Photo Credit; Irum Shahid
Today I typed;
"How to Make Your Butt Big"
Now, I am not normally the kind of girl to be worried about such things. While I suffer from body image issues as much as the next girl, mine have typically focused on the problems of having a large bust and the lack of clothing that fits. My butt has always just... been there.
Until last night.
I suppose it had been shrinking for a while. After all, I am still in that extended postpartum stage where my body is rearranging itself at will. Some slow and steady weight loss meant that my pants were bound to fit better eventually. But when a pair that I bought just a few weeks ago as a little tight suddenly felt loose in the back, I knew something was up. Sure enough, a quick check in the mirror revealed a suddenly less than ample booty.
I remembered reading some research a while ago that indicated a small waist to hip ratio as being a good indicator of fertility. Fertility and the ability to produce good quality and quantity of breast-milk go hand in hand, and I had recently heard that the fat stores a woman has specifically in her breasts and her butt were reserves for these purposes. As I am breastfeeding a very hungry just turned nine month old I could readily believe that my supplies were being depleted, and I wanted to know how to build those supplies back up.
Unfortunately, the advice that Google initially kicked out was pretty terrible and included gems like;
"Eat lots of sugar and starchy food like Kool Aid and pasta because it all goes straight to your butt!"
"Eat lots of greasy food like pizza and fried dough because it all goes straight to your butt!"
"Eat lots of chicken because of the hormones injected into it!"
"Eat five hot dogs every night before you go to bed!"
You probably know this already, but please, don't do any of that! It won't work! Eating lots of sugary foods is a great way to become insulin resistant and pack on the pounds not on your bottom, but around your middle. Goodbye, small waist to hip ratio!
I did discover that I was not the only one who had noticed their butt had got a lot smaller since becoming pregnant and the subsequent breastfeeding. Some people had even named it; Flat Butt Syndrome!
After many more searches, I finally found the answers I was looking for. They were all over the place though, and I had to get quite creative to find them, so I hope to save someone else the trouble, especially if that someone is a worried nursing mother like I was!
First of all, don't worry - loosing your butt does not mean you are loosing your ability to breastfeed. In fact, it means that breastfeeding is working as intended!
The fat around your hips and thighs is called your gluteofemoral fat. This is a very special kind of fat, as it is largely made up of Omega 3 fatty acids.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids breaks down into;
DHA, EPA and ALA. Today we are going to focus on DHA.
DHA is absolutely critical for a developing baby, especially the last three months of pregnancy and the first year of life. It is a large part of the very structure of our brains, and makes up 10-15% of the weight of your baby's cerebral cortex. DHA is also very important for proper eye development. The back of a baby's eyes are 50% DHA by weight!
In fact, DHA is so important to the developing baby that during the last trimester of pregnancy the placenta extracts it from the mother's blood and concentrates it in the baby's blood instead. At this point in pregnancy, the baby will have twice the level of DHA in his blood than the mother. If the mother had low levels of DHA,
some can be obtained from the mother's richest store of it - her brain. This might explain the 2-3% shrink in brain size along with the poor concentration, forgetfulness and general "mommy brain" that many women experience.
Photo Credit; Carin Araujo
A newborn baby cannot produce DHA from Omega 3 fatty acids until she is at least 4 months old. This means that they are reliant entirely on what we feed them - breast-milk or formula. Thankfully this has been brought to the attention of formula makers over the last few years, and DHA has been added to most of them. Unfortunately, subsequent testing seems to imply that the form of DHA in the formula is not being absorbed quite like it should be. This may be the explanation for the difference in IQ that we see between breastfed and formula fed babies. There appears to be some benefit for preterm babies, but there really isn't any evidence to show a benefit for full term babies yet. We can hope that the makers of formula continue to improve upon their product, but in the meantime let us not forget the importance of donated breast-milk and milk banks.
