I’m eating while writing this. Just as, in the last day, I’ve eaten while feeding the baby, and eaten while playing with the toddler, and eaten while taking the kids to group, and while cleaning. While cooking, I eat the raw ingredients. I stop while changing nappies, which means I get at least four hundred breaks from eating in a day, but for all I know, there’s every chance I’m eating while I sleep.
This is both the best and worst part, for me, of breastfeeding. The official advice is that while nursing a child you don’t need to eat any more than usual; that gets overruled in my case by an appetite that doesn’t so much issue advice as broadcast urgent and constant demands. When my daughter was about six weeks old, I noticed that I had begun eating a second breakfast an hour or so after getting her up. And then I was kind of having two lots of lunch. And following up dinner with a sneaky supper. I was eating so much, in fact, that I panicked. It didn’t seem possible that this could be healthy. What must have happened, I concluded, was that all the space in my abdomen cleared when the baby vacated the premises had been claimed by my stomach in some unseemly land grab, and I no longer had any idea when to stop eating. So I decided to diet. I wanted to fit back into my pre-pregnancy size eight clobber, all stowed in the top of my wardrobe, and I couldn’t quite see that happening while I was mainlining flapjacks.
The dieting did not go well. I wrote down everything I ate, in a (successful) attempt to shame myself into eating less. After a few days I was shivery and even more than usually exhausted, and permanently ravenous. The baby did fine, but I went a bit to pieces. It turned out that restricting calories when another human being relies on you to do all of their eating for them is, or at least has the potential to be, a ridiculous thing to do. Particularly if that human is on a quest to double their bodyweight in a few months. I poured my heart out to a friend, who was also nursing, and she pulled open the drawer of her bedside table and showed me her night feeding stash: a tube of lansinoh cream, a kindle, and four packets of chocolate digestives. I went back to eating when I was hungry, and simply told myself to forget about the old clothes in the cupboard. It wasn’t like the postpartum period offered tons of opportunities to parade the glad rags anyhow.