Losing the Baby Weight…the Second Time Around
Articles on post-baby weight loss are normally entitled, “Get back into your skinny jeans.” Seeing as I just bought new skinny jeans (3 sizes up) yesterday, I decided that title wasn’t a good fit.
This time around, I didn’t think I would write about weight loss post baby but as I sit down to write today, I find that the topic won’t let me go. As a dietitian used to sharing the research and best practices around nutrition, I figure it’s always a nice change to hear my personal experiences and philosophies around something like this. You can always tell me I’m wrong in the comments if you like.
With my first child, I wrote about trying to lose the baby weight and the blog post series was a little anti-climatic. I’ll give you the Coles Notes version: I was super worried that I wouldn’t lose the weight and so committed to exercising as much as possible. And in 5 months, I had lost 50lbs without ever watching my dietary intake. Not much sage advice to offer there…other than, working out is critical to your health and happiness as a new mom. Way more important than having a clean house or taking baby to little ‘baby genius’ groups.
So now, I find myself five years older and an entrepreneur, with a kindergartener and a newborn. Which is to say, there is no maternity leave and not a lot of quiet time for me. So things feel different this time…but who knows how my weight loss story will turn out? Let’s start at the beginning…because weight loss journeys start with the weight gained.
Typically, health professionals say that the recommended weight gain in pregnancy is 25-35 lbs for a healthy woman. And recently, much has been made of the CDC study that finds us preggers are gaining way too much – as if we need more maternal guilt.
Well, I gain 40 pounds. I say this as an absolute because that is what I gained in each pregnancy. It’s as if my weight is a timer and the baby pops out when I hit the mark! The first time around, I succumbed to a steady diet of starch + cheese and didn’t work out. I gained 40lbs in 8 months (I had my son early). This time around, I worked out through the entire pregnancy, ate exceedingly well and gained 40lb in 9 months. So I feel like I can safely determine that a lot of my weight gain had to do with how my body gets pregnant.
As a dietitian, I understand the importance of not gaining exceeding amounts of weight, as statistically, it can increase your risk of complications for you and baby’s long term health. But I also want to call bullshit on guilting mothers into thinking they need to manage their weight in pregnancy. It can be hard enough to watch your body change without obsessing over numbers on a scale. I actually recommend getting rid of your home scale during pregnancy…your doctor or midwife can keep tabs on weight for you. Most important is to eat well and be active. I am going to go out on a limb and say that your lifestyle habits are more important for your maternal health than a number on a scale.
Once the pregnancy is over, of course, you will have some weight to lose. But be patient with yourself. I cannot stress this enough: in the first three months postpartum, please don’t go on a diet. If you are nursing, you don’t want to mess with your milk supply and you need so much energy to keep up with a newborn – especially since lack of sleep isn’t helping and you can only drink so much caffeine safely – that you have to give yourself permission to eat. Of course you want to get back to your old wardrobe as soon as you can but this is one time where patience really is a virtue. Not that I can claim to be a super patient person. But I’m trying!
I am not going to talk about my actual weight, as it invites judgement on whether I am too heavy…or not heavy enough. So I will talk in terms of the weight gained and lost. You’ll note that I ended my first postpartum weight loss 10lbs down, which was fun. Without any weight loss stress, I was wearing jeans I hadn’t worn since my university days and enjoying plenty of holiday treats. But it didn’t last long. When I stopped breastfeeding and resumed my desk job, I started slowly but steadily gaining the weight back (that super lean me wasn’t really sustainable) and then some. So when I got pregnant this time, I was 8lb heavier than five years ago. No biggie…but I would like to return to my comfortable weight so this time around, I have a weight loss goal of 50lb once more.
I had my daughter 9 weeks ago (where has the time gone!?!) and I have lost 27lb. The early weight loss is definitely the easiest…although some women may not lose much more than the actual weight of the baby by now. We are all so different. While I resumed working out at 4 weeks postpartum (with my prenatal workout so it would be really gentle), I have really been prioritizing work, so I work out maybe once a week right now and am not doing the daily 4k walks that I did when I was on maternity leave last time. This time around, I am prioritizing work over working out. Which isn’t good for me.
I am trying to find a solution – I often work at night because it is hard to get much done during the day. When I do try to work out during the day, I usually have to stop multiple times to attend to my daughter. I am typically a morning person but my son wakes up at the crack of dawn; however, my daughter is starting to sleep until about 6:30 or 7:00AM. So I am trying to muster up the energy to wake up at 5:30 so I can get my 1 hour workout in. My energy levels are so much better on the days that I work out that I think it may carry me past the sleep loss.
As for eating, I am really proud of myself for not forgetting to eat – because that is so easy to do when you are so busy. I am eating well; my organic veggie box is helping ensure we have lots of good produce on hand because getting to the grocery store is tough. I succumb to takeout only about once a week. Last time around, it was probably 3-4 times per week. I am still taking my prenatal vitamin as they help to avoid post-natal depletion; I became anemic in late pregnancy so I need the extra iron right now to help keep strong.
So that is where I am at right now. Why share it? Because it’s not easy to take care of yourself with a new baby…and I want you to know that I am right there with you! Even with all my knowledge, I have a real life that I have to figure out too. Even so, I feel like this article should have some actionable, right? So to close, let’s talk some advice…
How to Lose the Baby Weight, Healthfully (advice for pregnancy and first three months)
Try to workout throughout pregnancy to help manage excessive weight gain and keep your body strong.
Don’t go on a diet for at least the first three months postpartum.
Get active as soon as your doctor or midwife says it’s okay postpartum, usually around six weeks. Walking was super awesome for me the first time around. Plus, your baby will usually fall asleep in the stroller or carrier so it gives you a breather.
Get into a routine of cooking again – even it if it grilled cheese and carrot sticks – as soon as you can. Take out will increase your calorie intake beyond what anyone needs, even while nursing.
Aim to eat as well as you can – plenty of fruits and veggies everyday – but don’t deny yourself treats in the first few months. If weight loss is getting sluggish after three months, then you can cut them out.