Having a baby is an incredibly life-altering and rewarding experience, but childbirth and recovery can take a toll on your body and emotions. As you recover in the first few weeks, your precious newborn may keep you up at all hours with what feels like endless feedings and diaper changes. You may look in the mirror and pine away for your pre-pregnancy body. Or get impatient with yourself for not losing weight fast enough. It took nine months to create this beautiful new human, so give yourself time to lose the weight you gained.
The truth about weight loss after childbirth
Depending on the size of your newborn and the weight of amniotic fluid and placenta, you may lose up to 12 pounds during delivery. Keep in mind extra weight comes from enlarged breast tissue, fat storage and your enlarged uterus. It’s common to take six weeks for the uterus to shrink back to its normal size. So be patient with your body and if you gained more than 35 pounds, it may take longer to shed the baby weight.
Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to bond with your newborn and it comes with the added benefit of burning 500 to 700 extra calories per day. Breastfeeding helps you lose weight naturally and it’s important not to restrict calories dramatically during this time – you need them to nourish yourself and your baby.
If you can’t breastfeed or aren’t losing weight from doing so, don’t fret. Everyone is unique and pre-pregnancy weight, diet, metabolism and physical activity levels all factor in. Here are some diet and exercise tips to get you feeling healthy and back to your pre-pregnancy weight!
The importance of exercise
Getting back into an exercise routine is one of the best things you can do for your health after giving birth. Experts advise waiting six to eight weeks before working out again, but it’s important to get active again once you are cleared to do so. A gentle way to start exercising is walking. Here are some additional tips that can help you during the transition:
- Start slow to give your body time to warm up
- Try for 20-30 minutes a day
- When you first start exercising, do simple postpartum exercises
- Gradually add moderate-intensity type exercises as you get your strength back
- If you exercised vigorously or competitively before pregnancy, work up to the vigorous-intensity activity instead of jumping right in
- Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise
- Stop exercising if you feel any pain
The right foods to nourish
Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet with whole foods is crucial as your body heals after childbirth. A diet with less processed foods provides you with the nutrients and energy your body needs. In the months after childbirth, most new moms should consume about 1,800 to 2,200 calories a day. If you are breastfeeding, you’ll likely need to add an additional 500 calories a day. It’s important to increase your protein, calcium and iron intake to ensure you’re replacing what has been depleted. And don’t forget to get plenty of vitamin C, a key antioxidant that helps in recovery. Here are reasons why these four elements are essential to your diet with good sources for each.
Protein is a key component of every cell in your body and needed to make enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals. It’s also a building block for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. After nine months of pregnancy and especially if you are producing protein-rich breast milk, you’ll need to replenish your protein reserves to help you recover.
Good sources of protein include high-quality red meat, chicken, seafood, beans, eggs, tofu, yogurt, milk and legumes. Try to eat five servings of protein a day and seven if you’re breastfeeding. If you struggle to get enough protein in your diet, Lindora Nutrition has high protein snacks that are easy to add to your diet, with no cooking required.
The amount of calcium you need depends on how much breast milk you produce and how long you breastfeed your baby. Calcium is essential for proper functioning of the heart, muscles and nerves. The National Academy of Sciences recommends women who are breastfeeding consume 1,000 mg. of calcium a day.
Good sources of calcium include low-fat dairy products (e.g. milk, yogurt and cheese), dark green leafy vegetables (e.g. kale and broccoli), canned sardines, salmon with bones, tofu and almonds.
When you were pregnant, your body made extra blood to nurture your baby, which depleted some of your iron reserves. So during pregnancy, you likely took a multivitamin with iron. If you’re breastfeeding, you should get a minimum of 9 mg. of iron every day. Heme-iron is the form best absorbed by the body, however, it’s only found in meat, poultry and fish. Non-heme iron, which isn’t as readily absorbed is found in plant-based food, as well as some animal products.
Beef, chicken, turkey, pork, halibut, haddock, perch, salmon, tuna, sardines, clams, oysters and mussels are good sources of heme iron. Beans, spinach, tofu and ready-to-eat-cereals fortified with added iron are rich in non-heme iron.
This vitamin helps your body absorb iron better and is vital for the growth and repair of tissues, so try to eat plenty of foods rich in vitamin C. According to the UCSF Medical Center, breastfeeding mothers should get at least 120 mg of vitamin C a day.
Citrus fruits and juices, mango, papaya, pineapple, berries, green and red peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, leafy greens, potatoes and tomatoes are the highest sources of vitamin C. If you don’t think you are getting enough from your diet. Boost4 is a great supplement to get that extra vitamin C.
What if I still can’t lose the weight?
We suggest setting your sights on a reasonable weight loss goal, like one pound a week. Following the tips above and making simple modifications like cutting out junk food, eating more vegetables and reducing the overall number of calories you eat can help you reach you goals. But if you are still having difficulty losing pregnancy weight, you’re not alone – it is a struggle for most women. Once you are done breastfeeding, you may want to consider a ketogenic weight loss program like Lindora. The Lindora program teaches you how to optimize your body’s ability to lose weight rapidly and how to keep the weight off over time. Our personalized plans are customized for your needs and get your body to burn fat instead of storing it, which leads to weight loss.
And one last word of advice … don’t forget to rejoice in all the experiences of being a new mom – they grow up so fast!
Dr. Amy Lee, M.D.
Chief Medical Officer, Lindora Clinic