During pregnancy, the recommended overall weight gain is 25-35 lbs.
This weight gain consists of the baby, placenta, amniotic fluid, more blood, uterus enlargement, breast tissue and extra fat stores. The extra fat acts as an energy reserve for the birth and breastfeeding.
If you're like most new mothers, you want to quickly pack away your maternity clothes and fit back into your old pants. However, it's important to approach postpartum weight loss in a smart and healthy way. Experts recommend that women should gradually lose the weight they gained during pregnancy over the course of six months to a year.
Losing the pregnancy weight is important not just for the new mothers, but for their babies too. Women who enter the next pregnancy overweight or obese can put themselves and their babies at risk for several medical complications, such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure.
A new mother will shed some weight immediately after giving birth. This initial weight loss is due to the weight of the newborn baby, the placenta and the amniotic fluid that leaves her body during childbirth (approximately 13 lbs). Over the next few weeks, she will shed more weight as she loses the extra fluid built up in her body during pregnancy. After that, she is left with the extra fat she gained. Losing this extra weight will require some effort. It is recommended that new mothers be realistic in their weight loss goals and aim to lose 1 lb per week through healthy diet and exercise.
Breastfeeding is the gold standard for infant nutrition and provides the baby with all the required nutrients for optimal growth and development, as well as many other health benefits. If these reasons weren’t enough to encourage mothers to breastfeed exclusively, breastfeeding also helps accelerate postpartum weight loss. New mother’s use up their body’s fat stores to fuel the production of breastmilk. This burns an additional 500 calories per day.
Follow these top 8 tips for healthy postpartum weight loss:
1) Eat a balanced diet including all your major food groups
Plan your meals well to include plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, milk, yogurt, fish, poultry, lean meat, nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans and daals.
For new mothers, the primary goal is to focus on nutrient-dense, healthy options. Your body needs the right nutrients to help recover properly after childbirth. Some vitamins and minerals (e.g., vitamin C and zinc) play an important role in healing wounds quickly. In addition, the right foods will give you the energy needed to carry out your required activities as a new mom. If you are breastfeeding, your diet also impacts the energy, protein and vitamin content of your breastmilk.
2) Don’t go on crash diets
Crash diets are very low-calorie diets that cause you to lose large amounts of weight in the shortest time possible. Crash diets are not recommended because they usually lack important nutrients needed by the body and can cause fatigue, hair loss, weaker bones and many other health issues. After delivering a baby, your body needs enough energy and good nutrition to heal, recover, and take care of your newborn baby.
3) Be aware of your daily caloric intake
If you aren’t losing weight, tracking your daily calories can help you figure out what the problem areas in your diet might be.
To lose weight, you have to consume less calories than your body burns. If you are not very active, a good goal is to decrease your daily caloric intake by 500 calories per day. This reduction in food intake will cause a gradual and safe weight loss of about 1 lb per week. It is recommended that you consult a qualified nutritionist to determine your daily calorie and nutrient needs, and to guide you on how to eat to meet those needs. It is also recommended that you keep a food diary to record your daily food intake.
Keeping track of your calories can help you eat the right portion sizes and choose healthier foods.
4) Eat a lot of fiber
Eating foods that are high in fiber helps with weight loss. Soluble fiber helps you feel fuller for longer by slowing down digestion and reducing hunger hormone levels. Women are recommended to consume 25 grams of fiber per day. Aim to meet your daily fiber needs by consuming plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, chickpeas, daal, nuts, seeds and whole grains such as brown rice, whole wheat roti, oats and barley.
5) Stock up on healthy snacks
You’re more likely to give in to cravings if unhealthy snack options (biscuits, chips, samosas, patties, bakery goods) are easily accessible to you. You can avoid this by not buying any unhealthy junk food at the grocery store and bringing it home.
Instead, create a healthy food environment in your home so you can stick to your healthy diet. One important strategy is to always have your kitchen stocked with healthy snacks like cut up fruits, vegetables (carrots, cucumber and celery sticks), nuts, boiled eggs and yogurt. This ensures that you have something ready and close at hand when you are feeling hungry.
6) Avoid processed foods, sugar and refined carbohydrates
Common sources of sugar include sugary drinks, fruit juice, any type of plain sugar, honey, white flour, sweet spreads, cakes, biscuits, pastries and other baked goods. Processed, refined foods are usually high in calories and comparatively low in nutritional value. These additional calories can sabotage your weight loss efforts.
7) Fit exercise into your daily routine
How long postpartum can you safely start exercising depends on the mode of delivery, whether there were any complications, how fit you were before and during pregnancy, and generally how you feel.
If you exercised during pregnancy and had an uncomplicated delivery, it's generally safe to begin light exercise within days of delivery. If you had a C-section or a complicated birth, talk to your doctor about when you can start exercising.
Cardio exercises such as walking, jogging, running, cycling and interval training help you burn calories and have numerous health benefits. Studies show that doing regular exercise in addition to a diet program helps people lose more weight than if they only followed a diet program.
8) Be aware of your daily water intake
Drinking enough water is vital to anyone trying to lose weight. It reduces appetite and daily caloric intake. Women should drink at least 2 liters of fluids per day. Most of this should be water, but it can also include other beverages.
Try to avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and fruit juices. Instead, have green tea, herbal teas, lemon-flavored water and fruit-infused water to meet your daily fluid requirements. If you generally forget to drink water or don’t feel very thirsty, you can even use mobile apps to remind you to drink water and help you keep track of your daily fluid intake.
Being a new mother can be a very stressful and tiring time. Sleep deprivation and stress can be overwhelming, and up to 15% of mothers also experience postnatal depression. While shedding the extra weight is important after pregnancy, it should not add undue stress and anxiety.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you are feeling depressed or anxious, or you’re simply struggling to cope. You can ask family and friends for help around the house, preparing meals or taking care of the baby for a few hours to allow you to rest or get some exercise. Your doctor, nutritionist or a psychologist can offer you further support.