We must also remember that the amount of DHA in breast-milk is entirely dependent on the availability of DHA in the mother's body. This is the very reason for that gluteofemoral fat; the fat around your hips and thighs. DHA is so important to babies that women's bodies store up a good supply of this important nutrient years in advance. In fact, your body can be very protective of this special fat - I am sure many of you have heard a woman complaining that they just can't seem to get the weight off their hips - perhaps you have been one of them! This situation quickly turns around in the third trimester of pregnancy and continues throughout breastfeeding - the more you nurse, the more you move the fat from your butt to your baby!
In fact, 60-80% of the DHA in breast-milk actually comes from these fat stores rather than from what a nursing mother eats that particular day. This is likely due to the necessity of a steady influx of DHA as opposed to the fluctuations of diet. Please do not take this to mean that your diet is not important! Around 40% of the nourishing, brain developing DHA in your milk is from diet - that's almost half!
And for people like myself who either like having a butt or intend to have more children, it is important to re-build those healthy fat stores. So how do we do that?
- Eat Fish. (Especially Fish Roe.)
Photo Credit; thornsa
- This is the most important step to take. If you only do one thing, do this one. Fish is our only dietary source of DHA in any significant quantities.
- A Norwegian study that was published in 2006 in the journal "Lipids" concluded that "fish consumption is more effective in increasing serum EPA and DHA than supplementing the diet with fish oil."
- According to the American Heart Association, two serving of fish per week will give you the recommended daily amount of EPA and DHA.
- Concerned about mercury? Post coming soon!
Photo Credit; Kriss Szkurlatowski
- These are excellent sources of ALA, which your body can use to convert into EPA and DHA in small amounts.
- For many women, they feel that they are getting the appropriate amount of fatty acids from diet alone. However, if this is not the case for you, taking a high quality fish oil as a supplement to your diet might be the boost that you need.
- Make sure your source of fish oil is pure, to avoid ingesting toxins like PCBs and mercury. This is especially important if you are breastfeeding, so that you don't pass them on to your baby. I personally take the Green Pasture's Butter Oil and Cod Liver Blend, and have been very pleased with the health benefits. Please understand that this is an addition to your diet, not a replacement or a stop gap.
- Too much fish oil may result in blood thinning, bleeding and acts as an anti-coagulant. Talk to your doctor before adding any type of supplements into your diet.
Photo Credit; Jason Antony
- Trans fats can interfere with the body's conversion of ALA into EPA and DHA. They are also full of free radicals and incredibly bad for your overall health. Remember - if you eat it, your baby eats it too!
- Please note that the trans fats naturally found in grass fed butter and beef have actually been shown to be beneficial, but that almost anything you can buy in a store with trans fats on the label is bad for you. I will be writing a post on how to decode labels for trans fats soon.
Photo Credit; P.R.
- Chances are, if you are breastfeeding you are suffering from something that maca root can help your body re-balance. Maca root is wonderful medicine in that it does not provide an external force on your body, rather it supports and nourishes from within to naturally allow your body do what it wants to do.
- Never eat maca root raw - that would be like eating a turnip raw! There can be some pretty significant negative side effects from eating this plant raw.
- Always take any medicine or herbal supplement under medical guidance. Ask your doctor about it, but you may find that a licensed herbalist or a practitioner of Chinese medicine to be more knowledgeable.
And finally, know that for most women as long as we eat a diet rich in these wonderful Omega 3 fatty acids, we will naturally rebuild our gluteofemoral fat supplies once we stop breastfeeding. In other words; yes, we will get our butts back! Yay curves!
Photo Credit; sfmission.com
Why Women Need Fat
Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies?: The Surprising Science of Pregnancy
Real Food for Mother and Baby: The Fertility Diet, Eating for Two, and Baby's First Foods
This post was shared through Natural Living Link Up, Simple Lives Thursday, Rural Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Fresh Bites Friday, Fight Back Friday, DIY Friday, Fit and Fabulous Friday.