You know what's amazing about being pregnant? Not the morning sickness, heartburn, swollen feet, or headaches. No, what's amazing about being pregnant is that you have this glorious round belly that you can stick out as far as you want and people gush over how cute it is.
Postpartum bellies are a different beast. No one is fawning over your saggy post-baby stomach. No one is telling you how cute your postpartum clothes are. It's an awkward stage where it's almost impossible to get dressed in the morning. You're trying to avoid "are you pregnant?" comments in public, so shirts have to be flowy. Your maternity clothes are too big, but your old clothes are too tight in all the wrong places. If you're nursing, you need to have boob access.
Your hormones are going haywire, so when you don't recognize yourself in the mirror and none of your clothes fit properly, it's a very emotional issue. You want to lose the baby weight to feel like yourself again. It's for your own sanity and the sanity of those that live with you. You're sick of complaining about how you look, and you want to DO something about it.
I've had 3 babies, and I gained over 40 pounds with each baby no matter how healthy I ate or how much I worked out. It's just what my body does. The weight doesn't magically fall off from breastfeeding either. I had to figure out my own plan for losing the baby weight that would keep me sane and would be easy enough to follow for a person with New Mom Brain (this is a real thing, trust me).
I will warn you in advance before you read this post: there is nothing magical here. To be really honest, you've probably heard all of these tips at some point or another in a magazine or from a doctor. I'm just telling you all the steps I took that actually worked for me. I'm 30 years old, and 10 months postpartum with baby number 3 and I'm below my pre-pregnancy weight through hard work, consistency, and patience.
Again, the weight doesn't magically fall off, and I'm not one of those ladies that could lose all the weight by my 6-week checkup, or even the 3-month mark. Slow and steady wins the race for me, and I think that's true for most of us. (Except the lucky few that won the genetic lottery. You go girls!)
How to Lose the Stubborn Baby Weight
Those First 6 Weeks
1. Drink a TON of water. You're trying to establish your milk supply (if you're breastfeeding) and remove the excess fluid in your body. Have a water bottle in every room of the house. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, the 30 oz Yeti tumbler is your best friend. It keeps your drinks ice cold for hours and hours. I aim for 3 tumblers of water a day!
2. Walk as much as you can handle. You are recovering from childbirth, so don't push it. BUT if you feel up to it, walk a little bit every day. Start with walks around the block and work your way up to a few miles. Bonus points if you wear the baby in the baby carrier for extra resistance.
3. Eat a lot, but eat nourishing foods. Do your best to fill up on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein. I know you're craving ALL the sugar and carbs right now, but if you really want to lose the baby weight, find a way to moderate it. Maybe try having all the sweets you want on the weekend, but during the week you stick with whole foods. Maybe you do better if you keep no sweets in the house at all! I personally do well with healthy versions of my favorite treats.
Check out my blog post on my favorite healthy treats to make with protein powder!
I definitely prefer fruits to vegetables because I have a sweet tooth! During those first weeks postpartum we kept the kitchen stocked with strawberries, pineapple, grapes, blueberries, and apples. I made myself a nice filling fruit salad ever afternoon. Check out the 6 Best Foods to Energize Sleep Deprived Moms for more healthy snack options!
4. Wear a postpartum girdle. This was honestly more helpful for my C-Section recovery than losing weight, but I loved that I could wear certain clothes with confidence because the Belly Bandit was holding in my stomach. It helped me not to stress about what I wore for fear of the "are you pregnant?" question. I used this one, and still sometimes wear it if my diastasis recti is bothering me!
5. Take a "before" photo. This is a really tough one. I know I cringed when I actually looked at the picture. However, now that I look back on it, I'm so glad I did it for a few reasons. First, it makes me feel proud of what my body is capable of - growing a baby and shrinking back down again. All my organs making room for a new life and then gradually shrinking and shifting back into place. Second, it motivates me because I can see how far I've come. Often times we look in the mirror and are frustrated that we still don't look how we want to. But once we compare it to the original before picture, we feel like we can accomplish anything!
After The Six-Week Checkup
6. Once you get cleared to start exercising again, don't just jump back into high-intensity training like I did after my first baby. Figure out a safe way to ease back into your favorite exercises.
If you suspect you have Diastasis Recti - or separated abdominal muscles - read my review of the MuTu System for healing your core and pelvic floor. I had a ton of success with it, and am going through it a second time!
If you were a runner pre-baby, work your way up from walking, to jogging, to running. If you love interval training and body weight workouts, start with squats, lunges, and arm circles.
7. If exercise isn't your thing, make sure you find ways to move more naturally every day. I incorporate things like dance parties, crawling with my kids, park workouts, and parking far away into my day. I actually wrote a post on 12 Ways to Move More Every Day - check out the rest!
8. Wear your baby as much as you can! Extra resistance as you walk around the house and do chores. I use this baby carrier because it's the only one that doesn't hurt my back. There are even workouts you can do while wearing your baby!
9. Add lemon to your water. Start each day with a glass of lemon water on an empty stomach. It's great for flushing out your system, rehydrating you, clearing up your skin, and helping you lose weight.
