Having a baby can be a major shock to the system. You’re tired, confused, loaded with confusing postpartum hormones and, this part comes as a real surprise to some, a fair amount heavier than you were nine months ago. Not everyone gains a ton of weight during pregnancy but many of us do- all of that eating for two and resting your swollen feet can add up to a hefty amount of weight to lose after the baby is born.
Getting back to your pre-pregnancy weight should be a gradual process. For some lucky women it occurs naturally in the months after giving birth with very little effort. Other moms struggle a little more to fit back into their old jeans. Rest assured, even a large amount of weight gain can eventually be reversed through careful eating and a little exercise.
When Can I Start?
Weight loss isn’t likely to be at the top of your list of priorities during those early newborn days, and rightly so. You should try not to think about losing weight at all during the first six weeks after giving birth. Your body needs this time to heal and rest, and your focus will be bonding with your precious baby.
At your six week medical check up your doctor should give you the go ahead to start working off the baby weight. They will most likely recommend that you reduce your calorie intake and start doing some kind of aerobic exercise- weight loss really can be that simple!
If you’ve had a c-section then you may need a little longer to heal before you head off to the gym. You’ll most likely still be feeling pretty sore at six weeks postpartum, so stick with walking and gentle exercise before you attempt anything more strenuous.
What If I’m Breastfeeding?
Because breastfeeding can burn up to 500 calories a day on its own, many women who choose to breastfeed lose weight more easily after childbirth. If you do have some excess weight to lose, you should find that eating regularly and healthily is all you need to do while breastfeeding, as your body will use the extra fat stores for energy to produce milk.
Lactation experts do not recommend restricting your food intake too severely while breastfeeding, especially in the early days after childbirth when you’re still getting the hang of it all. After six weeks you can gradually lose weight, but aim to keep it slow- rapid weight loss can have a negative impact on your milk supply and may affect your baby’s growth.
Why Do I Still Look Pregnant?
Some women lose all of the weight gained during pregnancy but find that their body still doesn’t look like it used to. This can be frustrating but it is normal- your body shape can change during pregnancy and your body may never look like it once did.
If your stomach still pooches out significantly after you’ve lost weight then you may be experiencing diastasis recti, or abdominal separation. This separation of the abdominal muscles can cause your stomach to stick out, creating an early pregnancy look that is difficult to shift through diet or exercise. If you suspect that this may be a problem for you, speak to your doctor about special stretches and exercises that can heal the abdominal muscles.