Just when I thought the topics I write on couldn’t get more random, they do. This post was inspired by something I shared on IG the other day. I mentioned how I was going to use my coffee grounds to make a body scrub to help with the cellulite that I’ve developed on the backs of my thighs/hips due to pregnancy. I then went on to mention that I am doing my best to accept these new changes because I know that cellulite = breastmilk. Then, the messages started flowing– “Breastmilk comes from cellulite? Wait what do you mean? So, the more cellulite I have the more breastmilk I’ll make?” and so on, and so forth. I am going to breakdown why we gain the weight we do during pregnancy, the anatomy of breastmilk, cellulite and how much weight I’ve gained so far. If any of these things interest you, keep reading 🙂
Pregnancy Weight Gain Breakdown
So, I want to start by stating that obviously all women are different, and all pregnancies are different. The following breakdown is based off of the recommended weight gain during pregnancy, which is 25-35 lbs. Again, there are so many factors that play into how much weight is actually gained during a pregnancy, so take this with a grain of salt.
Baby= 7.5 lbs
Enlarged Uterus= 2lbs
Placenta= 1.5 lbs
Amniotic Fluid= 2lbs
Breast Enlargement= 2lbs
Extra blood & fluid= 8lbs
Extra Fat= 7lbs+
So, if you gain the recommended amount of weight, this is what the distribution will look like. I don’t know about you, but seeing it broken down this way makes me feel a lot better about my changing body. It also helps me to realize that all weight gained during pregnancy isn’t “fat” and it’s all for a purpose. Which, prior to being pregnant, gaining weight for the most part happens when we eat unhealthy, or decrease our physical activity, which leads to fat gain. Pregnancy is a totally different scenario, and it requires us to think about weight gain differently than we ever have before.
Something that I never really considered until after delivering Luca was how much weight is actually lost the day that we give birth. Say that your numbers fall in the above range– the day you give birth you will essentially lose 7.5 lbs (or whatever your baby weighs) +1.5 lbs (whatever your placenta weighs)+ 2 lbs (however much amniotic fluid you have) + 4ish lbs. of blood & fluid (because not all of it will be lost during delivery)= roughly 16 lbs. I wake up in full blown sweats for the first 7-10 days after giving birth, like so much that I sleep on top of towels. This is my body’s way of expelling the fluid that is no longer needed to support a growing baby. Typically by one week PP I have lost 20ish lbs, and the additional weight that isn’t lost by that point is the stored fat that is being used to make that super important fatty breastmilk and then obviously just some extra from being pregnant for the 40 weeks. Speaking of breastmilk…
What Is Breastmilk Made Of?
The answer is straightforward and tricky because our breast milk changes over time to meet the current needs of our baby. I am so pro breast feeding. I will admit, I wasn’t prepared for how painful and challenging it would be in the very beginning. I feel confident in saying that it is one of the most challenging parts of early motherhood, but the benefits far outweigh the early discomfort and pain, so, it’s worth putting your head down and pushing through, if possible. I understand that there are certain barriers that literally prevent women from being able to breastfeed, but if you aren’t one of those women, I encourage you do educate yourself and to do your best to provide your baby with your milk, at least in the very early days. Not only does it help to protect our newborn, it helps our bodies to return to our pre-pregnancy state and it saves a shit ton of money. Okay, I’m off my soapbox now. But, really, if you aren’t convinced enough to at least give breastfeeding your best shot, I hope that you will be after reading this.
Our breastmilk is made up of:
- millions of live cells, which include immune-boosting white blood cells, as well as stem cells, which help organs to develop and heal.
- more than 1,000 different proteins, which all help baby to grow and develop, activates immune system and develops and protects baby’s brain.
- amino acids, some of them are called nucleotides which research has shown the amount of nucleotides increases at night and scientists speculate this helps with inducing sleep.
- over 200 complex sugars called oligosaccharides, they act as probiotics and protect baby’s gut. these prevent infection from entering baby’s body and also helps to reduce risk of brain inflammation.
