Are you currently pregnant and discouraged about getting back into shape after having your baby? Or maybe you're a new Mom who is exhausted and getting to the gym is the last thing on your mind! Either way, I hope the following tips help you lose that baby weight.
I don't have any fancy initials behind my name, I'm just a Mom of 4 kids. I've been able to get into my favorite Gap jeans fairly quickly after my babies, and I've observed that women who do the same have a few things in common. Here are my tips for losing the weight postpartum:
1) Don't use pregnancy as an excuse to binge.
Pregnancy is the time to get strict about nutrition. Eating junk food will produce a small baby and a big Momma. Make your pregnancy a time to turn over a new leaf if you are a junk food junkie. You'll be developing habits that will serve you well as you teach your children about nutrition.
At the same time, don't obsess about weight gain. I gained between 35-50 pounds for each of my pregnancies, and still didn't have trouble getting back into my old clothes within a few months postpartum. Focus on good nutrition, stay as active as you can, and you won't go wrong.
2) Breastfeed your baby.
Breastfeeding burns around 500-700 calories a day. Wow- that's not bad for sitting around relaxing on the couch! Your body puts on 9 pounds during your pregnancy specifically for the purpose of lactation. The extra weight is laid down on your thighs to make sure you will have enough fat to burn to make milk for baby. Call it "famine insurance" if you will. If you don't breastfeed, guess what? That 9 pounds stays.
Several studies show that nursing Moms return to their prepregnancy weight more quickly. Nursing also helps your uterus contract back to its prepregnancy size faster. Plus you'll have a nicer decolletage to boot!
3) Talk a walk every day
Walking is probably the perfect exercise for new Moms. It's not stressful on your joints (which are still loosey-goosey from the pregnancy hormones for a while after you give birth). It's free and doesn't require a babysitter or any special equipment. It gets you out in the sun, which helps regulates your sleep/wake cycle, causing you and baby to sleep better at night and possibly helping prevent postpartum depression. And you can do it with a friend. If you're sleep deprived and can't bear the thoughts of exercise, call up a buddy and make a date with her to walk several mornings a week. Then you can treat yourselves to Starbucks and gossip afterwards.
4) "Wear" your baby
In addition to the many other benefits, using a baby sling or other soft cloth carrier and wearing your baby will burn lots of calories during the day as you do your household chores or care for other children. It also makes it easier for you to be active. You'll be less tempted to sit around. Throwing on a sling and sitting baby inside it is much easier than lugging out and setting up a heavy stroller.
5) Curb those cravings
Postpartum Moms have cravings for several reasons. One is because serotonin levels are dropping, leading to cravings for sugar. Substitute snacking with another, health producing activity, like getting together with your buddy and going for a walk.
Another cause of cravings may be low blood sugar due to inadequate nutrition (eating too infrequently or eating too much refined sugar). Keep your blood sugar in control by eating frequent small meals that are balanced in nutrients. Keep snacks handy that you can grab quickly before you feed the baby. You need fats, protein and complex carbohydrates. Things like dried fruit and nuts, granola, full fat yogurt (buy the plain kind and mix in all-fruit jelly. Most yogurt has way too much sugar otherwise), kefir, vegetables sliced ahead of time and served with dips, hummus, whole grain pita bread, fruit smoothies, etc will keep your blood sugar constant and provide good nutrition. And keep taking your prenatal multivitamin to help prevent deficiencies that may cause cravings.
6) Avoid excessive caffeine
Drinking too much caffeine leads to insulin surges which cause your blood sugar to drop. When this happens most people head straight for the refined carbs to quickly bring their blood sugar back up. That's no good.
7) Get enough rest
Easier said than done for a new Mom, to be sure! But if at all possible, nap with your baby. When you are terribly sleep deprived, you tend to gain weight. Consider bringing baby to bed with you if you are nursing. You will sleep better, baby will sleep better, and Daddy will sleep better (making it more likely that he will take baby for a walk and let you nap some afternoons!). Women all over the world have been doing it for thousands of years. As long as you are not morbidly obese, using sleeping pills or inebriated, cosleeping is safe.
8) Focus on good nutrition
This is also a challenge for a new, stressed out Mom. Check out books like "The One Armed Cook" for ideas on how to prepare healthy meals with a baby in arms. Visit a La Leche League meeting and ask other Moms how they manage to eat well with kids in the kitchen. Some Moms who were former junk food junkies have done well with the following technique. Before feeding themselves a particular food, they ask: "Would I feed this to my baby?" If the answer is no, they don't eat it.
9) And lastly, give it time
Be realistic- don't expect yourself to be back into your favorite jeans within a few weeks of delivery. In the meantime, appreciate your new, womanly curves (especially the cleavage that breastfeeding gives you!). I noticed that my clothing style changes somewhat after I have a baby. My normal tailored, classic look gives way to a soft, feminine style that flatters my postpartum body more.
Rejoice in your body that can do such awesome things as give birth and nourish a new life! Likely, your partner is much more forgiving of your changing body than you are. Just the other day as I was feeling embarrassed about my still stretched-out postpartum belly, my husband commented on how sexy my belly was, "because that's where my babies grew".
Enjoy your new baby!