After giving birth to a baby, a mother's focus is often so centered on the newborn that she neglects many of her own physical needs entirely. However, the lack of exercise and the inevitable lack of sleep takes a toll after a while. All too often women become discouraged when they don't lose the baby weight as quickly as they think they should, and grapple with the lack of energy that often comes with being heavier than usual. To help you lose the baby weight, here are five steps to get you going.
Not only does breastfeeding provide perfect nutrition for your newborn and encourage bonding, but it also releases a hormone in your body called oxytocin, which triggers your uterus to contract to its pre-pregnancy size, according to Sutter Health. Also, because you burn calories while producing milk and feeding your baby, breastfeeding may also help you lose weight when combined with a healthy diet and moderate exercise. Bonus benefit? By breastfeeding, you lower your risk for certain breast and ovarian cancers, according the Surgeon General.
2. Focus on what you eat for the first six weeks.
The first six weeks are often the most exhausting for a new mother. With the baby waking up sometimes three to four times in a night, the lack of sleep can make you completely unmotivated for exercise. Other women are still healing from surgical procedures during labor and childbirth. Since even moderate exercise can be out of the question for some women, you need to pay very careful attention to what you eat. Make sure you're eating well-balanced, well-proportioned meals that are low in calories but big on nutrition. As tempting as it is to dig into calorie-laden comfort foods like ice cream and mac ‘n' cheese (ok, maybe that's just me), this is the time to focus on your diet alone until you can supplement it with moderate exercise.
3. Incorporate low-impact exercise.
Back when you were pregnant, your physician or health care provider may have advised you to participate in low-impact exercise, or aerobic exercise that has been modified to avoid jerking and jumping. After the first six weeks (or sooner for some women), you can try incorporating this kind of moderate-intensity, low-impact exercise, which can include brisk walking, water aerobics, cycling or modified aerobics. Yoga is also a low-impact exercise, with the added benefit of helping you become centered and reducing stress. You can start out with low-impact exercise in 10-minute segments and progress gradually to 30-minute workouts five days a week.
4. Release stress.
Studies have linked stress to weight gain due to the effect of a hormone called cortisol that is released into the bloodstream in greater quantities when your body is under physical or psychological stress. High levels of stress are also well-known to suppress your immune system, making you more likely to become ill. It's not entirely clear how much of an effect stress has on one's weight, but it's safe to say it pays for your overall health to find effective ways of managing stress. Stress can be released through exercise, meditation, prayer, positive affirmations and journaling. Find your outlet for stress release and don't let stress be a factor in keeping on the weight.
5. Become accountable to someone.
Chances are you have a few friends who would like to get in shape and improve their health as well. Invite one or more of them to be your accountability partner(s) as you work to lose the baby weight. Propose to call each other throughout the week and ask how you're doing with what you eat and how you're working out. Better yet, work out together. You may even choose to use the services of a personal trainer, who can help you set fitness goals, help you modify workouts to suit your needs, and keep you coming to the gym on a regular basis.
These are just a few ways to lose the postpartum baby weight. How did you shed the pounds after having a baby?
This guest post was contributed by Kitty Holman, who regularly writes for nursing colleges. She welcomes your comments via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.