How to (Safely) Lose Weight Postpartum - Experts Weigh In
As mamas, entering postpartum life, often comes with one question: how do we lose the pregnancy weight? Though this is totally not something you have to focus on – you just gave birth, and that’s amazing! – that doesn’t mean that it won’t be one of your main concerns.
To help you navigate the ropes and learn what works, we spoke with Naturopathic Dr. Zen, Postnatal Fitness Expert Kate, and Nutritionist Cara – three postpartum health experts – about what steps you can take and what habits you can implement that will help you safely lose weight postpartum.
How to lose weight postpartum?.
Follow A Proper Postpartum Training and Nutrition Plan
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, exercise has the following benefits for postpartum women:
- Helps strengthen and tone abdominal muscles
- Boosts energy
- May help prevent postpartum depression
- Promotes better sleep
- Relieves stress
- Can help to lose pregnancy weight
Unfortunately, mainstream media and fitness experts don’t understand how to communicate with new moms about postpartum fitness, fat-loss, and nutrition.
New moms are often so influenced by celebrities and social media “influencers” and want to hurry back to get in shape that they might follow what those people are doing rather than consult with a personal trainer and their doctor first.
New moms need to know the top mistakes AND what to do instead. This advice is backed by research and based on the single most important thing to moms like you and me: postpartum fitness that’s easy and sustainable!
Automate As Many Healthy Decisions As Much As Possible
This is extremely important, especially for new mamas who already have a million things to think about.
Ways To Automate Healthy Decisions After Having A Baby:
Schedule A Postpartum Check-in With Your Doctor 2-3 Months Postpartum
Most women are sent on their way after their 6 week postpartum check-up with no follow ups scheduled. But with how many changes occur in our bodies after we have a baby, this is nowhere near enough time with a doctor.
Checking in is especially important when losing weight postpartum. Screening labs can help us identify many underlying issues that can make it harder to lose weight and help us track progress.
Gentle Reminder- you’ll learn how to embrace your body. Focusing on taking care of YOURSELF and your baby is the best thing you can do.
How to lose postpartum weight fast? .
Work Whole Foods, Healthy Fats, and Protein Into Every Meal
The best way to get EFFICIENT weight loss is to ensure that you’re supported, have lots of water and postpartum tea to drink, have healthy and frequent meals on hand, and listen to your hunger.
Your energy (aka food) needs are much higher during postpartum than pregnancy. Protein and fat with every meal and snack will greatly support sugar cravings and the temptation to grab something with no nutritional value because you’re hungry and on the rollercoaster ride of having a new baby.
Focus on Sustainably Losing Weight After Birth
As you work through figuring out how to lose baby weight, remember to focus on sustainable postpartum nutrition and a proper postpartum training plan.
Don’t get caught up in silly wraps or “magic” pills. It’s tempting to set unrealistic goals and then be frustrated when we aren’t where we “should” be.
Although every new mom is eager to look like our old selves again, one of the most important things to remember is to be patient with yourself.
Give yourself some grace and remember, it can be done…but it’s going to take time to get your body back.
Hunger Is Not The Enemy! Learn to Listen to your Body
We often think that struggling with postpartum weight loss is always about eating too much, when in fact, more often than not I see new moms struggle with postpartum weight loss when they don’t eat enough.
If the body feels threatened or fearful for its next meal, it will often store calories as fat under stress. Help your body eliminate this underlying stress by staying on a scheduled routine with normal feeding times.
Taking it easy allows your body to naturally release what it doesn’t need. The timing of that happening is up to a lot of things… genetics, hormones, and gut bacteria to name a few.
Reminder- The most “successful” postpartum weight loss stories have all been from mothers who listened to their body’s cues, took it extremely easy after birth, and focused on high protein, whole foods meals.
Why am I not losing weight postpartum?.
Calories in vs. calories out is NOT the whole picture when it comes to fat loss – especially postpartum.
If you’re wondering how to lose baby weight and have your training and nutrition in place but aren’t making progress, consider fixing your fat fighting hormones.
The key to sustainable fat loss comes in both a caloric deficit (that is, burning more calories than you consume) AND balanced metabolic hormones.
But for new moms who are breastfeeding and can’t sustain a significant caloric deficit, the hormonal balance becomes even more important.
Your Fat Fighting Hormones After Pregnancy
Here’s the deal in a nutshell… prolactin, the master hormone responsible for lactation, affects a large number of systems throughout the body.
It stimulates the production and secretion of milk, depresses fat production in the liver, and stimulates the delivery of glucose and lactate to the mammary gland for enhanced fat production.
Research shows that there is also a suppression of the HPA axis at this point, which is responsible for the release of the stress hormones.
This may also dampen the responses to exercise in terms of having increased energy and fat burning. Many women experience a slight lowering of the calories they burn when resting, as well as an increase in water and weight retention.
Sometimes hormones need rebalancing support, which is usually the root cause of stalled weight loss.
When to know if hormones are the cause: If at 4+ months postpartum you’re still not seeing changes, it may be time to seek out a holistic health care practitioner. They can assess whether hormone support (typically done through supplements) is the right avenue for you.
Can you lose weight when breastfeeding?.
Yes! It is absolutely possible, and even natural, to lose weight while breastfeeding. But there are a couple things for you to keep an eye on: your milk supply and your calorie intake!
You will want to slow your weight loss journey if you begin to notice a significant reduction in supply, as this could mean you're not getting enough calories in a day, and could even lead to becoming malnourished.
You are a primary food source for your baby, and your body will need about 300 to 500 calories a day just for breast milk production.
La Leche League recommends that you do not go under 1800 calories a day while breastfeeding an infant. But remember, caloric needs are something that is personal to each individual.
