Most moms are eager to lose weight and get back to their pre-pregnancy shape soon after having a baby. Before you start obsessing about how to lose baby weight, it’s important to keep in mind that you’ve just completed the hardest and most intense athletic activity there is: childbirth!
It takes even the most hardcore momma-athlete a number of months before she begins feeling somewhat back to normal, physically. It is important for both you and your baby that you give yourself the necessary time to recover.
When Can I Start Losing Baby Weight?
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that for healthy pregnancies and uncomplicated vaginal births, moms can start gentle, low-intensity exercise soon after their babies are born, or whenever they feel ready. This can mean taking a 10- to 20-minute walk, doing a short bout of gentle yoga, or doing core and pelvic floor strengthening exercises. For moms who had a cesarean section, recovery takes a little longer.
With all that said, every woman and every birth is unique, so it’s important to get the go-ahead from your doctor before you start exercising again.
When your body is ready, aim for no more than one to one and a half pounds of weight loss per week. Ideally, the caloric deficit you’d need to lose weight would come from a combination of diet and exercise. A 2013 review of studies found that diet combined with exercise had a greater impact on weight loss after giving birth than diet alone.
So, once you’ve chosen your preferred Beachbody On Demand program, it’s easy to modify the nutrition guide to meet your increased nutrition needs if you’re breastfeeding while still working your way back into your pre-pregnancy jeans. Just make sure you’ve been cleared by your doctor to begin exercising before you start any exercise or weight-loss plan.
How Do I Start Losing Baby Weight?
Once you get the thumbs up from your doctor to begin exercising, you can start mapping out a plan. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week. To optimize weight loss, your routine should also include strength training.
Note: For mothers who are unable to breastfeed or choose not to, the weight-loss protocol would be the same as someone looking to lose weight without a newborn.
Recent research shows that fatigue, lack of motivation, time constraints, and poor access to appropriate facilities and activities are among the biggest barriers that women face postpartum when it comes to exercising.
Indeed, this is one of the most joyful, but also draining times of life. Whether you’re adjusting to being a first-time mom or juggling a baby and older children, you will most certainly encounter a number of obstacles in your quest to exercise and lose weight. The following are a few rules of thumb to help keep you on track.
4 Ways to Stay Sane While Trying to Lose Baby Weight
If you’re home alone with baby, going to the gym or popping outside for a bike ride might be next to impossible in those early days. Doing at-home workouts are a good go-to option for many postpartum women.
Cut yourself some slack
If you’re up all night with your sweet bundle, you might want to dial back your ambitions the following day. The key is to be flexible and let yourself off the hook on those tough days when you’re stressed and worn out. Plan for more gentle exercise that day, such as yoga, Pilates, PiYo, or a walk while pushing the baby in a stroller. If you just can’t muster the energy for exercise, sometimes taking a nap is more valuable than getting in a workout.
Listen to your body
Research shows that in the weeks and even months following giving birth, there are significant changes in your normal gait pattern — this can be of particular importance to runners who may report discomfort in the hips, lower back, and pelvic area during the postpartum return to running.
One study found that dynamic lumbar stabilization training and running-form modification allowed a postpartum injured runner to return to her pre-injury running volume with minimal hip and low back pain. Additionally, issues like pelvis shifting, lack of core and pelvic floor strength, and diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles) are all issues that women can encounter postpartum. That’s not to mention all the hormonal changes going on in your body.
If your body is urging you to back off, it’s best to heed the warning and consult your doctor. And even if you’re feeling great, it’s important to ease into exercise slowly. You are still recovering for many months after giving birth, so taking things one day at a time and conservatively increasing mileage and intensity will help your muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments strengthen gradually, helping you avoid injury.
Research shows shows that positive social support is among the most important enablers for postpartum exercise. A helpful and encouraging partner, family member, or friend can make all the difference in motivating you to get back to working out.
Ask if these people can also help watch the baby so you can make time to do so. Be sure to enlist the help of your “village” — this isn’t the time to try to muscle through and go it alone. Sure, you can take a mommy-and-me exercise class, but it’s also nice to get out of the house and away from your baby for an hour or so every once in a while to do something just for you.
If you’re breastfeeding, you might be concerned about whether exercise can affect the quality and amount of your breastmilk. Fortunately, research shows that four or five weekly sessions of aerobic exercise (participants began this regimen six to eight weeks postpartum) doesn’t affect breast milk composition and volume.
With that said, breastfeeding can have an effect on your ability to work out. Ideally, you should breastfeed your baby or pump right before you exercise to reduce discomfort, especially if you’re doing something like running or jumping exercises. Also be sure to get a supportive sports bra that fits correctly to accommodate these physical changes.
Ease Into Exercise Postpartum
Knowing where to start your postpartum weight-loss journey can be tricky. Remember that this process is a marathon, not a sprint, so be conservative with your approach to exercise in the early days after delivery. As you build fitness and confidence in your new postpartum body, you can up the ante in terms of the volume and intensity.
Since you’re looking to lose weight, getting a good mix of high-intensity cardio and strength training should be the eventual goal. While there are countless ways you can approach a postpartum exercise plan, the following is an example of how you might ease into working out month-by-month to build fitness over time.
How to Approach Postpartum Exercise Sensibly
Note: This workout schedule comes from Beachbody’s Executive Director of Fitness, Stephanie Saunders.
- First month of postpartum exercise: The post-natal workout from Autumn Calabrese’s Active Maternity Video Series is a great place to start. New moms can do this workout a couple of times a week in addition to mixing low- to moderate-intensity cardio (walking, hiking, jogging, biking, etc.) on the days they aren’t following along with Autumn. A celebrity trainer certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and more importantly, a mom, Autumn offers a tailored program to help you reach your post-pregnancy goals. Mixing gentle cardio and basic strength exercises, these workouts include two rounds of eight different moves. This is a time-efficient way to reintroduce your body to working out as you kick off your weight loss.
- Second month of postpartum exercise: The 3 Week Yoga Retreat is the perfect way to help you rebuild strength, flexibility, and balance after having a baby. What’s more, it’s a great stress-buster, which any mom can appreciate. This three-week basic yoga program doesn’t require any fancy equipment — just a yoga mat — and you can do these workouts easily in your living room. The trainers lead you through each class step-by-step, making this an easy program to tackle even if you’re new to yoga. As always, be sure to modify any moves when necessary to avoid injuring anything that may still be tight and sore from giving birth.
- Third month of postpartum exercise: Now that you’ve built some strength and balance through basic yoga, it’s time to step it up to PiYo. A mix of Pilates and yoga, these workouts serve to sculpt muscles and boost overall fitness. What’s more, these sessions include high-intensity work, which will increase your metabolism and help you burn fat.
- Fourth month of postpartum exercise and beyond: Now is a good time to work more cardio into your routine. Country Heat or Brazil Butt Lift are both great options.