Losing Your Baby Weight and Maintaining a Healthy Diet

Now that your baby is out of your belly and in your arms, you may be overwhelmed with all the changes that are happening in your life. Understandably so: a new baby in the house, maybe breastfeeding, an altered sleep schedule (which is a major understatement), maternity leave (or planning to return to work), never-ending diaper changes, and other chores all result in a serious deviation from what was considered “the norm” just weeks, or even days, before. You may also be starting to wonder when all those pounds that you gained during pregnancy are going to melt away.

With all of your new responsibilities in life, the last thing you want to deal with is losing weight. In this chapter, I discuss what you should expect regarding postpartum weight loss, how to maintain a healthy eating pattern amid the changes that accompany your new bundle of joy, and tips for staying energized, well-nourished, and happy in the years to come.

The Truth about Post-Pregnancy Weight

Are you ready for this? Because I’m going to tell you the cold, hard truth.
You will still look pregnant when you leave the hospital. Not as pregnant
as when you checked in, but pregnant nonetheless.

where she looked no different from before getting pregnant? Well, as it turns out, that same miraculous weight loss doesn’t appear to happen to us mere mortals. I am embarrassed to admit this, but when I had my daughter, I foolishly assumed (read: dreamed) that like Giselle, I would go home from the hospital wearing not maternity clothes, but a pair of my old fat jeans (and I just knew I’d be back into my regular jeans in no time). Boy, was I ever wrong! I had to send my husband home to get some clothes that actually t me before I could leave the maternity ward.

In the days following delivery, you will still have a bump, and even though it won’t be nearly as big as it was before, it will take its time in saying goodbye. That’s okay! It is perfectly natural and normal, so don’t spend time stressing about it. You actually shouldn’t attempt to lose weight until (1) a proper breastfeeding pattern is established (if you will be nursing), (2) your uterus has shrunk back to its normal size, and (3) your doctor gives you the okay to start exercising. After a vaginal delivery, you can usually start engaging in mild to moderate exercise as soon as you feel up for it (this could be within days after delivery). If you have a Cesarean, it will take a bit longer before you can resume physical activity, as your abdominal muscles and scar need to heal properly. Your doctor will determine when you can get back to your regular exercise routine, but most women can start moderate exercise 6 to 8 weeks post-Cesarean. Regardless, you will need some time to get yourself used to your new role as a mom, so don’t rush into worrying about losing weight.

As you may remember from previous chapters, gaining the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy means a faster bouncing back to your prepregnancy body and weight. However, regardless of how much weight you gained while expecting, you will lose approximately 12 pounds with the birth of your baby (I lost 11), and a few more in the several days or weeks following delivery due to the normal loss of uids that you accumulated during pregnancy.

The pounds you gained during pregnancy went to a variety of places in your body, and many of these will not automatically drop o at birth or in the several days after. These include your enlarged breasts and uterus, increased blood volume, and fat stores.

Your uterus will start to shrink right after giving birth and will eventually decrease to its normal size after 6 to 8 weeks postpartum. The blood volume will also decrease, as you no longer need an increased blood supply to nourish the baby growing inside of you. However, the nutrient stores (a much nicer term than “fat”) that you have accumulated will take their time before departing. Remember: you didn’t gain all the weight in one day, so you shouldn’t expect it to go away overnight.

I have heard people use the expression “9 months on and 9 months o.” That is a fair and realistic goal. Also, other factors, like diet, exercise, and whether or not you breastfed, will influence the rate of your weight loss.

Statistics about Postpartum Weight Loss

According to the Pregnancy Nutrition Surveillance System, which collected data on about forty-nine thousand women in the United States between 2004 and 2006, the average postpartum weight retention, or the weight retained by women at around 6 months postpartum, was 11.8 pounds. About half of women retained more than 10 pounds, and one-quarter retained more than 20 pounds. Weight retention varied by race, with African American women retaining more weight than white or Hispanic women, regardless of their prepregnancy BMI or gestational weight gain.

