonymous. I hope you are spared ever having a health problem that people judge you by.

Anonymous said...

just so you know, I am NOT that anonymous. I am the anonymous who is pissed about so called "AP".
the statement about overweight and breastfeeding is about as judgemental as you can get. I can only imagine what Katie "oh you horrible thing for judging MOI but please let me judge you" Granju was thinking of as a "link".
I bet the woman with the PCOS hit the nail on the head. the one woman I knew with severe supply problems had, yes, PCOS. her daughter was concieved with the help of clomid.
so whats Katie going to do? acost the woman in the supermarket and demand to know her "excuse"??? and if she is undiagnosed and doesnt know the medical reason for her poor supply then after the tit terrorists of the world shame her she can slink off with her tail between her legs for a good cry. thanks Katie. what a peach you are.

Anonymous said...

People are fat for only one reason. They ingest more calories than they burn. Correct or incorrect? If incorrect, cite backup. I am about 20 lbs overweight. It is because I eat too much given my metabolism and level of exercise.

Anonymous said...

I have noticed an interesting and common logical flaw in the argumentation on the website. An example: Person X says, "98% of apples are red." Person X will have evidence that this is true. Blogger Y on Katie Granju's site will invariably reply, "Person X, you are judgmental of apples. I have purchased three apples in the last month and they were all green. You are therefore wrong."

This is absurd and insulting to the intelligence of those reading this website.

It is OK to say, "I have evidence to the contrary." It is OK to say, "I don't believe you. Show your evidence." It is not OK to say, "I have a personal example of a contrary result. Therefore, you are wrong."

Just my two cents

Anonymous said...

Fat people, like smokers, indirectly choose to be in the position in which they find themselves. Sure, you could say a fat person is addicted to food. Sure, there are examples of fat people who truly can't help it (eg wheelchair bound). But why is it not my fault that I am 20 lbs overweight? Isn't it totally within my control? Maybe I have an eating disorder or a disease that slows my metabolism. But even then, isn't it still calories in versus calories burned? Don't I still control both of these metrics so long as I am able to refrain from lifting my fork and able to use my legs for exercise?

Fat people are just as cool and interesting and valuable as skinny people (I am sort of in the middle) but that does not mean that it is not valid to say, "hey, you are fat and that is not healthy and you did it to yourself and it is bad parenting to do it to your kid."

Check the following link. If you don't like it, there are a dozen more to choose from.

Anonymous said...

yes, MOST fat people are eating more and excercising less. however, it was just stated that PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) is a metabolic condition that among other things results in overweight.
there are medications, those I am most familiar with being those for psychiatric conditions and seizure disorders, that cause overweight. if you need them, then the weight gain becomes the lesser of two evils.'I am sure there are others.
the judgementalism comes in when one "assumes" that it is purely a matter of will power without knowing if the person is in say the ten or twenty percent of overweight people who truly cant help it.
the same I suppose could be said about tit terrorists who see a woman bottlefeeding and rather than first wonder if perhaps she had surgery or is on some medication or truly had a supply problem or maybe just was so freakin overwhelmed by the whole thing and they simply jump to the conclusion that she was too lazy to push on thru. the judgementalism also comes in when because person a was successful in losing weight, breastfeeding, whatever, then it should be a piece of cake for person b who may appear to have the same problem but in fact may have a very different constellation of circumstances. my mother was like this. one day she just decided she was done being fat. she had been in the navy and I guess they all snacked on bacon grease sandwiches in the kitchen there. well a few years later she just decided to lose weight and she did. well, I had quite a few emotional related food issues and the woman just did not get that it was a struggle. she refused to limit the snackfood stash in our house (which could last her indefinately) because I just "wouldnt summon up the willpower that she had". I did eventually lose weight but being sniped at and judged about it probably delayed it by a number of years.

Leslie said...

Most women seem to lose weight via breastfeeding but there are others of us who . . . do not. ;-p So is it possible that some women stop nursing in order to diet?

More possibilities: big breasts making nursing difficult (I have a friend who nursed for the recommended 12 months and then stopped immediately: she could not nurse in public and needed pillows and both hands because of her large breasts); also, the difficulty in nursing discreetly (some of my stomach generally shows and it is not a pretty sight!)

dedanaan said...

As I mentioned before, my boyfriend's two nieces have babies less than a year old. Both of these women look like anorexia postergirls. Both have breasts so small they don't even need training bras. Neither breast feeds. The women in his family have severe calcium deficiencies resulting in fractured hips and dowager's hump at relatively young ages. Thus, skinny does not always equal good health and plentiful breast milk.

And for the people here who think that people get fat only from overeating, plenty of research has been published lately about lack of sleep and stress causing weight gain. If you want a citation, look it up your own damn self. No, I'm not fat, but I'm sick to death of self-righteous stick people putting down the overweight. Get over yourselves.

Anonymous said...

I will agree that some people have metobolic issues that cause them to burn calories at a rate slower than most. I will also agree that some can't exercise easily (the bedridden, etc.) But the formula for even these folks is the same. If you eat more calories than you burn in a day, you will gain weight that day. Further (and I challenge anyone to find evidence that this is incorrect) there is not a human on the planet that requires for sustinance in a day, more calories than his or her own personal body will burn in that day. Therefore, obesity is within your control as much as smoking is. Now that said, I have a hard tim turning down twinkies. There is no doubt that it is challenging to kick the food habit.

Anonymous said...


You said:

"Thus, skinny does not always equal good health and plentiful breast milk."

I say:

True. Some skinny people are unhealty and some fat people are healthy. But many more fat people that skinny people are unhealthy on a per capita basis. Do you disagree?

You said:

"And for the people here who think that people get fat only from overeating, plenty of research has been published lately about lack of sleep and stress causing weight gain.

