Kirsten Gillibrand & The Myth of the Skinny Breastfeeder

Michele Zipp

kirsten gillibrand
Kirsten Gillibrand with son













Kirsten Gillibrand is thin. But she wasn't always. New York's Senator was once a meatier version of herself. Could it have been the stress of juggling motherhood and campaigning and being a politician that made her lose the weight? Totally reasonable explanation. But Kirsten says no. She says that she was finally able to lose weight because she stopped breastfeeding.

Yes, you read that right -- STOPPED breastfeeding.

There is obviously some disconnect between the Senator and the New York State Department of Health because there is a campaign aimed at women to breastfeed just so they can lose the weight. The ad features a woman with happy feet, proclaiming that she's now a size 8 but it's no thanks to a fad diet or starving herself. Oh no siree! She lost the pounds because she breastfed her baby! Her eyes even do this frightening "I'm on too many Red Bulls" look. Check out the video ....

I have mixed feelings about this message. Part of me feels it's great to bring more attention to how natural and normal it is to breastfeed, but part of me feels icky because that message isn't there. At all. Losing weight while breastfeeding is a benefit (for some), but it's not THE best benefit. Making this the only part that gets mentioned makes it seem like women are vain and all we care about are our looks. (Some of us are and do, but that's besides the point.) It makes it seem like we all think: How soon after baby can I zip myself into my tight pants and look hot in public? Oh crack is wack, you say? Okay then, I'll breastfeed instead. Yippee.

I'd much prefer the clip to feature a woman nursing in a public park, talking about all the benefits of breastfeeding, and ending with her standing up and saying how it helped her lose the weight faster as punctuation. Of course, the video should also have the sounds of birds chirping and NYC's Mayor Michael Bloomberg nodding and smiling as he passes by.

Yes, I want that video.

Or maybe an image of the most drool-worthy 500 calories and the image of a woman nursing with a narrator saying: You can eat all this if you only did this!

Okay maybe not that video.

So while New York's health department is busy making ads to seduce women into breastfeeding by promising them skinny thighs (and overly enthusiastic voices), the Senator is posing in Vogue all skinny and polished, wearing a size 4 and reluctantly revealing that she lost 40 pounds after she finished nursing and when she started a strict diet and exercise routine. 

When I was pregnant with Theo, I gained 20 pounds and didn’t lose it. And then with my second pregnancy I gained another 20 pounds. When I finished nursing Henry last summer, I thought, I have to get back in shape. I want to be healthy and fit and play sports again. So I started on a very strict diet, played tennis, and over a year, my goal was to lose my pregnancy weight, and I’ve just done it.

This is exactly what the wide-eyed mom in the NYSDOH video says she didn't have to do. So which is it? Breastfeeding helps you lose weight? Or keeps it on because you can't (shouldn't) go on a strict diet when you are nursing?

Has the NYSDOH gone too far, too unrealistic with this video? Did Kirsten Gillibrand ruin this campaign with her admittance? Are these positive influences to breastfeed or not to breastfeed?


Image via Kirsten Gillibrand/Facebook

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