There are some things that you just don’t quite fully understand until you experience it yourself. Many of you would agree that having a baby is at the top of that list. Like many women, I faced several challenges throughout my pregnancy including nausea, heartburn and intense cravings. When we came home from the hospital with our sweet Oliver, I practically had Google on speed dial since I had questions about EVERYTHING! About a month later, I finally began to feel like myself again and had the same thought that every new mom has eventually…how will I get my pre-pregnancy body back? Here are some things I have learned about body after baby.
photos by Kaitlin Powell Photography and Designs
For starters, I would encourage you to let nature take the lead. Counting calories can be stressful. Counting calories with a newborn would be a nightmare, so I highly recommend that you do not take this route (unless you are having difficulties maintaining a healthy weight). Women who are breastfeeding also have increased nutrient needs and many calorie counting apps do not take this into consideration when estimating calorie goals. Most resources agree that breastfeeding requires an extra 300-500 calories above what resting metabolic needs are but it’s not uncommon for a breastfeeding mom to require even more calories than this. Mom’s activity level, body fat percent and baby’s feeding intake (think how this changes with growth spurts) can all influence how many additional calories are needed.
Try to return to your normal eating habits as quickly as possible. This took a couple of weeks for me. I found that I had Oliver glued to my chest and struggled with balancing time for grocery shopping, cooking and meal planning. I was relying more on processed foods with added sugars which ultimately made me feel like garbage. Once my eggs, fish, chicken and veggies found their way back into my belly, my mood, energy level and tummy all became much happier campers.
Make sure that you are not comparing yourself to other post-partum women. One of my guilty pleasures is those celebrity magazines you find at the check-out lane at the grocery store. New mom celebrities always make headlines with how great their bodies look just weeks after delivery. Access to personal chefs, full-time nannies and in-home training sessions is simply not a reality to us ‘everyday Janes’. Believe me, you can still achieve bikini-bod results again, it may just take a little while longer than our celeb gal pals. In addition to celebs, try your hardest not to compare yourself to your other new-mommy friends. How you carried your baby, when you gained your weight during pregnancy, energy level and hormones are just a few of the hundred factors that affect how the pregnancy weight comes off.
Be smart about returning to exercise. If you know me, you know how much I value physical activity; however, early postpartum Amanda didn’t have one lick of interest in going back to the gym. I have friends who were back to jogging a couple weeks postpartum and here I found myself sore for a whole day after taking a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood. You have got to listen to your body and understand that now is not the time to push it. It just performed a miraculous feat for you and pushing it too hard, too soon can delay your recovery time. On the flip side, once my body had completely recovered (after about 8 weeks), I did make it back to the gym and boy did that endorphin rush feel good again!
Everyone told me that a baby will change you. They’re right. A baby does change a lot of things, but it didn’t change my core values of health. I know how valuable my kitchen and barbells are in my life and once they became part of my routine again, my body began to bounce back to its original shape. To maximize time with my family, I switched up my gym routine and even purchased more equipment to do workouts at home. Sundays became big meal prep days so I could spend more of my weeknight evenings playing with my little guy. While body after baby is a little softer and curvier, I remind myself of the great story it now tells.