Related: 7 Morning Habits of Fit Moms
10. Try incorporating a meal-replacement shake. I drink two superfood shakes each day for a few reasons. They are incredibly convenient for new moms, they're your most balanced and nutritious meal of the day, they fill you up on quality protein, and they taste amazing. These are the ones I use, and here is a post detailing what to look for in a meal replacement shake.
11. Plan your meals before you go grocery shopping. This is great for your budget AND your waistline. We know exactly which four or five meals we're cooking, what snacks we'll buy or make, and how much produce we need to keep on hand. Meal replacement shakes are our breakfast and lunch or afternoon snack, so we just need to plan lunches for the kids and dinner. Then ONLY buy what's on the list to avoid mindless snacking.
12. Meal prep on Sunday afternoons. Wash and cut up all your fruit and veggies, cook some chicken, brown rice, and quinoa ahead of time to make dinnertime easier each night. Bake healthy versions of your favorite snacks, make protein balls, and make spinach ice cubes to pop in your smoothies. I have an entire post here on how our family meal preps on Sundays. You'll be much more inclined to grab produce if it's ready-to-eat!
I have a few more tips about meal prep in my post: Sunday Meal Prep for Busy Families
13. Have a support system. I have a healthy lifestyle Facebook group with like-minded people who inspire me every day to treat my body with love and care by feeding it the proper nutrition. If you have friends or family who make fun of your healthy choices or try to make you feel bad for wanting to be healthy, it's easy to fall into the trap of eating or drinking junk you don't even want to show them how you're still cool and laid back. You'll be much more successful if you surround yourself with people who support your goal. Better yet, find people who are also working toward the same goal. Do stroller strides or get a group to work out together in the park.
14. Walk after dinner with your family. This is something we started doing last summer after the baby was born. It was so calming to the kids to be outside in the fresh air right before bed, and it was a relaxing way for us to get some more steps in each day. Post-meal strolls also help aid in digestion. This doesn't have to be a long or even brisk walk. Just get outside and enjoy nature!
15. Try making small changes. I hate the idea of restricting myself, so when I was really serious about losing the weight, I decided to make a few temporary healthy swaps. For example, I stopped using creamer in my coffee and used half & half instead. On Taco Tuesday I ate my taco on a bed of romaine lettuce and spinach instead of in a tortilla. I didn't add cheese or sour cream to my burrito bowls. I only had to do this for a couple weeks before the inches started dropping again. At that point, I resumed enjoying those favorite foods! (Here's an idea of what I eat each day as a nursing mom)
16. Take a progress picture. Every month or so, take a picture wearing the same outfit as you wore in your "before" picture. Keep a folder on your phone with your progress pictures, and every so often, make a month-to-month comparison collage in Canva or another collage app. You'll be stunned by your progress and motivated to keep going!
17. Throughout the day, use the baby as a workout buddy! There are so many great baby-and-me workouts online. Use your baby as extra weight for squats and lunges, or lift him or her up over your head 10 times to work your arms and shoulders. Just do a few sets every so often throughout the day to burn some extra calories while bonding with your little one.
18. Cut out late night snacking. This one was really tough for me because I tried so hard to justify a 9 p.m. bowl of cereal. That nursing hunger is so real! But I knew that a bowl full of carbs right before bed wasn't doing me any favors. I made the decision that if I was REALLY that hungry that I couldn't sleep without eating something, it would have to be rich in protein. Which leads me to my next point:
19. Consume protein before bed. Did you know that eating or drinking something high in protein right before you go to sleep promotes better rest, burns fat, and builds muscle? Awesome, right?
I sometimes do a protein mug cake right before bed - tastes like dessert but is super healthy (find my recipe here)! Otherwise, I mix a scoop of high-quality whey protein with ice, water, and a fruit supplement and drink that within 30 minutes of going to bed (we call this the Bedtime Belly Buster!)
Other high protein snacks before bed: Greek yogurt with chocolate chips, a small glass of chocolate milk, or whole wheat toast with nut butter.
20. Save wine for the weekends. I'm not a fan of cutting out things I enjoy, so I make a rule for myself that I can enjoy a glass of wine or two on the weekends, but not on weeknights. This makes it a special treat to look forward to and savor, not to mention it saves me some extra calories (and the inevitable snacking that goes along with it!)
When You Hit A Plateau
At some point in her post-baby weight loss journey, most women hit a plateau where the weight and inches refuse to budge. This is completely normal as your body adjusts to your new way of eating or your workout routine. I have a few tricks for BUSTING through that plateau that I'm sharing in a PDF. Drop your email here for access to my PLATEAU-BUSTING WEIGHT LOSS TIPS:
Mama, you already know this, but it doesn't hurt to remind you. You are already valuable and loved just the way you are. Being in a smaller body won't make you more important or more loveable. You can choose to be happy and love your body at whatever size.
Having said that, I totally get feeling more comfortable in your clothes, and in your own skin, at a certain size, which is why I wrote this post! I battled through the weight loss 3 times and came out the other side feeling proud of the hard work I had put in, and loving how much energy I had!
Please feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions or if you just need encouragement through the process.
Wishing you wellness of mind, body, and soul.