She took on critics who called it "weird and unhealthy" in a powerful essay.

By Claire Gillespie
Updated February 13, 2020
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Breastfeeding moms don’t have it easy. Nursing can be difficult, demanding, and physically and mentally exhausting—and that’s before the judgment starts. You don’t breastfeed long enough. You breastfeed too long. Or you simply don’t do it the way someone else would do it. 

Jordan Musser, a personal trainer and nutrition coach from Williamsport, Pennsylvania, knows that better than anyone. She combined two things that most people don't think go together: breastfeeding and bodybuilding. 

When Musser posted a photo to Instagram of herself breastfeeding her baby daughter outside the venue where she won first place in two bodybuilding competitions, most of the comments were positive. But some people accused Musser of taking a risk with her child’s health. Others said they were “creeped out.” 

“Even some in my own bodybuilding community saw what I had accomplished as weird and unhealthy,” Musser wrote in a first-person story for HuffPost, addressing the photo. “Even they, the niche of the niche, thought I had done something too out of the box.”

Maybe it was out of the box. But it worked. Musser won her trophies, her daughter was nourished and happy, and most importantly, this mom didn’t lose the part of herself that’s integral to her identity and her happiness. 

It's not like Musser set out to make waves as a bodybuilder and breastfeeding mom. She was in the middle of training for competitive bodybuilding when she found out she was pregnant. The mom-to-be put her competitive goals aside for the time being, but she carried on training—lifting weights to try to “maintain any shred of muscle or strength that I could as my belly got bigger and bigger.” 

After her daughter was born, Musser’s dream of competitive bodybuilding was within reach again. She lost the weight she’d gained during pregnancy, got back into her exercise regimen, and developed a plan with her coach. The only problem? She was breastfeeding and “had no intention of giving it up.”

“Extreme fitness and breastfeeding rarely ever play in the same arena,” Musser wrote in HuffPo. “They are inherently counterintuitive. One assumes hardness, aggression, and a controlled wasting away. The other cultivates images of vitality, warmth, nurturing, and womanly suppleness.”

The biggest issue was that Musser was planning “an almost total loss in body fat.” But she knew this could deplete her milk supply. “I was planning hours of pounding weights and pavement, as well as tight calorie control,” she wrote in HuffPo. “It is a nearly impossible feat to cause your body fat to plummet into non-existence and keep a milk supply, but I was determined to make it happen.”

This woman isn’t scared of a challenge, and she approached this one with dedication and armed with as much knowledge as possible, she explained. When you are trying to get your body to a state of little-to-no body fat, you are depriving it of things it needs. On the other hand, breastfeeding thrives on fuel and is best when there is a caloric reserve. Musser had to take those two absolute truths, and find a way to make it work.  

“At the height of my competing, my daughter was still primarily breastfeeding for sustenance,” she wrote. “I am trained in nutrition, and I knew that I could be depriving her if I wasn’t careful to make sure I was eating in a way that served both her growing body and my fitness goals." So Musser made sure she ate an abundance of fats, like eggs, full-fat dairy, and sweet potatoes. She also monitored her milk supply closely, with the help of her coach. 

Most moms won’t be able to relate to Musser’s story on a personal level—because most moms don’t breastfeed while training for competitive bodybuilding. But the bigger message behind her story is that while moms go to great lengths to provide for their babies, they don’t have to sacrifice who they are besides being a parent, and they should never be called out or shamed. You don’t have to lift weights for three hours a day to be inspired by that.

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