by Lynn Siprelle
new mother spots herself and her tiny newborn in the mirror. She smiles at her baby's reflection and then: "Holy--that's my body?!" And she wonders: Will she ever look the same again?
Short answer: No.
Long answer: Your body will always be slightly different. Maybe your hips are wider, your breasts not as perky. For crying out loud, you just made a baby out of bits of yourself! Even so, you don't need to carry around baby pounds for years after the birth. A healthy weight loss is possible for every mother with a bit of patience, time and the right techniques.
The body has natural methods for losing baby weight, and one of these is breastfeeding. If you can manage to breastfeed even for the first three months, you will experience far faster weight loss than if you bottle feed right from the start. The longer you can breastfeed, the better it is for both of you.
One of the reasons your body put on weight in the first place was to make milk. The baby is taking nutrients that your body has stored up in the form of fat cells, thus depleting the fat cells and returning your body to its original shape--well, more or less. Breastfeeding also stimulates uterine contractions and the uterus will shrink back to its pre-baby size much faster, which helps with that extra tummy bulge.
Getting a good night's sleep might seem impossible during those first few nights, but if you can manage to nap with the baby and try to stay well rested, you will be able to lose weight faster as well. Yeah, I know, it's counter-intuitive, but getting enough sleep is crucial to weight loss.
Don't be tempted to use baby's naptime to get stuff done! Leave some of the housework for later or ask for help, but it is very important that you have enough sleep so your body can recuperate and get back to its regular metabolism faster.
Tip: If you've been thinking about getting a doula, consider getting a post-partum doula, not a birth doula! While it's nice to have a trained birth attendant, the days and weeks following the birth is when you're really going to need a hand, and these days we don't always have nearby family for support. Doulas will help you get your rest, help with simple housework, run interference with visitors, help you with breastfeeding issues, entertain older children--they are absolute godsends, and if I hadn't had one after Louisa's birth I don't know what I would have done.
Eating a healthy diet is important not only for you, but also for the baby. Instead of splurging on fast food and sweets just because you are too tired to cook, look for healthy alternatives. Frozen vegetables only take a few minutes to microwave and a chicken breast or two sprinkled with parmesan cheese doesn't take much time to cook up, even if you are dead on your feet. This all helps move you in the direction of post-partum weight loss. Also, see post-partum doula above. They will make sure you have something simple to fix. And when people ask what they can do for you, say, "Yes! You can cook for me!"
Showing off your new baby is the perfect excuse to get some exercise and lose some weight. Invent errands if you have to, but leave the car at home! The point is to get out of the house and to enjoy taking a little exercise with your child. The walking will help return your body to its pre-baby state faster as well.
There are also special weight loss exercise classes and yoga classes meant for moms with babies. These involve everything from going for a jog in the park to doing stretches and lifting your baby on your legs. These classes are a great way to get in shape while bonding with your newborn and are usually not very expensive. Check your local parks department; you may be surprised at the inexpensive offerings.
A complete weight loss is not going to happen overnight. After all, it took nine months to put it on! Take your time recovering, treat yourself gently, and give your body the nutrients and rest it needs.