Having a baby is the most joyful experience that a person can go through, but it definitely comes with some stigma. No matter how amazing your experience of pregnancy and birth can be, there are always going to be societal pressures, even if they are just voices in your head, that put you down after you’ve given birth.
Of course, we naturally expand and gain weight while pregnant. Our bodies change shape irreversibly during this process, and when we give birth, especially for the first time, our hips can rotate, and generally change our abdomen and hips’ shape forever. It’s a beautiful process, yet somehow most people end up feeling bad about themselves afterwards.
Is there a single healthy way to approach postpartum weight loss? Today’s blog will discuss just how we can approach losing baby weight without falling prey to diet culture, shame and self loathing.
Avoid prescriptive attitudes to when you “should” have lost your baby weight
There are many people out there who put a time limit on when it is appropriate to have lost your baby weight. This isn’t helpful, unfortunately, despite how prevalent these opinions are. All women’s bodies are totally different, and our circumstances vary, meaning that different people will take different amounts of time to lose the extra stomach weight that we gain when pregnant.
Here are a few factors that affect how fast we lose weight postpartum.
- Age. If you have a baby at 21, it will be a different experience to having one at 40. The younger you are, the quicker your body regains its previous shape.
- Fitness level. If you had rippling abs and super strength before you became pregnant, it’s likely that these will return faster than a person with a lower fitness level. Your muscle memory will help you regain the body shape you had before, so if you weren’t super fit before pregnancy, you can expect this to take longer.
- Your pregnancy experience. Some pregnant people experience fluid retention, pre-eclampsia and other problems which affect how their body looks and feels after birth.
- The type of birth you had. C-section births have different postpartum healing times than some natural births.
- Your socioeconomic and relationship status. A single mum without much help or assistance with childcare is likely to lose her baby weight more slowly, simply because she might not have as much time or energy to exercise. However, a person with a supportive partner or who is able to pay for childcare will have greater opportunities to lose weight faster.
Ultimately, nobody should judge you for losing your weight slowly, quickly, or anything in between. It’s a personal experience that requires support from others, not shaming or comparison.
Focus on health, not size
One common mistake mums make is to focus on their outer appearance rather than postpartum health. Pregnancy, birth and new motherhood are all exhausting, and they require a person to take care of themselves with good nutrition, as much sleep as possible, and gentle exercise. If you focus on the size of your jeans at the expense of good nutrition, you are likely to feel more tired, and less able to stay consistent with your baby’s routine.
Instead of worrying about your appearance after giving birth, you should try to focus on how you feel. If you feel energised, calm and healthy (despite the new-mum tiredness!) then you’re probably doing everything right. If you feel sluggish, exhausted, depressed or demotivated, you might be punishing your body too hard when it comes to reducing calories to lose weight after birth.
If you are concerned about your weight loss techniques, you should speak to a doctor about your method of losing weight postpartum. You can access NHS prescriptions online so you don’t even need to step out of the house!
Do gentle exercise that aids your healing process
While childbirth is beautiful, it can be pretty traumatic for your body. It’s a huge change, and afterwards, it is likely that you will need to heal slowly and carefully in order to avoid complications.
Instead of starting off by trying to lift weights, smash the treadmill and go back to your old routines, you should ease into exercise by starting with gentle strengthening exercises that don’t endanger your healing process.
Here are three forms of exercise that are great for promoting healing and strengthening your postpartum body.
Yoga is an amazing exercise for anyone, but for new mums it is a particularly effective form of exercise. Yoga is challenging on the body, building strength, toning muscles and increasing flexibility.
Although it presents challenges, yoga is a gentle form of exercise that doesn’t put pressure on any one part of the body continually, unlike running or weight lifting. It is a compound exercise that gently lengthens and stretches the body while improving your strength.
Swimming is a non-weight-bearing exercise that allows a healing body to go at its own pace, strengthening your muscles without applying pressure. The buoyancy of the water holds your body in place while you exercise, giving your postpartum body a chance to feel protected while it gets stronger.
Walking and hiking is an ideal exercise for new mums, because not only is it strengthening, it also gets you out of the house, and can be done with your baby too! You can take your little one in a sling or pushchair, getting your daily steps in, rejuvenating your mind and filling your lungs with fresh air.
Walking and hiking also relieves pressure from the abdominal area, so you don’t need to worry about damaging any sore or healing areas while you strengthen.
If you have just given birth or are expecting, make sure to use this blog as a way of relating healthily to your postpartum body. There’s so much stigma out there for new mums, so it’s crucial that we all stay positive, supportive of each other, and focus on our own health, rather than squeezing into a “one size fits all” mentality.