In the days after having your baby, you mind's swirling with different thoughts about your new bundle of joy. From "How did I create this creature?" to "Does it ever sleep at night?" one of the most pressing thoughts may be more along the lines of "I finally get my body back!"
Yes, it's true. After giving your little one his eviction notice, you finally regain control over your body again. This means sleeping on your belly, getting rid of heartburn and even losing weight, when it's done properly. Too often women try to lose extra pounds and get back to their pre-baby shape—without any real plan—too soon after having their babies. Pregnancy, birth and delivery alter your body over the course of nine months, so you can hardly expect it to snap back into shape in a mere few weeks.
Your Postpartum Timeline
Just because you're no longer pregnant doesn't mean that you can shimmy back into your pre-pregnancy jeans right away. Postpartum doula and parent coach Nichi Hirsch Kuechle calls the six weeks after delivery the "fourth trimester," noting that the six weeks following your pregnancy "is NOT the time to think about weight loss. Moms need to give themselves at least the first six weeks postpartum to heal and recuperate sleep and energy."
It's imperative that you give yourself that time to heal, get used to your new schedule, rest and shoo well-meaning family members away from your messy house. Trying to get back into the weight loss game too quickly could actually stunt your efforts.
If you're breastfeeding your baby, you definitely have serious hydration needs. It's easy to get dehydrated when breastfeeding, which is why you should be drinking between 40 and 60 ounces of water each day. Don't sub soda for water, even if you need to kick sleep deprivation. Soda is full of sugar and calories and can hijack your health while you're trying to get back to normal.
If the idea of guzzling water doesn't sound appetizing, look for other ways to stay hydrated. Flavor packets for water bottles can make chugging water more bearable. You can also have a cup of herbal tea or drink skim milk to help your body make the best quality nutrition for your babe.
You'll find that during your "fourth trimester," you're in a complete time warp. From waking up with your infant all night to stumbling around the house in your pajamas during the day, three square meals might not be on your list of high-priority items. But Kuechle warns that you should still be eating the same amount of calories as you did when you were pregnant to help increase your strength, aid the healing process and support your breastfeeding efforts. "Hopefully this means [you are] consuming an extra 300-500 calories of healthy oils, fats and proteins."
If you don't have the time or energy to cook an entire meal, make sure you have healthy snack options on hand so you can nosh every two to three hours on high-quality foods. Snacks that Kuechle suggests include:
- cottage cheese (26 grams of protein per cup!)
- plain yogurt with fresh fruit or granola
- veggies with hummus
- fruit with nut butter
- sandwich on whole grain bread
Each only takes a couple of minutes to assemble but can help support your postpartum body in the right way. Steer clear of sugary, fatty and processed foods which build up your body with empty calories and sugar, stunting any chance you have at eventual weight loss.
You've probably noticed by now that newborns need to eat. A lot. Because of this, you might be glued to a comfy chair, watching infomercials for a lot of the first few weeks. Since you'll be in a stationary position, prepare a nursing station with water, snacks like whole grain crackers and a book close by. This ensures that breastfeeding doesn't become an excuse to not eat or drink properly.
The Finish Line
After six weeks have gone by, you'll head back into your doctor's office for a checkup. As long as you've healed properly, your doctor will give you the OK to start exercising for weight loss. While you're probably excited to shed excess pounds, remember that you should always be consuming enough calories to support both you and your baby, which means adding another 300 calories to whichever diet plan you choose to follow.
It's understandable that you're eager to return to your former glory, but when you're thinking about postpartum weight loss, be smart. It takes a combination of ample rest, 30 minutes of daily exercise and an adequate, healthy diet to see a change in your body. Be patient with your mummy tummy and other parts that have changed drastically, remembering that slow and steady wins the weight loss race.