Among women who gained more than the Institute of Medicine recommendations, the average postpartum weight retention was 15 to 20 pounds. At later points after delivery, another study of American women showed that at 11 to 14 months post-pregnancy only a quarter of women retained more than 10 pounds, although 12 percent of all women still retained more than 20 pounds. On the other side of the equator, a survey of Brazilian women (18 to 45 years old) showed that the mean weight retention 9 months post-pregnancy was only about 6.8 pounds. Women over 30 tended to retain more weight than younger women, and breastfeeding was associated with weight loss in women of all ages but not in those who were obese before becoming pregnant. What can we make of all these statistics, and how can they help predict your post-pregnancy weight loss? First of all, if you gain weight within the recommended range during pregnancy, your odds of losing it after delivery are already increased.

Additionally, if you are breastfeeding, your pounds are likely to disappear faster. Third, if you are African American, you may lose weight more slowly than mothers who are Caucasian or Hispanic. Again, this statistic does not mean this will be the case; it just makes it more likely, and having this awareness may help you stay motivated and reduce your likelihood of slower weight loss. Bottom line? Be patient and don’t stress.

Strategies for Losing the Bump after Your
Baby Is Born

Here are several ideas for things you can do to help speed the process of
losing your baby weight. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.

Gain the Right Amount of Weight during Pregnancy

One of the easiest ways to up your odds of returning to your original weight after your baby is born is, of course, to not gain too much during pregnancy. One study found weight gain during pregnancy to be the strongest predictor of postpartum weight retention a year after delivery.

This is why implementing healthy changes like eating a nutritious diet and engaging in regular, moderate exercise during pregnancy serve double duty: they tend to prevent gaining too much weight and thus reduce the amount of weight you need to lose once your baby is born. These changes can also establish a set of habits so that after your baby is born you don’t have to initiate a whole new routine. This may be why a 2014 study of women with obesity who followed a walking program throughout their pregnancy showed less weight retention at 6 months postpartum compared to a control group.

Get Physical

Relatedly, and somewhat unsurprisingly, exercise is often associated with less postpartum weight retention. While this seems like a no-brainer, getting in enough time for physical activity once your baby is born may be tough. Between being up repeatedly in the middle of the night, possibly resuming some of your responsibilities at work, and a potentially new challenge of finding reliable childcare, just scheduling a workout can seem exhausting. Not to fear! There are some ways to overcome these obstacles so you can get back into shape.

Taking your baby on a walk or jog using a stroller, for instance, can be a great way to get moving without having to hire a babysitter. Just walking 30 or more minutes per day (as well as watching less than 2 hours of television per day) is associated with less weight retention. Added benefits: your little one may nd the ride relaxing (and may take a nap!), you are both out in the fresh air, and you are setting a good example from day one that exercise is important.


Around 75 percent of new mothers in the United States breastfeed, a
choice that is strongly supported by the American Congress of
Obstetrics and Gynecologists. While research on the link between
breastfeeding and postpartum weight retention remains mixed, a
number of studies suggest that this practice may be helpful in shedding
pregnancy pounds.

In fact, it has been suggested that if done as
recommended, breastfeeding may be able to eliminate postpartum
weight retention within just 6 months in women who gain a reasonable
amount (approximately 26 pounds) while pregnant. It should be noted,
however, that the weight loss eect of breastfeeding appears to be less
pronounced among women who are obese prepregnancy.

Eat Healthfully

Although your life after giving birth may be a bit hectic, maintaining healthy eating patterns is crucial for shedding those extra pounds. Women who began snacking more between meals (meaning three or more snacks a day) after pregnancy have been shown to retain greater weight postpartum; the same is true for women who began skipping meals after giving birth.

In addition to the importance of how you eat, studies show that what you eat can influence weight loss after pregnancy, with research finding less weight retention among women who consume fewer trans fats. Likewise, a recent study found greater losses of postpartum weight among women who consumed less junk food—like fast food and soda—and ate more nutritious foods, like fruits, vegetables, and milk. So what can you do to eat healthy? Read on!

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