I say:

Lack of sleep and stress do cause weight gain in the sense that they cause people to abandon their goals and limits due to external pressure. Also these factors may affect the rate at which calories are burned. But this is no different than saying that stress and lack of sleep affect cigarette consumption. A well rested smoker may be better equipped to cut back or quit. But at the end of the day, no matter who you are or what your health condition is, weight gain is always caused by one thing and one thing only - eating more calories than you burn on a consistent basis. I challenge you to find evidence to the contrary. If I am right (and I am) then almost all weight gain is a symptom or personal choice or lack of will power. I suffer from both of these.

I think that many women's inability to accept this obvious truth is caused by hypersensitivity to the issues arising out of 25 years of unrealistic expectations as to female weight. A woman who is 5'6 is not required to weigh in at 130 to be beautiful. But tell that to Vogue.

Anonymous said...

Could it be that Scottie Mayfield secretly uses mothers' breast milk to meet the production demands for Moosetracks ice cream?

Naomi said...

Yeah, if you eat less than you use, you'll lose weight, and if you eat more than you use, you'll gain weight. The problem for some people is that "eating less (or the same) as you need" means that they will spend all their time really, really hungry, for the rest of their lives (or until they give up and go back to being fat).

That's not the case for all overweight people; there are people who just need to quit eating Twinkies and drinking pop. But especially in the case of someone with a metabolic disorder, the person may have to choose between being fat, and being hungry all the time. I am slender and lost weight easily after both my pregnancies. I eat reasonable quantities of reasonably healthy food. But if I'm hungry, I eat. If I had to choose between hunger and obesity, I would choose obesity.

Katie, to address your question, I think the person who mentioned PCOS is spot-on. Low thyroid is another medical problem that can cause both weight gain and low milk supply; I'm sure there are others. The socioeconomic issue is another one; as you noted a week or two ago, it is really hard to pump milk in the same jobs that tend to pay badly. Finally, I wonder if family support plays into this a bit. If someone was breastfed as an infant, they are less likely to be overweight as an adult. That also means that they have a mother who breastfed them. My mother nursed all three of her children; when I had my kids, she assumed I would breastfeed and was very encouraging as I was learning how.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Naomi that if one has a low metabolism, then staying thin might require that one be hungry often without acting on that hunger.

Anonymous said...

Fatness caused by eating more calories than we burn? I beg to differ.

What if I somehow managed to eat a 3000-calorie diet that was nothing but fiber carbohydrates, without killing myself?

I wouldn't gain an ounce. Why is that?

I wouldn't gain an ounce because you can't digest fiber, you can't utilize fiber as anything but a bulking and colon-cleansing agent, you can't USE the calories locked up in a gram of fiber. Period.

We discover the calorie count of a given food by--are you ready for this?--setting it on fire. Literally. Calorie-measuring folks have special equipment and everything, so they can burn a gram of food in a tank of water and see how many degrees they raise the water's temperature.

The truth is that human beings are not furnaces. The truth is that we operate chiefly on a glucose metabolism, and that you can't derive glucose from everything you eat. The truth is that composition of diet matters a hell of a lot more than whether you've eaten 500 more calories today than yesterday.

Metabolic disorders play a large (no pun intended) role in overweight, but metabolic differences, period, matter far more. Different people react differently to the same food. I personally have had conversations with people who got anemic and sick on the same vegetarian diet on which others thrive. I've heard of folks who did Atkins and got healthier than they ever had been in their lives, and others whose cholesterol went through the roof and stayed there. This, people, is no accident.

Poor people (that's what they are, let's drop this "socio-economic" crap) do not have access to the healthiest foods possible. WIC is carb-heavy, which is a problem for people with a family history of diabetes. Food stamps are sometimes accepted in health food stores but you can't stretch them as far and most poor people aren't going to be caught dead using them in what is perceived as a "luxury" establishment.

Also, poor people can't afford gym fees, and home exercise videos only go so far. Strength training is vitally important for many people to gain glucose-burning tissue (i.e., muscles), but you can't package a collection of free weights in a DVD. And people are just as ignorant about effective exercise as they are about nutrition; if you think walking for half an hour a day is going to take off your hundred extra pounds any time in the next ten years, you're dreaming.

These are some of the obstacles the overweight face. I should know. I'm one of them.

dedanaan said...

Well said, last anonymous! My point exactly.

A friend of mine is a hospital nurse and is overweight. Because of hospital rules (there always has to be an RN on the floor), she rarely gets to take a real, half-hour lunch/dinner break where she can sit down and eat a healthy meal. Dinner is a candy bar or cookie between rushing from one emergency to the next. After being on her feet for 8-16 hours, she sure doesn't feel like going to the gym for a workout. Usually she grabs a bite of whatever is available and goes to bed. Not everyone has the luxury of an hour lunch break, high-quality food, a gym membership, or a safe neighborhood to walk in, and that goes double for poor people.

Anonymous said...

I commend you all for trying to find a way to justify obesity. I am overweight. I drink too much. I want these issues to be "not my fault." I agree that if you eat gasoline, that does not count as calories. But the fact is, even if fiber (or gasoline) does not break down well in the system, the bottom line is, calories (that do burn in the system) less calories (that are burned in the system) control weight gain and loss. Am I wrong?

You are likely all smart, well educated people. Have some self-respect and explain why this is not the case. When I read Anonymous and Dedannan's comments, what I read is,: "fiber and some other compounds are not fully digestible. So these should not be counted as calories." OK. What is the point? If certain foods can't be counted as calories because they do not break down, then how does that change the formula of fat being dictated by "digested calories in" versus "exercise calories out?" Please be specific rather than anecdotal.

Anonymous said...

another metabolic cause of overweight: Cushings disease.