When can I start to lose weight after giving birth?
Your body needs time to recover from having your baby. So your doctor probably won’t recommend that you go on a diet straight after you’ve given birth.
It’s always sensible to eat healthily, though, and this doesn’t change when you’ve just had a baby. You can also start gentle exercise in the early weeks after your baby’s birth. Though you’ll need to take some additional precautions if you had a cesarean birth.
Your postnatal check will usually happen around six weeks after you’ve had your baby. It’s a good time to talk to your doctor about your weight if it’s bothering you. If you need help to lose weight, your doctor can refer you to a dietitian.
How can I lose weight safely after my delivery?
Eat healthily, drink water throughout the day to stay well hydrated, and choose healthy snacks.
These habits will give you the energy you need now that you have a baby, as well helping you to lose weight at a steady pace:
- Make time for a healthy breakfast in the morning. This is the most important meal of the day and eating well gives you a good head start to your day.
- Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
- Include plenty of fibre-rich foods such as oats, beans, lentils, grains and seeds in your meals.
- Include starchy foods such as rice, cereals, bread and pasta (preferably wholegrain varieties for added fibre) in every meal. These are carbohydrates, and should make up about a third of each meal.
- Go easy on fatty and sugary foods, takeaways, fast food, sweets, cakes, biscuits, pastries and fizzy drinks.
- If you’re following confinement, try to eat any high-calorie confinement foods in moderation. Panjiri, ghee-laden dishes and fried dry fruits can add to the kilos. Enjoy small portions of these tasty treats by balancing them with your meals. If you’re eating a low-calorie meal such as khichdi, then you can have a high-calorie til ka ladoo at the end for example. But if you’re eating aloo puri for breakfast, you may want to save the panjiri for when you have a lower calorie meal.
- Watch your portion sizes at mealtimes, and the number and type of snacks you eat between meals. Opt for healthy and filling snacks like fresh salads, fruit platters or low-fat smoothie, yoghurt or a glass of toned milk.
- It’s normal to feel hungry and thirsty during and after breastfeeding, so ensure you have healthy snacks and drinks handy.
- Drink plenty of low-calorie fluids like water, nimbu pani, coconut water, and fresh fruit juices. Lots of calories can be hidden in packaged juices, full cream milk and soft drinks. Some traditional confinement drinks are loaded with calories and sugar, so have them in moderation and balance your daily intake accordingly.
Combining healthy eating with exercise works best, because it helps you to lose fat instead of lean tissue.
You will also get fitter and have more energy if you exercise. Your doctor can give you some information about what’s best for you to help you get active and lose weight.
Choose an exercise and diet plan that is healthy as well as practical for you. What works for another mum may not suit you. A gym instructor and nutritionist can help you make an exercise and diet plan tailored for your body.
Always consult your doctor or nutritionist before cutting back or removing certain foods from your diet. You could end up with deficiencies if you miss key nutrients.
What exercise can I do as a new mum?
Finding the time to fit exercise into your daily life, now that you have a newborn, can be tricky. But it is possible. As soon as you feel up to it, you can start gentle exercise, including:
- pelvic floor exercises (Kegels)
- gentle postnatal yoga
- deep breathing
- gentle tummy and back exercises
However, wait six weeks or so, or until you feel that you’ve recovered from the birth, before doing harder exercise.
If your tummy muscles feel very slack, it could be because pregnancy has over-stretched them. If this is the case, you may also notice a bulge developing on the front of your tummy, above and below your belly button. The medical term for this over-stretching is rectus abdominis diastasis (RAD).
It’s wise to get this checked out before you start exercising. If needed, your doctor will suggest you see a physiotherapist who can give you specific exercises to help you.
When you’re ready, take your baby for longer walks in her pram. Slowly step up the pace, or try this buggy workout.
Group classes are a great way to meet other mums. Making new friends, and getting some exercise can help to lift your mood.
How many calories do I need each day?
It’s hard to say exactly. How many calories you need depends on your age, current weight, how active you are, and whether or not you’re breastfeeding.
So, it’s best to be guided by your body and your appetite. If you need advice or help, see a nutritionist. She will be able to help you make a suitable meal plan according to your needs.
Why is it important to lose excess weight after having a baby?
It’s especially important if you know you want more children.
Even a small weight gain of one or two BMI units between pregnancies can put you into the overweight range. This increases the risks to you and your baby in your next pregnancy and birth.
Complications as a result of being overweight or obese could include:
- developing high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia
- developing gestational diabetes
- having a longer, harder labour
- having an emergency caesarean section
- giving birth to a big baby
Even if you don’t plan to have another baby, losing the extra weight you’ve gained has lots of benefits. It’ll help you to stay healthy as your child grows. Keeping your weight under control cuts your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
Will breastfeeding help me lose weight?
There’s some evidence to suggest that breastfeeding may help you to get back in shape, though we need more research to be sure. Regardless, the same rules apply as losing weight at any time. That is, don’t take in more calories than you need, eat healthily and stay active.
Breastfeeding burns about an extra 330 calories a day. You may be able to get those extra calories from your own fat stores, because your body lays down fat during pregnancy to give you extra energy to make milk. Even so, the number of calories you burn will still depend largely on your diet and lifestyle.
If you’re successfully losing weight, your body will still be able to make plenty of milk for your baby. A safe loss per week is between 0.5kg and 1kg.
Breastfeeding may help you to keep your weight off in the longer term, too. And it helps your womb (uterus) to shrink down after the birth, helping you to lose your post-baby belly. But the most important thing is to keep active and follow a healthy, varied diet.
If you aren’t breastfeeding, you might need to work harder to lose weight after giving birth. Start by eating healthily and sticking to the right portion sizes that you need to maintain your normal weight. But don’t go on a strict diet. You will need plenty of energy to look after your baby.
When will my body be back to normal?
Your body may not be exactly the same, even after you’ve lost weight. You have grown a baby, after all!
Give yourself plenty of time to lose your target amount of weight. It’s fine if it takes between six months and nine months.
If you’re finding it takes longer than this, don’t give yourself a hard time. Just set yourself a target of getting to the weight you want by your baby’s first birthday.
While it’s important to focus on your health, it is also important to set yourself achievable goals. If you put on a lot of weight during your pregnancy, it will take longer to come off.
Once you’ve reached your target weight, try to stick to it – your efforts will pay off. If you can stay at your target weight for two years, you’re much more likely to keep the weight off in the long term.