Op-Ed: Hey, Jessica Simpson: Focus on Breastfeeding, Don't Sweat the Weight Loss

Post pregnancy weight loss pressure shouldn't trump the importance of breastfeeding.

post pregnancy weight loss jessica simpson

Are new mothers like Jessica Simpson held to unrealistic weight loss expectations after giving birth? (Photo: Alo Ceballos/Getty Images)

According to a small blurb in Us Weekly magazine, Jessica Simpson is finding out that postpartum weight loss isn't quite as easy as she thought it would be. You've probably heard that Jessica signed a $4 million contract with Weight Watchers to be one of their spokesmodels. But if you've seen the photos of Jessica being papped around town, she hasn't lost much of her pregnancy weight. According to the insider who talked to Us, Jessica's first WW weigh-in revealed she'd gained 70 pounds. She is contractually obligated to shed at least 20 to 30 of those pounds by the end of August, exactly four months after giving birth. Buh-bye, million-dollar pay out.

There's a lot to dissect in this teeny-tiny piece that never even made it to the rag's website. First, several blogs turned it into a "should you drink while breastfeeding?" story, because the source said Jess has given up her margaritas in order to facilitate this weight loss. To me, this is a non-issue. Yes, you can drink as a nursing mother. No, you shouldn't breastfeed while drunk because, you know, you shouldn't be PARENTING while drunk. If you think you're too impaired to breastfeed, you should probably call a babysitter.

What irks me so much about this culture is the unrealistic standards that we hold new moms up to. I always remind moms that it took you a full nine months to put this weight on, so why should you feel the need to get rid of it all in three? The things that a new mother should be focused on are bonding with her baby, breastfeeding, resting as much as possible and taking care of herself. That's your job as a new mother. Who in the hell advised Jessica that it was a good idea to agree to lose 30 pounds in 12 weeks? Where are her people? And yes, Weight Watchers is getting a giant side-eye from me for this, too.

I'm guessing Jessica bought into the lie that all she had to do was breastfeed and the weight would just FALL. OFF. Because this is the lie celebrities tell. They swear up and down that all they do is breastfeed and chase after their toddlers and poof! The weight just disappears. In a rare moment of truthiness, Jessica Alba tweeted that she had started back to a "light" exercise regimen of 45 minutes on the treadmill when her daughter was three weeks old. But most celebrities don't get caught exercising heavily so soon after giving birth, but they do it. And they go on seriously calorie-restricted diets in order to lose the weight.

The truth is that the AHRQ study on breastfeeding showed that although breastfeeding may be associated with postpartum weight loss, it was "small, transient and depends on breastfeeding intensity and duration." In other words, don't beat yourself up if you are breastfeeding and aren't back to your pre-pregnancy size just yet.

In addition to the weight loss and alcohol stuff, Us's source also throws in that "Jessica plans to breastfeed through July" (seriously, there was a lot of fucked-up shit in this teeny-tiny little blurb!). Now, again, every mom can decide how long she wants to breastfeed, and three months is better than no months…but what is really going on here? If this is about weight loss, that makes me so sad and angry. Jessica is under a tremendous amount of pressure, I know, but to quit breastfeeding in order to go on a diet is just ridiculous. Jessica Simpson has a bajillion dollars. Why she is not throwing up the deuce (and the middle finger) to Weight Watchers and chilling on the couch with her baby and her man is beyond me.

But let's dig a little deeper, too. Why is it that so many moms are setting such low breastfeeding goals for themselves? Beyonce breastfed 10 weeks; Hilary Duff said her initial goal was four months; and a recent study showed that most moms want to exclusively breastfeed for three months (and most fail to even do that). What is it about this three-month range? Could it be that our paltry excuse for maternity leave in this country is setting up women to fail in more ways than one? Are moms deciding they will nurse for their entire guaranteed 12 weeks, but finding that they have to stop before then because they have to return to work earlier than planned? Do they decide they won't bother trying to combine work with breastfeeding and begin weaning while still on leave? Even celebrities, who have the money and power to take years off, are putting themselves on a self-imposed Family Medical Leave Act-esque maternity leave and abandoning breastfeeding. Tia Mowry recently revealed that she ended up only breastfeeding her son for three months because she was "working a lot, and working really long hours." She said she was sad at first but eventually came to terms with it, and was happy he got her milk for three months. I wonder if she still feels that way now that she's been fired from The Game?

Our approach to motherhood in this culture has got to change. Be a total martyr and never take any risks while pregnant or breastfeeding! No more drinks for you, you're a mother now! But why aren't you back in size 4 jeans? You had that baby, like, weeks ago. You should get back to work so you can use that degree. You're going to breastfeed, right? But not for too long, OK?

There is just so much that is screwed up about the way we treat moms, and it's all encapsulated right here, in two paragraphs in a gossip magazine. 

Here's the full story from the magazine:

“The scale has spoken – and it doesn’t have any good news for Jessica Simpson. A source tells Hot Stuff that Jessica learned at her first Weight Watchers weigh-in – a few weeks after the May 1 birth of daughter Maxwell – she had gained 70 pounds. Luckily, Jessica has $4 million worth of motivation to shed them. Her contract requires a 20 to 30 pound loss by the end of August or no payday, says a source. But it won’t be easy.

“Jessica has always had issues with junk food,” says a Simpson pal. So Jessica has called in reinforcements: She enlisted her mom, Tina, and a few pals to do the program “to help keep herself in check,” says the insider. Simpson, who plans to breastfeed through July, also ditched her beloved high-calorie margaritas, adds the source. “She had a few drinks postpregnancy, but then stopped.” 

This was reprinted from the blog 

Elita Kalma writes about breastfeeding on her blog Blacktating, and is the mother of a preschool-age boy and a new baby girl.

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