The National Women’s Health Information Center advises that about one pound per week is a safe amount of weight to lose postpartum and will not affect your milk supply or the baby’s growth. As always, consult your doctor if you have questions about your unique weight loss journey.
How long should I wait to lose weight if I had a C-Section?.
Caesarean deliveries are common but still considered major surgery, which means you need time to recover.
This does not mean that you need complete bed rest; in fact, a gentle post C-section workout regimen can help you heal faster and prevent complications.
In most cases, new mothers are advised to limit their daily exercise to walking for the first 6-8 weeks, after which they can start regular recovery workout sessions. Here are some postpartum workout do's and don'ts for C-section mamas.
How long does it take to return to pre-pregnancy weight?.
Most health experts will recommend you plan on returning to your pre-pregnancy weight by 6 to 12 months after delivery. Keep in mind that your postpartum weight loss journey will vary on a few key factors.
Factors Affecting Postpartum Weight Loss:
For the best answer, we recommend consulting with your doctor during your first postpartum check-up. Getting a screening lab can give you an accurate starting point, and your doctor may be able to help you with a weight loss timeline.
Women and Thyroid Condition Risk
Women are 5-7 times more likely to develop a thyroid condition in their lifetime then men, with postpartum being one of the most common times for development.
Hypothyroidism (low thyroid function) will have a major impact on your metabolism and ability to lose weight. This is why having screening labs completed about 2-3 months postpartum is so important- to evaluate for such conditions.
What to eat for postpartum weight loss?.
Proper postpartum training must always be fueled by proper postpartum nutrition. Unfortunately, many moms try low calorie, low fat diets as they try to figure out how to lose baby weight.
Diets don’t work. In fact, many times these types of diets can make you gain weight.
The biggest factor with food and postpartum weight loss is protein and fat.
Having small amounts of protein, and nutrient rich foods, at every meal is so key for sustainable and healthy weight loss.
Easy Snacks To Lose Weight After Having A Baby:.
Ensure that each time you eat you have a source of protein (a mixture of plant-based and animal proteins is perfect).
Healthy fats are key to hormone balance so be sure to include things like grass-fed butter, coconut oil, avocado, nuts & seeds, and eggs.
For a healthy baby and momma, concentrate on well-balanced, healthy food choices rich in calcium, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B6, and folate.
Our Simple Tip: Focus on eating foods that keep your hunger, energy, and cravings balanced, even if you just make an energizing green smoothie. If you do that, the caloric intake will be easier to take care of!
3 Other Ways to Help Lose Weight Besides Diet, Exercise, and Hormones.
Do You Best To Develop A Movement Routine With A Newborn
Just like your newborn baby does best on a routine, so do you! Optimizing your postpartum weight loss doesn’t mean you have to spend hours at the gym and eat salads all day long.
In fact, research has shown that regular exercise 15-20 minutes per day 7 days a week was just as, if not more, effective than going to the gym 3 days a week for an hour.
Start by incorporating just 10 minutes of gentle movement each and every day. Once you have started incorporating 10 minutes daily for 4 weeks, increase to 15-20 minutes of physical activity.
Remember that your success comes from consistency. If you can only find 10 minutes of time in your day to move your body, give your body grace and know you are doing exactly what your body needs in that time.
Get As Much Sleep As You Can After Having A Baby
It may seem impossible to get a full eight hours of sleep when you have a baby summoning you like clockwork throughout the night, but being sleep deprived will definitely make fat loss harder.
In one study, new moms who slept five hours or less a night were more likely to hold onto their weight after pregnancy than women who slept seven hours.
When you’re tired, your body releases cortisol and other stress hormones that can promote fat storage. Plus, when you’re tired you simply don’t feel like taking good care of yourself.
When you sleep your body restores, rebuilds muscle, burns fat, and resets hormones to prepare your body to be energetic, motivated, and ready for the next day.
Go to bed early, and until the little one is sleeping through the night, make it a priority to nap when your baby naps.
Yes, it’s much easier said than done, but don’t be afraid to ask for help from your partner, family or friends. The old adage, “Sleep when the baby sleeps” is still great advice.
Some Good Old Fashioned Self-Care Post-Baby
It can be easy to fall into the trap of “bouncing back after pregnancy” and trying to do everything instantly. Let go of the need to get things done, keep the house up, or “keep up” with any expectations you had before the baby (regardless of whether this is your first baby or not).
One of the best things you can do is take 10 minutes a day to yourself. Have a bath, listen to a podcast or meditation, or put on mascara.
These little rituals that help you come back to yourself are so helpful for boosting your mood and reducing stress.
And lastly: Listen to your body. If you’re hungry, eat. If you need an extra nap, nap. Honor your needs too in small and big ways.
Ask for help. If you already have, ask for more ;)
About Our Postnatal Experts.
Book a free 15 minute virtual discovery call with Dr. Zen to learn more about working with her.
Creating a workout plan: When the time comes to start introducing training, cardio alone won’t cut it – look to the weights if you want to lose weight gained during pregnancy. The most successful, healthy postpartum training plan incorporates a balance of leisurely walks, some HIIT, stretching, proper core training, and weight training.
You can also check out my free postpartum workout plan. Total body workouts like these are optimal for healing and rebuilding strength postpartum because they give time for muscle recovery.
Back-to back workouts without a day to rest and recover leads to fatigue, increased cortisol, and risk of injury. Studies show that total body workouts are linked to improved muscle recovery rates, so if you’re ready to start a postpartum workout plan, give this a try!
Cara Halber is passionate about nourishing new moms as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. She focuses on keeping foods delicious, simple and fast so that you can do more of what you love with more energy, clarity & peace of mind.
Our Last Reminder:
If you take the time to heal and rebuild and then focus on proper postpartum training and nutrition and address the balance of your postpartum hormones, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can get your body back!