Let’s get one thing straight: This isn’t going to be your typical “get your pre-baby body back” story. I’m not going to tell you to eat 1,200 calories a day, train five days a week, or perform hours of cardio every day in order to feel fit, comfortable, and strong postpartum. What’s more, I’m not going to tell you that you need to change your body after pregnancy.
I’m not going to tell you that you need to fit into your pre-pregnancy clothes in 12 weeks or less, or that you need to lose all the baby weight — ever. None of that is true, necessary, or even healthy
In fact, I really don’t like the term “pre-baby body.” It usually carries a negative connotation, conveying that there’s something inherently wrong with a body that has given birth. So I’m proposing that we reclaim this idea in the most realistic, body-positive way possible.
My own postpartum plan has centered on the four steps described below.
I’ve given my body time to heal, kept core and pelvic floor function at the forefront of my exercise goals, have slowly but surely worked to regain my strength, and have been resting hard. And no, not all of my pre-pregnancy jeans fit or are comfortable, but I’m not the least bit upset about that.
At three months postpartum, my body is doing what it’s going to do, and I’m doing what I need to do to help it heal. I’m not trying to force it to do anything differently. So, there’s a little more body fat and clothes are tighter than they were before pregnancy. You know what? That’s normal. There’s no need to feel inadequate or stressed, or feel a sense of urgency to do more exercise or eat less food. I may not lose any more fat and my body composition may not change much more until I’m done breastfeeding — and that could (and hopefully will) be a long way down the road.
I’m simply controlling what I can control: eating nutritious and delicious food, strength training a couple of times each week, walking daily, and sleeping as much as I can. That’s what makes me feel at home in my body.
My body is doing what it needs to do right now—and yours is, too.
All that said, I get it. I really do. I understand that you want your favorite pair of jeans to feel comfy again, the way they used to. You want to feel strong and see more muscle definition. You know that losing some body fat will help take pressure off your pelvic floor and reduce your risk of pelvic organ prolapse.
And while you may not be as concerned with being exactly the same size or weight that you were before pregnancy, you do want to take care of your health and regain your fitness. These are very doable post-pregnancy goals that you can achieve without sacrificing your health, your body’s function, or your sanity, and without setting back your healing and recovery.
In fact, they are the most important goals—especially in these months and years when you have small babies and toddlers. They require so much of your body! Mama doesn’t have time to deal with a chronically sore back!
Note: For an extra dose of post-baby body love, read these mamas’ stories.
Is there a way to meld realistic fat loss goals with healing your body postpartum? The answer is really quite simple: yes. These four steps will help you reach your healthiest post-baby goals:
Let your body rest. Let your mind rest. Give yourself time to allow the necessary healing take place after pregnancy and birth. That’s a must.
Pregnancy is taxing on the body. Labor and birth is a huge event. In the weeks, or even months, after pregnancy, you may be recovering from surgery. However, although rest is best, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t move, stretch, or strengthen during this time. But you really do have to be cognizant of how much time you spend on your feet.
You can’t simply jump back into the high-intensity intervals, heavy weights, or full-hour workouts and expect your body to respond without issues. Going too hard too quickly will increase your risk of experiencing a setbacks over and over again in your exercise routine. It could lead to back or pelvic pain or pelvic floor concerns such as urinary or bowel incontinence, uncontrollable gas, tightness in the pelvic floor, weakness in the pelvic floor, or pelvic organ prolapse—just to list a few examples.
Feed your body what it needs: whole, nourishing foods that provide adequate amounts of protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.
Again, the postpartum healing process involves so many factors. Your hormones are adjusting. Your metabolism has changed. Your body has just expelled blood, fluids, a placenta, and, of course, your beautiful baby.
Add to all of that, the physical demands of caring for an infant: breastfeeding, broken sleep, and busy, stressful days and nights. You will be hungry, and your body needs good fuel for physical and mental energy your days (and nights!) require.
This is not a good time to restrict calories. It will just cause additional stress to your body and won’t help you lose fat. This is a good time to listen to your body, eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re mostly full. You’ll probably notice your hunger ramp up if you’re breastfeeding. This is normal and your body needs those calories to produce adequate breast milk for your little one.
You may also notice that you need to eat more often, and that’s fine. Let hunger be your guide, and choose well-balanced meals and snacks that will give you energy and keep your blood sugar balanced. A good rule of thumb is to include protein, a vegetable or a fruit, a grain or starchy carbohydrate, and a healthy fat with every meal.
This is a major piece of the puzzle, mamas. Caring for a baby or young kids requires a lot of energy. Even if you don’t feel stressed, living on little or broken sleep will increase the stress on your body by wreaking havoc on your hormones.
Your body doesn’t need you to keep piling on more and more stressors, like calorie restriction and excessive and intense workouts. It’s fantastic to move your body, and move it often! However, even if fat loss is a goal, when your body’s under chronic stress—and especially when that stress is magnified by lack of sleep—there’s much more value in restful and restorative activities such as leisurely walking, yoga, or even massage.
Let’s seek to get back to a body that feels strong, that feels supported in the core and pelvic floor, that can lift heavy things without injury, that can sprint up the stairs to a crying baby, and that can hold and carry a toddler with strong biceps and strong back muscles.
There are so many myths about exercising during and after pregnancy, it can be hard to know if you’re doing the “right” thing. Our education materials are carefully vetted by OB/GYNs, PhDs, Registered Dietitians, Women’s Health Physiotherapists, and Pre and Postnatal Exercise Experts, and we have put together this FREE handbook where you’ll learn:
Whether you’re a mom (or a mom-to-be), or a trainer (who may also be a mom), we have you covered. Select from these options below to receive your free handbook to help you or your clients choose the right exercises for healthy moms and healthy babies.