Whoever said, “Just nurse after you have your baby and you’ll rapidly lose all your baby weight” needs to come over here so I can bop them on the head for providing false hope to thousands and thousands of women.
The truth is, losing the weight you gained during pregnancy is an extremely complicated and multifaceted project. Nursing is only a tiny piece of a much bigger puzzle.
During pregnancy, you MUST gain weight. As discouraging as it is to continue to see the scale climb, this is healthy for your body and your baby. If you somehow try to stifle this natural rise in bodyweight, your baby suffers. A baby with a low birth weight is associated with a mom that doesn’t gain the right amount of weight during pregnancy.
Here are ACOG’s (American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) recommended weight gain guidelines:
Underweight women should gain 28-40 pounds during pregnancy, and 1 to 1.3 pounds per week in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters.
Normal weight women should gain 25-35 pounds total, and about 1 pound per week in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters.
Overweight women should gain 15-25 pounds total, and about 0.6 pounds per week in the last two trimesters.
Obese women should gain 11-20 pounds total, and only about 0.5 pounds per week in the final two trimesters.
This is all nice and neat, but if weight gain was so easy to control, many of us wouldn’t be struggling with our weight. Don’t you get frustrated sometimes with guidelines like this? Yes, they are based on scientific studies, but how on earth are you supposed to control your weight gain so well?
What often happens during pregnancy is that many women find themselves gaining 10, 20, or 30+ pounds more than they’re supposed to. These extra pounds are incredibly difficult to let go of after the baby arrives.
It's Not as Simple As it Seems
The reason this baby weight is so challenging to take care of is multi-faceted.
In any situation, for weight loss to occur the environment needs to be just right. Your nutrition must be on point—not too much, not too little. Your physical activity needs to be precise, intense and well-planned. You need to be extremely well-rested, stress free and have no hormonal imbalances. And then all of this needs to be sustained consistently for an extended period of time.
Hmmm….does this environment sound even remotely similar to a new mom with an infant? Not a chance!
Most likely, you’re exhausted, sleep is hit or miss, your hormones are all over the place (especially if you’re nursing), and consistent workouts and nutrition habits are non-existent.
This is the reality.
Being a mom to an infant is probably the worst environment for weight loss.
“Well, alright…I guess that explains it.”
You are probably deeply discouraged by this weight gain that doesn’t seem to be budging. It feels hopeless, especially since you’ve just emerged from a long season of having no control over your body. Or maybe it’s actually been several years since you gave birth, and you’re still carrying an extra 15-30 pounds.
And now that I’ve explained the real difficulty of losing weight during this season of life, all the wind seems to be sucked out of your sails.
But, I doubt you’re willing to give up so easily.
Be encouraged, because there is hope. Let’s tackle this situation together with a clear idea of what you’re up against and how to set yourself up for success. Here are my recommendations for finally getting rid of the baby weight, even if the environment is less than optimal.
1. Get your stress in check. This is number one because none of the other strategies will work if you are stressed out. It’s certainly hard with a baby, but take breaks as often as possible. Go on a date with your guy or with the girls so you feel human again. Practice stress-relieving breathing techniques multiple times daily. Go for relaxing walks outdoors as often as possible. Whatever it takes, you must get your stress in check. (You can read all about stress-relieving strategies here.)
2. Sleep. (hahahahaha…I know.) As a mom of an infant, sleep is rare and unpredictable. But you wouldn’t believe the number of moms I talk to that have poor sleep habits even though their babies are now sleeping through the night. Go to bed! Stop staying up til 11:00, midnight or later! If you’re still needing to get up for the baby at night, go to bed even earlier. You need at least six hours of good quality sleep every day.
3. Get your nutrition on point. This does NOT mean to restrict. If you restrict your calories or try to eat less in an effort to lose weight, your body will think it’s under even more stress. We now know that a stressful environment needs to be avoided at all cost. Instead, eat lots of high quality foods. Eat your PRO’s with every meal, load up on the healthy fats, and be mindful with your starchy carbs. Splurge occasionally, but always use self-control.
4. Strength train. Your number one goal with your workouts right now is to build muscle mass. Your hormones are positively affected when you carry more muscle on your frame, not to mention that it speeds up your resting metabolism, big time. Go for walks and runs only if that is relaxing for you, but devote the majority of your workout efforts to fast-paced strength training. Check out my free workout plans for ideas.
5. Be consistent. Aim for at least 3 days per week of intense, sweat-inducing, muscle-building activity. Your nutrition needs to be spot-on daily…no more “good day, then a bad day, then a good day” patterns. And then keep going with all of it. Because of the natural challenges of your current environment, weight loss will be much slower than for someone in an optimal environment. Staying consistent for one week (or even one month!) is not going to produce the results you’re looking for. It will probably take longer. But don’t you dare give up!
If you’re struggling to lose the baby weight, understand that it’s a much bigger task than what we think it should be. Take it one day at a time, refusing to get discouraged by seeing the weight loss results of others around you. Keep your eyes on your own journey and keep at it.
Breathe in, breathe the stress out, get some sleep, eat well and strength train like a Strong Momma. Most likely, with these strategies you will find yourself in far better shape at the end than you ever imagined.