There are lots of articles around about how get back into pre-baby shape. You see them in print at the obstetrician’s office when you have your 6 week post-partum check-up, or at the birth centre when you visit your midwife. There, splayed out of the coffee table in the waiting room are brochures with bright glossy covers and photos of a slim woman with glossy hair smiling serenely at the tiny baby she’s holding. She doesn’t look as sleep-deprived or dehydrated as you feel. She looks freshly showered and cheerful and she certainly doesn’t look like she has any weight to lose. There are articles scattered across the internet groaning under the weight of all those exclamation marks and pithy, impractical suggestions like ‘leave baby with grandma and do a SUP Yoga class’. Maybe, women who didn’t gain much weight during pregnancy find these articles useful but for many women they trivialise what is a very difficult topic. Having a new baby is an incredibly beautiful, nourishing, exhausting and time-consuming experience. We know how hard it is so we’ve compiled a list of 5 fad-free ways to help you lose weight after pregnancy.
1) Include baby in your workouts. It is going to be harder to find time to exercise after you bring baby home than it was before. Long runs, or early morning sessions in the gym might not be an option for a while so this is a good time to explore some new workouts. Take long walks pushing baby in the stroller. This will get your heart rate going and get your lower body muscles engaged. Add some lunges and long steps to your walk and pay attention to your posture to get the maximum benefit. Or, do stretches and core-strengthening work on a mat on the floor while baby is having some tummy time. She can coo and giggle while you huff and puff.
2) Nap when you can! Sleep is a precious commodity in the first few months of baby’s life and you should grab as much as you can. A daytime nap when you’re little one is asleep will have benefits well beyond mood. A study published by the University of Chicago in December 2004 showed that sleep deprivation leads to an increase in leptin levels (a hormone associated with satiety) and a decrease in ghrelin (a hormone associated with hunger). This change leads to increased appetite and a greater desire for sugary, salty and starchy food.
3) Breastfeeding your baby expends around 500 calories per day. This isn’t a huge amount but it can make a difference and there is lots of evidence to support the finding that women who breastfeed lose their pregnancy weight more quickly than those who don’t.
4) Keep a food diary. Your new ‘schedule’ with baby will be very different to what it was before and can mean late night and 3am snacking. Keeping a food diary, or a phone app to help you keep track of what you are eating. A few extra snacks each day can make a big difference to your kilojoule intake and, conversely, eating carefully and choosing healthier snacks can help keep your weight under control.
5) Build strength with weights. Weight training might not be the first thing that pops into mind post-partum but it is important to rebuild core and overall strength. The benefits of anaerobic exercise are felt for a period of time following a workout and this helps support metabolic function. It’s important to remember that strength training should be light, until you’ve had your 6 week post-partum check.
Most importantly remember, your body has just achieved an amazing feat, it has been through extraordinary changes and needs time to recover. Focus on your little one, eat well and be kind to yourself.