Losing the Baby Weight

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I was gaining quite a lot of weight during my pregnancy with Lillian, and as of delivery, the grand total turned out to be 68 pounds. That’s about double the recommended amount, and it meant that I was tipping the scales at over 250 pounds by the end. Yowza.

Final weight at the end of the pregnancy.

To give a bit of context, though, I’ve never exactly been a tiny person. My comfortable weight — not really dieting, but not “letting myself go” either — is around 190 pounds, which translates into a size 14-16 for me. That’s where I was at the start of the pregnancy.

If I’m really making an effort to eat right and exercise, I can get down to 165 pounds and fit comfortably into a size 12. (And honestly, I’m not sure my 5’9″ big-boned frame can go much smaller than that.) The size 12 is where I was before our wedding in September of last year — nothing motivates like the thought of looking good in a wedding dress and honeymoon beach attire.

Anyway, it’s been three whole weeks since Lillian’s delivery now, and I’m already back down to 220 pounds. I was a little surprised that so much of the weight melted off so fast, but I guess it makes sense — we know a full nine pounds of it turned out to be baby, and there was probably a lot of water weight and whatever. But that still leaves about another 30 pounds to lose.

To vividly illustrate my situation, here are two pictures of myself at very different weights:

Left: On our honeymoon in September 2010, 165 pounds.
Right: Three weeks postpartum in November 2011, 220 pounds.

I’m not sure if it looks like a full 55 pounds of difference between these photos, but I’m definitely looking pudgier in the second one. (Also, let the record show that I’m standing in the doorway of a shark-shaped souvenir shop grinning and holding sand-castle-making toys in that first picture… don’t ask.)

Anyway! Instead of waiting for New Years to make some weight loss resolutions, I figured I’d start setting goals now: currently, my aim is to get back down to 190-ish by summer of 2012. This seems like a pretty reasonable time frame — I spent nine months putting on that weight in a haze of ice-cream-eating bliss, so I should probably expect to take about as long to lose it again.

That being said, I don’t really have a concrete plan for making this happen. I’m not the sort of person to join a gym or take up jogging, and I’m definitely not interested in any sort of fad diet or weight loss program. Since I’m no longer breastfeeding, I can’t even count on burning any extra calories with that.

So it’ll most likely be a laid-back approach involving generalized portion control, cutting back on the sodas, and maybe working in a few sit-ups or crunches here and there. (In the past, this kind of laid-back approach is the only thing that’s ever worked for me — I just don’t seem to have the willpower to stick to any sort of rigid diet or exercise regime.) Although I may need to adjust strategies if it turns out to be insufficient for zapping away all the extra baby weight.

What do you think? Does anyone out there have any good tips or firsthand experiences when it comes to losing weight and getting back in shape after having a baby?

Autumn Gardening

Right around the time Lillian was born, the autumn colors came out in full force here in Chicago, with beautiful red, orange, and yellow leaves everywhere you look. And since this is our first autumn in the new house, it was fun to learn that the tree out front turns a lovely shade of gold in the fall:

Our house with autumn leaves out front.

The weekend before last, my aunts came over to visit with Lillian, and since fall is tulip planting season, they decided to bring over a bunch of bulbs to plant in front of our house.

The landscaping situation in our front yard is yet another thing we haven’t had much time to work on this summer, for all the obvious baby-preparation-related reasons, and it actually looks about the same now as it did back when we first moved in:

The bushes in front of our house, fall edition.

While we’d eventually like to do some proper landscaping in this area, with mulch and probably some paver stones to border it, for now the tulip bulbs just went in between the bushes, leaving everything else as-is. They’ve been buried a full six inches underground, which seems to be the recommendation from tulip-planting articles like this one.

And since we have a lot of squirrels in this neighborhood, it seemed like a good idea to disguise the newly-dug-up soil with some fallen leaves so the critters wouldn’t dig up and eat our new tulip bulbs:

Tulip bulbs, buried deep and disguised with leaves.

Those pesky squirrels will never suspect a thing, right?

Anyway, in addition to the tulips, we also planted some hyacinth bulbs, which should make for some lovely and fragrant blossoms in the early spring. I can hardly wait to see them grow, though unfortunately we still have a long, long Chicago winter ahead of us. Le sigh.

Has anyone else been out gardening at this time of year? Any ambitious landscaping plans for when spring rolls around?

