Big girls do breastfeed – body image and breastfeeding , one mum’s journey by Sarah Muller

My mum sent me an email today with a link to an ABC news article titled “Body Image concerns causing shorter breastfeeding periods for obese women”. My mother’s message read “This article is in the ABC this morning – thought it might be interesting for you to read. Keep up your very excellent work with Raylan. Love you heaps”. I read the article and it infuriated and elated me at the same time. Every mother’s journey is different and this is my story.

For as long as I can remember I have always been, what I would like to call voluptuous, but what today’s society would call obese and I would like to think that I have a healthy body image. I’m not naïve, over the years I haven’t treated my body like a temple by any means – a few years ago my breakfast was a can of Red Bull and three cigarettes. So when my hubby and I wanted to start a family there were a few hurdles we had to face: I was diagnosed with type 2 Diabetes a few years ago; I found out that I had endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome and my husband had an issue of his own which meant it left IVF as the only option to try and have a family, unless we decided to go down the adoption path.

So I quit smoking = weight gain, the medication that I was on for my type 2 diabetes had to be changed so it was ‘pregnancy friendly’ – side effect, weight gain, hormone injections and treatment for IVF = weight gain and pregnancy = weight gain. So it is safe to say at 37 weeks of pregnancy, I was the heaviest I have been in my life. Please do not misinterpret me – IT WAS WORTH EVERY GRAM AND KILO because I am truly blessed to have my beautiful boy. As my pregnancy was deemed as “high risk” due to being diabetic and obese I was induced at 37 weeks. I was all set to have a ‘normal’ birth however my body had other plans and I ended up having a C-section. Due to intervention my milk supply didn’t ‘come-in’. I had also found out that some of the hormones used in IVF can also affect milk supply. Breastfeeding has always been on my agenda and something I’ve always wanted to do.

Those first 8 weeks were tumultuous! After several visits to a breastfeeding support group, multiple visits to an osteopath, appointments with an International Lactation Consultant, taking Motilium three times a day, eating boobie bikkies, and visiting numerous breastfeeding websites and forums, my little boy and I finally got breastfeeding working. 8 LONG WEEKS!!! There were a lot of tears, my boy was losing weight and had lost more than the 10% and I was trying to breast feed, express breast milk and formula feed, trying to do anything and everything to get him to put on weight. I fought so hard to breastfeed, there is NO WAY that I will stop until I think it is no longer required or that my son no longer wants it. As far as I’m concerned I don’t care if you judge me because I’m breastfeeding in public and that I’m obese, it is my biological choice/right! I believe that breasts are first and foremost feed bags, not fun bags, even though society thinks it’s ok to use breasts to sell cars, jeans, perfume etc… but not ok to breastfeed. THE ISSUE IS WITH YOU, NOT ME!

This got me thinking, at the end of the day if a medical team can look up my vag and slice me open to get my boy out, showing a bit of nip in public is the least of my concerns, but not all obese mums might have the same or share my confidence and to be honest I’m not surprised. Do you know hard it is to find plus size nursing bras and tops??? It’s hard and when you do finally find some you are limited to about 8 tops in drab colors and are usually buried in the dimly lit back corner of the store as if it is a dirty little secret. So what is that saying? That if you’re obese you should not breastfeed in public? Because you’re obese, you can’t want what’s best for your child? Breast is best no matter the size and shape of the mother’s body.

They say it takes a village to bring up a child, however in this day in age there is no ‘village’, we now call it ‘society’. Being a mother is hard, lonely and isolating and more so if you don’t have friends or family nearby. There are members of society that judge mother’s way to quickly and harshly and more so if you are obese, so it is hard to do what is best when society is not supportive.

I want to be able to run and keep up with my son when he gets older and I want to be a good role model for him so I’m working hard to lose the weight I gained during this pregnancy in a safe manner and it won’t happen overnight… So if some members of society have a problem with a voluptuous mother who only wants to give her child the best thing available, to quote the words of Darryl Kerrigan from the movie The Castle, “Tell’em to get stuffed!”.

Sarah Muller is a proud breastfeeding mama from Queensland Australia. She is the mother of baby Raylan – pictured above. 

  1. Shannon says

    You are an inspiration to all obese women. I finally have been able to breast feed my lil man after 3 failed attempts before.with my other three kids. He is 7mths old and is breast feeding still. Society is very hard on women in general but if u r obese then it’s ten times harder. Thank you for standing up for us all. Ps I’m obese too and have type 2 diabetes and pcos.

    1. Pinky says

      Shannon, how wonderful that you are enjoying breastfeeding with this baby. I always think ‘how gutsy’ when women keep on trying with subsequent babies after the grief of having to stop breastfeeding early with previous babies. You take a risk with your feelings for the love of your child, that shows such strength. Go mama – you are doing a great job!

  2. Heather says

    Amazing! Good work Mumma! I too am obese and have PCOS. My son was conceived using IVF and I was deemed high risk due to my size but was able to go to term.
    I also had a c-section after failure to progress and didn’t get to feed my son for the first 9 hours of his life.
    All of that is nothing in comparison the the hell for the next 6 weeks getting him to latch properly and just the logistics of feeding as a bigger woman – it’s not as easy.
    But we got there and my son is almost 8 months and going strong!
    I too have had looks and sneers as I feed my son in public and have felt the stigma of being not just a breastfeeding mum but a breastfeeding obese mum.
    Society really need to get a grip on what is important in life. My son is well nourished, healthy and happy and my size doesn’t change that fact or impact his quality of life.
    So I’m not a supermodel with perfect body and boobies and breastfeeding is still a logistical challenge for me every time. So what?! I AM breastfeeding in spite of all that and loving the bond with my gorgeous boy.
    I just wish society liked at people as people, not the shells they inhabit on a day to day basis, the world would be a better place without prejudice.
    That’s what I’ll be teaching my son anyway and I hope that when he is older and he sees a breastfeeding obese mum in public, he won’t think “oh put it away!” He’ll just see a mum nourishing her child in the most natural way possible and think “how beautiful is that”

    1. Pinky says

      Heather, what a lucky baby you have – so well said. How lovely it would be if people saw a mum nourishing her child and thought “how beautiful is that.” You are doing an awesome job!

  3. Juls says

    How horrible that people would judge you for doing a beautiful and challenging thing for your baby. Really a sad world we live in that your body affects acceptance of something so natural and healthy. Good work mama

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