Motherhood changes you. You are now responsible for an entire human being, and as if that wasn’t enough to think about, many women experience anxiety about losing pregnancy weight and getting that perfect “post baby body.” Reality isn’t rooted in instant gratification and miraculous celebrity bounce backs.
Prevention is the best strategy. Mothers-to-be should strive to keep within a healthy range of weight gain. That can vary from person to person, pre-baby weight, prior medical history, etc. Make sure to consult with your OB to learn what a healthy weight gain range would be for you. By staying within this range, you can assure you will not overdo weight gain during pregnancy.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to “eat for two” or double your caloric intake. Actually, your body needs more calories while breastfeeding during the post partum period than during pregnancy itself!
However, one of the impost important things I can emphasize to mothers as a pediatrician and a lactation consultant, is the immediate post partum period is not the ideal time for a drastic weight loss program. Between recovery from birth, hormone fluctuations, and accommodating to life with a new baby, trying to limit food groups and nutrition to your body and brain is big set up for beginning to feel worse mentally and physically. Instead, I want you to channel the theme of “recovery.” Recovery from pregnancy, delivery, and adjustment to motherhood.
By staying hydrated, eating nutritious meals, and healthy snacks, you can slowly help rebuild your stamina and begin to feel more like yourself. Yes, it is possible!
The most healthful and sustainable strategy to return to pre-pregnancy weight is by making gradual and meaningful changes in eating habits. What does that mean? It means doing your best to choose the right foods- fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein -are all
important if you are breast-feeding. Don’t cut out food groups like dairy or whole grains to limit carbohydrate intake. To ensure adequate milk supply, you’ll need to meet your energy needs and include essential nutrients. Moms who breast-feed exclusively need about 600 to 700 more calories a day, some of which comes from the body’s fat stores that built up during pregnancy.
Some easy tips to keep in mind.
Don’t skip meals. Aim for 3 meals and 2 snacks or even 5 mini-meals if that’s easier. While nursing in the middle of the night, it may even be helpful to plan for an evening snack.
Water is a must! If breast-feeding, get into the habit of filling a tall glass of water or tumbler to keep with you all day.
Don’t fall into a cycle of cutting out foods and food groups because you think the baby is “gassy” without talking to a health care provider first. As a pediatrician and lactation consultant, I frequently encounter this trend!
Try to have some form of protein at each meal!
Don’t push yourself to exercise the way you used to or how you “want” to. Post partum recovery, just like fitness levels, varies from person to person, but walking may be the perfect post-partum activity. Easily done anywhere, not overly strenuous, and can include the baby too! As your stamina and strength improve, it’s definitely worth incorporate weightlifting or a resistance routine (such as yoga or using exercise bands) once
Lastly, please avoid weight loss fads! This is not the time for detoxes or cleanses. An all or none mentality only sets us up for failure and when you are sleep deprived and tired as a new mom, that’s the last thing we want to feel! Focus on balanced nutrition and exercise that you enjoy instead. Rather than count calories, focus on choosing foods that are nutrient-rich. And know this, it took almost a full year to allow your body to help grow a baby and put on the weight. Allow yourself up to that long to lose it in a healthy and safe manner.