Body & Fitness

Serena Williams says she didn’t lose her post-baby weight until she stopped breastfeeding

Not that she's encouraging women to stop breastfeeding, of course.

Tennis sensation Serena Williams has opened up about her struggle to lose weight after having her daughter Olympia. In an interview with journalists ahead of playing at Wimbledon this week the 36-year-old mother of one said she’d thought breastfeeding would help her slim down, but in fact the opposite happened.

According to the Daily Mail she said: “I was vegan, I didn’t eat sugar. I was totally eating completely healthily and I wasn’t at the weight that I would have been had I not breastfed.”

She joked that it was “a lie” that women dropped weight while nursing their babies.

Williams told the Daily Mail she’d planned to only breastfeed for three months, but kept going until Olympia was 10 months old.

“What I’ve learned is that everybody is different – no matter how much I worked out, it didn’t work for me. I lost 10 pounds in a week when I stopped. I just kept dropping.”

Serena is pictured above on a recent day out with Olympia and husband, Alexis Ohanian.

While it’s true that you burn more kilojoules when you breastfeed, your body also requires extra nourishment to support you to produce milk. Experts recommend breastfeeding mothers consume an additional 500-800 calories (around 2090 to 3300 kilojoules) a day. And so breastfeeding mothers naturally feel much hungrier and need to eat more.

When you care for a newborn you spend long periods of time sitting still to feed them, rendering you less active. And it’s also true that when you breastfeed you retain fluid so that you’re able to produce milk on demand.

Lactation consultants and parenting experts alike discourage new mothers from thinking of breastfeeding as a means to losing weight.

When Dr Libby Weaver answered a reader’s question about losing weight and breastfeeding on Stuff, she advised the mother, “Please don’t worry about your weight – this is such a precious time and a focus on weight will only take away from it. Now is a time when your body is primarily focused on nourishing a little human and it’s still going to be readjusting after months of pregnancy.

“Hormonally, nutritionally and emotionally, things can take time to restore itself. In my experience, you have to be healthy to lose weight, not the other way around, so focus on taking care of yourself and know that in time, by providing your body with the nourishment and support it needs for great health, your body will naturally settle at the right weight for you.”

Breast milk provides your baby with all the nutrients it needs as well as antibodies. In New Zealand the Ministry of Health recommends mothers exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months.

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