My Journey in Gaining a Baby and Losing Weight Without Losing My Mind
However, my journey to losing weight after having both of my kids was different. I wanted to find the best way to lose baby weight that was healthy and worked for me. I knew that a little extra weight after having a baby is normal; plus, it wasn’t my first priority in the aftermath of having a child.
I did want to create a routine that would be easy to follow and to keep myself accountable for staying on course. Below are the methods I implemented to not only lose postpartum weight, but keep it off with both diet and exercise.
Dietary Guidance for Breastfeeding Moms
When researching how to lose the baby weight, many people focus on how many calories per day need to be cut. I didn’t want that to be my main focus — instead, I wanted to transform my eating habits to avoid being hungry and give myself the energy and fuel I needed to breastfeed.
La Leche League advises that breastfeeding mothers consume at least 1,800 calories per day. Keeping in mind both the mother’s and the baby’s health, they recommend a goal of losing 1 pound per week.
Choosing the Natural Route
After having my first son, I learned a lot about healthy eating, specifically avoiding common pesticides, antibiotics and growth hormones in traditional foods. The first change I made to my diet was to purchase organic dairy and meat products. Although this was one of the most costly aspects of making healthier choices, I wanted to avoid the antibiotics and growth hormones1 injected into cows that lead to weight gain and obesity.
Choosing Healthy Snacks
I also followed the advice of Danielle Keith, a certified holistic health coach and the founder of Code Green Wellness Her advice was “processed food contains refined flours, refined sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial additives, and preservatives — all of which are linked to weight gain.”
It’s tempting to grab a muffin at Starbucks or a bag of chips from a vending machine when you’re walking with the baby; however, I learned those weren’t smart choices. Instead, I opted for healthy snacks that would not lead to weight gain and give me energy.
Meal Plans for New Moms
I have to admit that the first few weeks after giving birth were a blur, and I have no idea what I ate to sustain myself. However, after the first month, I wanted to find a solution to eating healthy and truly make strides in losing the baby weight.
What I realized was that I needed to plan my meals in advance in order to always have something in the fridge, cutting the possibility of making quick and unhealthy choices. I started to meal plan, spending a few hours every Sunday to make meals for the next week, which was a real game changer.
What I needed help with was figuring out what staples I needed to incorporate in meal planning to lose weight. Samantha Westbury from BioHackersLab is very helpful in this area, giving specific tips on the right diet for breastfeeding mothers.
Westbury recommends the slow and steady approach to losing weight because cutting too many calories at once will cause long term problems, like yoyo dieting.
She recommends that mothers focus on nutrient dense, real foods to help assist in weight loss and recovery and help milk production. Choosing foods with protein and healthy fats helped to keep me full and give me the boost I needed to get through the day.
Concentrate on Individual Needs
It may be frustrating to some new parents when they don’t lose as much weight as they planned on, even though they are committed to the goal. However, it’s important to keep in mind that pre-pregnancy weight and genetics also play a role in postpartum weight loss.
To optimize your chances of losing weight, it is advantageous to accurately identify the shifting metabolic demands of breastfeeding as the baby grows, in conjunction with the mother’s basal metabolism and activity level, believes Helene Byrne of BeFitMom.
Her Perfect Pregnancy and Postpartum Pounds app is instrumental in helping to assess breast milk production, body mass index (BMI), current weight and rate of loss, so that women can safely lose any unwanted pounds while safeguarding breast milk supply. This app helps to accurately calculate postpartum metabolism and determines ideal daily calorie target for each individual, helping them to stay motivated as they approach their goal weight.
Exercises for New Moms (and Dads too!)
As I mentioned before, my pre-pregnancy weight was in the healthy range, so I never felt the urge to exercise pre-baby. When it was time to exercise because of necessity, I had no idea where to start!
Fortunately, my pediatrician recommended that I see a physical therapist to help set realistic goals for my needs. Dr. Lisa N. Folden, a licensed physical therapist, naturopathic lifestyle coach and owner of Healthy Phit Physical Therapy & Wellness Consultants explains that many countries around the world mandate that mothers see a physical therapist postpartum. Even though the U.S. has no such requirement, this step was instrumental in my weight loss journey.
This is imperative before starting any exercise regimen because after either a cesarean or vaginal delivery, a woman’s entire pelvic floor has been stretched, loaded and contracted to its absolute max and the muscles completely damaged. Repairing them requires special care and mindful strengthening with a licensed physical therapist that can help assess for complications, such as diastasis recti, pelvic floor prolapse and other conditions that can impact the ability to exercise, lose weight and get back to a normal workout routine.
Workouts at Home
I started walking around the neighborhood as soon as I came home from the hospital. It may seem easy, but the weight of pushing the stroller was very challenging at first!
Once my doctor and my physical therapist deemed it safe for me to exercise, I wanted to find easy routines that I could do at home while my baby was doing tummy time or napping.
Andrea Signor, a certified personal trainer who specializes in postpartum strength training and author of Mama Lifts, shares her three favorite exercises for losing baby weight.
Perhaps the most important movement in your workout repertoire, the air squat, strengthens that posterior chain: the glutes and hamstrings.
Start with your feet hip-width apart, toes turned out slightly. Taking a breath and bracing your lower back and abdominals, squat down until your hips are just below parallel of your knees. Push your knees outward to prevent your knees from caving in. Stand back up and repeat. If you cannot get to parallel, use a chair or bench. Squat down until your bottom touches the seat and stand back up.
- Too easy? Add weight by holding a dumbbell or a small household item.
- Too hard? Start from a seated position and stand up. Lower as slowly as possible back to the seated position. Hold onto a railing if needed.
Burpees are a great full body exercise that get your heart rate up quickly and keeps it there until your lungs are burning.
Start in the standing position; bend over and plant hands on the floor about shoulder-width apart. Jump your legs back so that you end up in a pushup position. Jump your legs back toward your hands. Stand up and jump.
- Too easy? Add a pushup in the middle when you are in the pushup position.
- Too hard? Modify the burpee by stepping your feet back to the push-up position and step back towards your hands.
Perhaps one of the best bodyweight exercises, the push-up is easy to progress or modify depending on your ability.
The important thing to pay attention to in the pushup is full range of motion. You do yourself no favors by staying on your toes if you can only lower yourself a few inches. You will build strength so much faster by going to your knees and lowering completely to the floor.
In a prone position (facing the floor), put your hands under your shoulders with feet shoulder-width apart or together. Brace your abdominals and lower back. Keeping your elbows pinned to your sides, lower yourself until your chest touches the floor. Push up until your arms are fully extended. By keeping the elbows in, you protect your shoulders, which can become vulnerable if you “chicken wing.”
- Too easy? Try adding a row with a dumbbell after each push-up.
- Too hard? Modify by going to your knees or do incline push-ups using a bench, chair or wall.
At-Home Training Circuit for Moms and Dads
With my first son, I gained 47 pounds and was able to lose 30 of them after just 3 months. The good news was that I continued these healthy routines, and, as a result, only gained 22 pounds during my second pregnancy, losing it within eight weeks!
The even better news was that due to meal planning and choosing healthier diet staples, my husband lost 20 pounds and had a lot more energy to help me with both kids!
The experience helped me to think of losing baby weight as a process rather than an outcome.
Setting up healthy routines during this period is important not just for the mother, but for the family. This helps your children learn how to eat properly and take care of their bodies from early on, setting up the entire family on a positive journey!