Serena Williams was back on winning form at Wimbledon yesterday, having missed last year’s tournament as she was pregnant with her first child. Incidentally, Serena hasn’t lost a singles match at Wimbledon since 2014, and she’s already played four events since the birth of Alexis Olympia last September - in career and life, she’s storming it, but she also wants to open up an honest conversation about motherhood, and in particular breastfeeding, as she addressed in a pre-Wimbledon press conference on Sunday.
Despite her quick return to tennis, not to mention the fact that she won the Australian Open while eight weeks pregnant, motherhood hasn’t always been a breeze for Williams. She’s been candid about her postnatal experience, from suffering a pulmonary embolism and hematoma in her abdomen after birth to sharing her breastfeeding dilemmas with her Twitter followers back in December:
“Fellow moms: How long did you breastfeed? Is it weird that I get emotional when I even just think about when it's time to stop?”
At the press conference, Williams cited giving up breastfeeding after six months as one of the most difficult decisions she'd had to make, but one that was definitely right for her and her baby:
“I literally sat Olympia in my arms, I talked to her, we prayed about it. I told her, 'Look, I'm going to stop. Mommy has to do this.' I cried a little bit, not as much as I thought I would.”
Olympia is of course “fine” in Williams’ words, and one of the most salient points that Williams wants to communicate to other mothers is that breastfeeding is different for everyone and that what works for one woman may not work for another, particularly where the much-documented breastfeeding weight loss is concerned:
“I feel like everyone says, 'You're so thin when you breastfeed’. What I've learned through the experience is that everybody is different, every person is different, every physical body is different. For my body, it didn't work, no matter how much I worked out, no matter how much I did, it didn't work for me.”
For Williams, weight dropped off after she stopped breastfeeding. But really, the weight shouldn’t be the issue - the important message according to Serena is that not all women fit one mould and that breastfeeding can be a vastly different experience for every woman , with much misinformation and confusion out there to muddy the waters.
Breastfeeding nourishes your baby and can be a bonding experience for many, but not every woman can do it, and if you can there are no rules as to how long you 'should' continue to breastfeed. Every choice ought to be personal to you depending on your circumstances. Any woman who’s been “sold” breastfeeding as a weight loss bullet, will know that the reality is far more complex; in fact our Editor-At-Large Susannah Taylor writes today on Get The Gloss, how she too did not experience breastfeeding weight loss and believes that the body holds onto the weight as a fuel source while you are feeding your baby.
Arguably the world’s greatest ever tennis player found breastfeeding highly emotional and not the physical experience that she expected it be and she wants the world to know that that’s normal and that it doesn’t make you ‘weaker’ or a ‘bad’ mother. Now back to Grand Slams…