While having a baby is the most beautiful thing in the world, a woman’s body goes through a lot during pregnancy and childbirth. There is a lot of emotional and physical stress on new moms and one very common worry for these moms is weight gain. A lot of women don’t like to openly admit that they are worried about their weight out of fear to be considered superficial. Clearly, women should be proud of their post-partum body as their body just created a human life; however, there is nothing shameful about trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle and be your best self even as a mom. Here are some tips and tricks to help you bounce back.
- Start doing exercises that are appropriate for your post-partum stage
First, I should start off by saying that it is very important to check with your OB/GYN when it is the right time to exercise again. The standard for vaginal births is 6 weeks after giving birth and eight weeks for C-sections. But it depends on the individual. My doctor had told me to wait six weeks because the body needs to get rid of the retained water first but told me I could get for walks. So I started taking my baby and my dog for walks that gradually got longer from time to time. Walking is a great way to keep your metabolism going and strengthen your immune system. If you live in a very hot or very cold area, make sure you have dressed appropriately for the weather conditions. Also, make sure to stay hydrated and keep a bottle of water with you. I live in Miami, Florida, and had my baby in the summer so needless to say it was extremely hot in the first six weeks after giving birth. So I would usually take my son for a walk in the stroller in the evening when temperatures were a lot more moderate. In general, I would also try to keep him from direct sun exposure as babies cannot wear any sunscreens before they are six months old. Fortunately, I would kill two birds with one stone with my evening walks as my baby would fall asleep.
2. Make sure you do not have diastasis recti
You have probably seen pictures of famous moms sporting a super-duper flat tummy right after giving birth in a tabloid magazine or while scrolling through Instagram. You may have admired the celebrity’s body or even felt disappointed in yourself for not looking like that. But don’t worry, mama!. I can guarantee you that these pictures have been photoshopped. It is not realistic to expect your belly to be super slim after childbirth and anatomically almost impossible as your uterus which was holding your growing baby for nine months will first have to shrink back. Thus, it will actually take a while for the belly to shrink back, too. Even though I lost my pregnancy weight in a few months, it took me a lot longer to get my flat pre-pregnancy belly back. A lot of moms will actually see some lower belly pouch, often called the mommy tummy, even a long time after the baby’s birth. But this is not necessarily excess fat, it could be a condition called diastasis recti which is an abdominal separation. As your belly expands, your abdominal muscles open up. The left and right sides of the abdominal muscles separate to make space for the baby. Therefore, this separation of your abdominal muscles is very common. Once your baby is 12 weeks old this gap should have closed by itself but sometimes it doesn’t. Here’s how you can check if you have diastasis recti:
Step 1: Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor as if you were about to perform a crunch
Step 2: Place your three middle fingers of one hand above your belly button
Step 3: Tuck your chin in and lift up your head
Step 4: If you feel a gap that is wider than two fingers, you might have diastasis recti
But don’t worry. You are able to heal this gap by doing the proper exercises. Some beneficial exercises for closing the gap are bird dogs, cat-cow pose, and Kegels. Any exercises where you bulge your belly can increase the gap and should be avoided. Some of these exercises are crunches, twisting and rotating moves, any type of plank, and sit-ups.
3. Breastfeeding – fat burner for some, fat retainer for others
While I know many women who attribute their rapid post-partum weight loss to breastfeeding, there are others who claim that the opposite is the case. It is true that through breastfeeding you can burn up to 500 to 700 calories per day which is a quick weight loss method for many women. Personally, I had the opposite experience. I felt like my body was holding on to the extra fat as a preservation method given that I am burning all these extra calories. I was holding on to an extra 10 pounds that came off quickly once I stopped breastfeeding after 6 months.
4. Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition
You may have heard the saying “You can’t out-exercise a poor diet” or “Abs are made in the kitchen.” Proper nutrition is even more important than ever during pregnancy and after childbirth. First of all, your body is healing so it is important that you nourish yourself well for a quick recovery. But even more importantly, if you are breastfeeding, your baby is getting all the nutrients through you. So, it is important to have a lot of vitamins and healthy proteins in your diet and less sugar and fatty foods. Even my post-natal Yoga instructor told me that she mainly got her body back through nutrition and that a healthy diet was the most important factor – a lot more important than exercise.
5. Shapewear and waist trainers
Last but not least, post-partum belly binders help a lot to shrink the body back. Some people may see it as a fad but belly binding is actually a very ancient tradition in Malaysian culture. A postpartum belly binder can be used to help support your abdominal muscles directly in the first few weeks after you give birth when those muscles are very weak. Just make sure to follow the directions for healthy healing. Once your uterus has shrunk back to normal, you can go over to a waist trainer for that sexy petite waist.
I hope these tips are helpful. Also, make sure to check out all the awesome nursing and belly binding items Baby and Sunshine offers. Clearly, you need to consult with your doctor before performing any exercises after pregnancy. Also, it is important to emphasize that women’s bodies come in different forms and shapes and that is not necessary to stress yourself out about bouncing back right after giving birth. Your body just created a human being and did amazing things!