- more than 40 enzymes, each with a different protective purpose ranging from aiding in digestion to helping baby to absorb iron.
- growth factors & hormones.
- vitamins & minerals.
- antibodies. there are five basic forms of antibodies, and all of them can be found in breast milk. they work to neutralize bacteria and viruses in order to protect baby against illness.
- long-chain fatty acids 🙂
Although each of these are found in your breast milk, the amounts of each change depending upon the age and needs of baby. Let’s look at the different forms that our milk takes over time:
Colostrum: aka “liquid gold” = our first milk.
Colostrum has been referred to as our “natural vaccine” because the amounts of antibodies and white blood cells are so high. This first milk is thick and gold in color. In the beginning we will only produce 1.4 to 1.8 ounces over a 24 hour period. This is all that our baby needs, due to the fact that our newborns stomach is the size of a marble. Colostrum is also jam packed with minerals, vitamins and protein. Colostrum helps our baby to pass their first bowl movement, which is called meconium. Next up…
Transitional Milk: day five to fourteen.
This happens at some point during the first week of baby’s life. Typically, my milk come in around day three. You will know when your milk transitions because your breasts will be so full and hard. On average, your baby will consume 10.5-14 fl oz of milk over a 24 hour period (huge change from just three days prior!) and by the fifth day this amount increases to 18-28 fl oz… so, it should come as no surprise that our breasts literally explode in size during this first week. The appearance of our milk changes during this time from being thick and gold to creamy and white. This transitional milk is higher in fat and calories to help our growing newborn pack on the pounds. Don’t worry, it still has all of the protective antibodies and live cells, too.
Mature Milk: from four weeks on.
Typically, by the time baby is four weeks old, our milk is considered fully mature. The nutritional content and levels remain fairly consistent. Our breastmilk will change from day to day and feed to feed depending upon the needs of our baby: ex: if you or baby are ill, your body will produce more antibodies to fight that particular illness, and they will be transferred through our milk. The human body is truly amazing, and pregnancy and breast feeding are a true testament to just how specific and detailed our creator was when we were made.
Cellulite & Weight Gain.
Cellulite, ugh, it’s the worst and the truth is that it will happen to all of us at one point or another during our lives. If you have been lucky enough to dodge cellulite this long, pregnancy may be when you experience it for the first time. A large part of the cause (and the reason it happens more often to women than men) is hormones. During pregnancy our hormone levels are constantly changing, and with good reason. Estrogen is one of the key hormones and it plays a major role in helping the uterus to grow and increases overall blood flow. Estrogen can also cause reduced blood flow to our connective tissues, which makes it easier for cellulite to occur. Another hormonal culprit is relaxin. Relaxin is also necessary as it helps to relax ligaments in the pelvis and the cervix, both of which are necessary for childbirth. As essential as relaxin is, it also causes a reduction in collagen production… and the less collagen we have in our skin, the easier and more likely our fat is to push through connective tissue and get trapped below the skin, add in the rapid weight gain and increase in fat that we store during pregnancy and we have the perfect cellulite storm.
Before you get super discouraged, just remember this: there are things that you can do about it. You can continue to stay active and eat well. By doing these two things you are not only helping yourself to stay healthy and gain less weight (be back to normal sooner), you’re preparing your body for labor and delivery and protecting your baby, too.
I try my absolute hardest to not view pregnancy as an excuse. I try to keep life moving as normally as possible. Obviously, I listen to my body and I make the necessary adjustments. First trimester I literally don’t do a single minute of physical activity because my entire day is spent with my head in a toilet bowl or a trashcan. It’s enough of a feat for me to keep down the water needed to brush my teeth, let alone a healthy and nutritious meal. Again, adjust where needed. As soon as I am feeling better (around 11-13 weeks, typically) I resume with light physical activity… walking, yoga, peloton, swimming, etc. My diet also returns to normal and I focus extra hard on it because the first 12 weeks is normally made up of crackers or rice cakes, and that’s it. I personally feel like there is never a more important time than pregnancy to pay attention to what we are eating and doing. We are literally growing a human and every single thing that we eat, drink, think, do, (or don’t) affects not only us, but them. Having said that, balance is also extra important. Sometimes I eat a bowl of ice cream in place of dinner, other nights I eat a bowl of fresh fruit. Balance is key. I trust my body, and I honor my body. I know that it will communicate with me what it needs. I may not like eggs, but, during pregnancy, I eat them. I may not like chicken, but sometimes chicken sounds really good, so I take that as a sign and eat the effing chicken. Although forty weeks is a really long time while we are in the midst of it, it’s nothing over the course of our lives. I don’t know about you, but I feel like there is so much about pregnancy that is out of our control, that I do my absolute best to control the variables that I can.
