Outrage after NHS says ‘breastfeeding can help new mums get pre-baby body back’

THE NHS has caused outrage after telling new mums that breastfeeding can be a tool for weight loss.

It claimed breastfeeding is “a great way to get your body back” by burning up to 300 calories a day.

The advice, which has now been removed, sparked fury online for “body shaming” women, with many saying they would have “expected better” from the NHS.

The information was published on the Start4Life website, designed to give “trusted NHS help and advice during pregnancy, birth and parenthood”.

Under a headline “seven things you might not expect when your baby’s born” was a warning that the body will still “look pregnant” for a while.

The full statement said: “You'll still look pregnant for a while – it can take 6 weeks for your womb to go back to the size it was, and even longer to lose any extra weight. 

“Breastfeeding is a great way to get your body back, as it burns around 300 calories a day, and helps your womb to shrink more quickly. Also try to eat healthily and take gentle exercise.”

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It now says: “It can take 6 weeks for your womb to go back to the size it was. 

“Breastfeeding can speed this process up as it makes your womb contract. Find out more about your body after the birth on the NHS website.”

After giving birth, the tummy does not “bounce back” to what it was nine months prior.

It can stay in a pregnant shape for a while, while some weight may have also been gained during pregnancy.

The Mayo Clinic, a leading American medical centre, says through diet and regular exercise, it might be reasonable for a mother to lose up to 1lb (0.5 kilogram) a week. 

It says: “It might take six months to one year to return to your pre-pregnancy weight, whether you're breast-feeding or not.

“Be gentle with yourself as you accept the changes in your body. Above all, take pride in your healthy lifestyle.”

The advice was originally written by Public Health England, which has now been taken over by the UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) and the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities [OHID], but is hosted on an NHS website.

A spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care [DHSC], which runs OHID, said: "The Start4Life website provides guidance and advice for new and expectant families.

“Our insight has shown that some women find this information helpful, however, we keep the wording of public health initiatives under review, and in response to some of the feedback received we have updated the website today.”


London-based writer Maggy Van Eijk, who has a three-year-old daughter and is 38 weeks pregnant with a baby boy, posted the NHS advice on Twitter.

She wrote: “Toxic af from the NHS’s week by week pregnancy guide. 

“BFing is not a weight loss tool. Your body never went anywhere – you don’t need to get it ‘back’, it’s just changing, evolving and growing and it will keep doing so until you’re deceased.”

Speaking to Huffington Post, Maggy said: “It was such outdated language, really steeped in diet culture which new mums especially really don’t need.

“I did breastfeed with my first but it was hard work and I pumped at first because I was so adamant to keep trying. The pumping and feeding became an obsession.

“Instead of letting go and opting for formula I filled my fridge and freezer with milk. Basically equating the amount I could produce with how good of a mother I was being. 

“It wasn’t healthy and there are so many other signifiers of good parenting we should be showing new mums. Not how you feed your baby and especially not what your body looks like.”

Maggy’s Tweet has gained almost 400 likes so far with many users weighing in on the topic, calling the advice “dark”, “hideous”, and “toxic”.

Dr Gareth Nye wrote: “How on earth has this made its way onto the NHS pregnancy guide!

“So much to go in on with this but it's too shocking even start! [sic]”

Carly Stephens wrote: “Hate this BS. You have grown a human inside of you, of course your body will change and that’s perfectly fine. 

“You don’t need to feel bad about it.

“I was offered a diet plan when I first found out I was pregnant which I firmly declined.”

Some women warned the advice would contribute to shame and guilt around being unable to breastfeed.

Chloë Elsby-Pearson wrote: “This advice also contributed to my feelings of being a failure as a mum – I couldn’t breastfeed my baby and we all know ‘breast is best’ and I wasn’t going to lose my ‘baby weight’ – both failures on my part! Still makes me feel v miserable nearly 13 years on!”

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