Breastfeeding Troubles

Lillian is two weeks old today. To mark the occasion, I present to you a long and rambling story about infant feeding! If it’s too many words, feel free to scroll down to the end for some cute baby pictures.

Anyway, the story: Throughout my pregnancy with Lillian, I’d been reading a lot about the breast vs. formula debate. Everything I found suggested that breastfeeding was healthier for baby and mom — plus it’s a free and natural food source, whereas formula can be very pricey. It seemed like a complete no-brainer: if it’s both healthier and cheaper, why wouldn’t anyone choose the breast over the bottle?

So we got started with breastfeeding in the hospital right away, before I’d even been cleaned up after the delivery. Lillian latched on and suckled away like she knew exactly what to do, and throughout our hospital stay she nursed, nearly constantly at times. The nurses approved of her latch and my feeding technique, and they seemed amused by how often I was feeding the hungry little baby.

For their part, they did a great job of encouraging breastfeeding at the hospital. There were nurses available 24/7 to help with any issues, and no pressure at all to give formula — our baby didn’t taste a drop of formula during her entire hospital stay. Sure, she lost a little weight, and her bilirubin levels where a little high, but we were assured that all of this was within the normal range for breastfed babies.

The day after we left the hospital, we took Lillian to her first pediatrician’s appointment… and we got the jarring news that she had already lost more than 10% of her birth weight. Her skin was starting to take on a distinct yellow cast, much more obvious under the harsh flourescent lights of the exam room than it’d been at home. The doctor urged us to start supplementing with formula right away.

The realization that our daughter had spent the first two days of her life starving, all while I thought she’d been nursing plenty and “eating like a champ,” was kind of like a kick in the stomach. She got her first bottle of formula right there in the doctor’s office, and it was actually a huge relief watching her gulp it down. Seeing that formula disappear left no question as to how much nourishment she was getting.

Joe giving Lillian a bottle at the doctor's office.

Reading the various parenting blogs, you’d think supplementing with formula is the worst thing you could do, but at that moment I honestly couldn’t care less about the purported benefits of breastfeeding. I just wanted to fill her little tummy with food, and it didn’t matter what it was or where it came from.

But of course, the formula supplementation was intended to be temporary. Maybe Lillian wasn’t getting enough colostrum now, but once my milk came in full force we could phase out the formula and all would be well.

And the milk did come in, but over the next few days it became evident that the supply just wasn’t there. I spent hours upon hours nursing and pumping, but never produced more than an ounce — and Lillian was a hearty 9-pounder that would guzzle down a good three ounces with each feeding. I started taking fenugreek, a supplement that might help with lactation, at the doctor’s suggestion. The nursing and pumping continued, but days went by and nothing changed.

By this point I was stressed out, exhausted, and ready to throw in the towel with breastfeeding altogether. It just wasn’t working.

At some point I talked to my mom about all this, and I learned that I was a formula-fed baby because she’d had the exact same supply problems. This came as a big relief: maybe the tendency toward an insufficient milk supply just ran in my family, as opposed to the seemingly-common lactivist perspective that everyone can breastfeed, and those who fail are just doing it wrong, or not trying hard enough, or not getting enough support and education, or somehow being sabotaged by the establishment.

It also helped knowing that the science really doesn’t back up the notion that breastmilk is a magical substance that will make your child a genius with super powers and immunity to diseases. Or that formula is such poison that you might as well just give the baby a bottle of booze and a carton of cigarettes, because you’ve doomed them to be fat, stupid, and sickly for the rest of their life. According to this article, the actual benefits of breastfeeding are somewhere between inconclusive and small, especially for healthy full-term babies in first-world living conditions.

We had a good chat with Lillian’s doctor about what kind of formula to use, safe preparation techniques, etc. And he did say I could feel free to continue pumping, though he couldn’t in good conscious tell us that whatever pittance of breastmilk I got would confer any tangible health benefits to Lillian, or that it would outweigh the energy, time, and stress that such pumping would take. Once again, the science just isn’t there.

So I guess that’s the story of how we’ve ended up as formula-feeding parents. And even if it wasn’t in the original plan, I’m feeling pretty at peace with this. Lillian is back up to her birth weight, she’s well-fed and happy, and we’re just enjoying her arrival instead of stressing out over making breastfeeding work. And now for some cute baby pictures:

Guzzling a bottle.

Sleeping in mama's arms.

This looks suspiciously like a smile!