When I was expecting, I didn’t think too much about my weight. In the first trimester, I was so nauseous that I lost weight from not eating enough on most days. When I started feeling better, I was thrilled to be gaining weight—to me it was a sign that my baby and I were healthy, so I never paid too much attention to the number on the scale at the doctor’s office. If my OB-GYN said my weight gain was fine, I took her word for it. Even as the scale crept up to almost 40 pounds more than my usual weight, I never thought about how I would lose it after I had my baby. I just assumed I would get back into my old workout routine and that would be that.
Once my son was born, I was so overwhelmed at being a new mom that the topic of weight loss never entered my sleep-deprived brain. I was absolutely consumed with caring for and breastfeeding my son. But my son wasn’t a great sleeper, and he seemed to be spitting up a lot, so my pediatrician thought that he might be allergic to dairy. He suggested I cut dairy out of my diet to see if that might help.
So, of course, I did—I would have done just about anything to get my son to sleep more—and I went extreme. I wouldn’t eat anything that contained dairy in any form. So, no butter or milk, and no foods made with butter or milk. That meant in addition to not eating ice cream or cheese (one of my favorite food groups), I was also not eating any cookies or bowls of cereal with milk or yogurt or buttered bagels. I was still eating healthy, but without some of my favorite foods, I wasn’t eating as much as I normally did. Combined with the fact that I was also breastfeeding exclusively, at six months post-baby, I weighed about 10 pounds less than when I got pregnant.
Sure, that sounds great, and I realize that lots of women struggle to take off the baby weight, but I didn’t feel great. I was exhausted from getting up multiple times a night to nurse a fussy baby, and being so vigilant about what I was eating just added another thing to my already full to-do list as a working mom, mother and wife.
After a few months of being dairy-free, my son was spitting up less and started sleeping more. He was also a few months older, so his shift in behavior may have just been developmental, rather than a result of my lack of dairy. At the same time, he started having recurring ear infections and my pediatrician suggested that sore ears, not a dairy intolerance, might be causing his disrupted sleep. So, I started reintroducing dairy back into my diet and within a few weeks, I was enjoying a nightly bowl of ice cream—and adding on a few pounds, to boot.
Three years into motherhood, I’m now a few pounds over my prepregnancy weight. I’ve also had to retire a few pairs of jeans I wore that first year post-baby because they no longer fit my fuller frame. (My body shape has definitely changed since having a baby and I don’t think it will ever be quite the same—even if I was exercising more.) While I’d love to lose those extra pounds I’ve added since my son arrived, it’s way more fun to share a bowl of ice cream with him than worry about fitting in a workout or a pair of jeans. So, a scoop of chocolate chip, please. And, don’t skimp on the sprinkles.