Many new mothers struggle to get their pre-baby body back following childbirth. It’s not an easy process! It’s possible that you won’t have the same body you had before, and that’s okay. You just carried a human being in your body for roughly nine months, through a whirlwind of hormonal shifts and doctor’s visits and stress and planning and joy.
Get all the rest you can! Your body is still recovering from a life-changing (and life-giving) milestone, and given your baby’s sleeping and feeding patterns, you may be awake at all hours. Use your little one’s all-important nap times to get some shuteye or to take some personal time for yourself.
Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and boost energy, as well as strengthen your core muscles after giving birth. If you had an uncomplicated childbirth, you should be able to begin light exercise within a few weeks. For C-sections and difficult births, it’s important to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program. Make sure not to push yourself too hard until your body has healed, and to take it slow.
Your post-pregnancy exercise could begin with a walk around the block and gradually increase. Walking is great because you can take your baby with you and meet up with other moms or friends – it’s a social activity. You could burn 400 calories from an hour of walking.
Other solid post-pregnancy exercises include yoga, stretching, and breathing exercises – exercises you can do at home by following videos or apps that will help you invigorate your mind and body. Swimming is a solid next-level exercise, but make sure your doctor approves – there are infection risks if you’re swimming too soon after childbirth.
As you start working out again, listen to what your body is telling you. There will be days where you’re too tired to work out. Don’t expect to just pick up where you left off with your pre-baby workouts. Make sure to set reasonable goals – your body spent 40 weeks preparing for birth. After the baby’s born, and you’ve delivered the placenta and amniotic fluid, you might still be carrying 25 additional pounds. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to accomplish your goal.
While you may be itching to hit the gym hard or go on a crash diet to shed post-pregnancy weight, moms choosing to breastfeed should focus on establishing milk supply before worrying about weight loss. Your body will need extra nourishment while breastfeeding. Experts recommend about 300-500 additional calories each day to ensure your baby isn’t being deprived of key nutrients. Drinking at least three liters of water each day can also help you improve breast milk production and manage weight. Weight loss usually happens gradually after childbirth — you might lose a few pounds a month for the first six months before the weight loss tapers off.
Healthy eating is vital to helping you achieve your (and your baby’s) needs. The Mayo Clinic recommends a diet full of protein-rich foods “such as lean meat, eggs, dairy, beans, lentils and seafood low in mercury,” as well as a variety of whole grains, fruits and vegetables to fuel milk production. The flavor of breast milk changes based on the foods you eat, so eating a wide range of foods will expose your baby to different tastes.
Organic food is especially important for nursing mothers because of the reduced exposure to pesticides and artificial hormones.
Don’t feel that fruits and vegetables are only for your baby! They’re for your benefit, too. As your child gets older, continued healthy eating will set good habits for them — a vital lesson they can carry for the rest of their lives, and something you and your baby can share together.