So, enough science, let’s get to the juicy details. Weight Gain. Things that nobody likes to talk about or admit, especially on the internet… yet, so important. During my pregnancy with Luca I gained 27 lbs (he weighed 7.4 lbs at birth).. I honestly spent so much time of that pregnancy mourning my pre-pregnancy abs and body and I was horrified that I would never be the same. I was so thankful to be pregnant and so thankful to have a healthy, growing baby, but, it was hard watching a body that had been pretty consistent within a 5lb range change so drastically, and quickly, right before my eyes. Three weeks postpartum I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight and fitting into my jeans. My body looked different, and required some work to get it back to the toned body that it was prior to growing a human and stretching, but it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I felt it would be. I remember looking at myself in the mirror one month PP while holding Luca and wishing that I wouldn’t have spent so much of my pregnancy in my head about my weight. I made a mental note and a promise to myself that when I was pregnant again that I wouldn’t be as hard on myself as I was the first time around.
The second time around came just ten months after giving birth to Luca. I was in probably the best shape of my life. I was eating my normal diet, working out as normal and nursing. I remember wondering if I should wean Luca as soon as I found out that I was pregnant. I did a lot of research and ultimately made the decision to just take it a day at a time, so that’s what we did. I was sick first trimester, as normal. I found that breastfeeding intensified my nausea, so I nursed when I felt good enough and gave him a milk alternative as a relief when I needed it. I ended up nursing all the way through my pregnancy with Lennon. My milk changed as my pregnancy progressed, but we never stopped. I ended up weaning Luca 3 months after Lennon was born because it just became too much and he was almost two. I handled my pregnancy with Lennon the same that I did with Luca’s. I ate the same, stayed active the way I always had and had a toddler to chase around, which decreased the amount of time that I was able to spend resting. I ended up gaining 26 lbs with her. She weighed 7.2 ounces at birth.
Here we are, thirty-three, almost thirty-four weeks pregnant into pregnancy number three. I got pregnant two months shy of two years after giving birth to Lennon. Lennon and this baby will be just over 2.5 years apart (31 months) and Luca and Lennon are 19 months apart. I was most sick this pregnancy. I was hospitalized frequently, I lost 17 lbs and honestly, I wasn’t sure that I was going to survive that first trimester. Due to losing so much weight so early on, my weight gain has looked a little different this time around. I was finally back to my pre-pregnancy weight at my 18 week appointment, and then I started gaining normally from there forward. I am now a few days shy of 34 weeks and I have gained 20 lbs. They say that you gain .5-1lb weekly during your third trimester. So, if I carry to 40 weeks, I will have gained roughly the exact same as I did with both of my prior pregnancies. A true testament to trusting my body to do exactly what it needs in order to grow a baby.
All changes serve a purpose. The cellulite happens so that I can provide fatty, nutrient rich breastmilk, my hips widen so that I can birth a baby, the pesky acne occurs because my hormones are adjusting to meet the ever changing needs of my growing baby and body. Pregnancy really is the most selfless time in a woman’s life, and to be honest, motherhood is too, just in different ways. We stretch and we grow because we are the life givers, without us doing this selfless work there would be nobody walking the earth. I urge you to please give yourself grace, put your scale away, store away the clothes that are tight and uncomfortable, look away from the number on the scale at your appts if it gives you anxiety.
Just do your best. Listen to your body, it’s much wiser than I think we give it credit for. xo, G