Ideas for bouncing back post-pregnancy?
August 11, 2014 8:34 PM   Subscribe

Yes, I'm talking weight. How to start bouncing back in the early months post-pregnancy?

My lovely baby girl is five months old, and doing well. But I'm not so happy with my body yet. I was a healthy weight before pregnancy (about 132 pounds, 5'6), I think I gained a reasonable amount of weight during pregnancy (about 26 pounds), and I had a big kid (over 9lbs). But I still have this nagging 6-8 pounds that I don't know how to get rid of post-baby.

Usually I've been pretty good about keeping reasonably thin by not worrying too much about food and aiming just to eat healthily. I've dabbled with Paleo, but really, I don't have the time or willpower to do this with an infant and breastfeeding, and I'm always hungry when I go low carb. I exercised lightly throughout pregnancy, and am trying to run, etc. now but I don't have much time (or energy, for that matter.)

The weight is also really weirdly distributed -- I still have a huge belly (never had a belly at all before) and weird lumps of fat on my thighs, and more cellulite (I think?). My face also looks puffier. My old clothes still do not fit because of the weird distribution. This was okay in the early months, but I'm really starting to feel like I'd like my old body back.

Mom and baby classes sound great -- went to one and loved it -- but it's really out of my price range where I live. I also walk a lot, but that doesn't seem to be moving anything (though my daughter loves it.)

So mefites -- what worked for you? Any food or exercise suggestions to fit into a new mom's schedule that are compatible with breastfeeding and little time? I know I won't get the same body back, but I'd like to get close.
posted by caoimhe to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Wish I could tell you there was some solution that would work with limited time and an infant, but if there was, I didn't find it. But if it helps, when I did do a strict low carb/Paleo diet - I did the Whole30 specifically, but think I could have done any strict version of a low carb diet - which I did when I finally felt like I was up to it, when my baby was about 1 year old, I lost ALL the remaining baby weight and was able to reach my weight from high school again, in just 30 days. This was with NO exercise other than walking a half mile with the stroller every day or two and the occasional brief yoga routine. So, it was pretty painful, but it can definitely be done. The distribution was still a little different, but… it's been 15 years since high school. I don't think this type of diet works for everyone, but I have PCOS and insulin resistance and cutting carbs seems to be a magic bullet for me diet wise. I also am always hungry when I am on a low carb diet, even if I eat a ton of meat and full-fat dairy which supposedly should be very satisfying. I wouldn't have done it while breastfeeding. Too hard. Best of luck to you! Don't be too hard on yourself about this while you're still in the trenches of new-baby-time.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:45 PM on August 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

I've heard that many women find they can't lose the last 10 pounds of baby weight until after they stop nursing - the body holds onto the extra resources as a bulwark in case of need.

That said, I started to run with a stroller and it was a great way to get high impact exercise with the baby.
posted by bq at 8:47 PM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, at my prenatal class last Sunday, I just learned that that last bit of babyweight you can't get rid of, particularly the bit around your belly, is designed to famine-proof you while you're breastfeeding... so that even in the event of food scarcity you're still manufacturing plenty of milk for the baby. The instructor implied that for most women (YMMV of course) it goes away more easily after weaning when your body realizes it doesn't have to keep up all that work. I cannot at the moment find a study to back this up, but if it is legit, then any diet you're on that makes you "always hungry" is probably just making it more stubborn.

That's probably not a super helpful answer from a practical standpoint -- ill-fitting clothes and frustration about wanting your old body back is crappy -- but maybe helps make it not so much about what you worry you might be failing to do?
posted by olinerd at 8:48 PM on August 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

For me, a combination of serious low carb (I also did a Whole 30) and some postpartum physical therapy went a long way. I have a diastasis from my pregnancies - my abdominal muscles are separated - and learning some exercises for that helped a lot. If your abs aren't working properly, they aren't going to be able to pull that belly back in. (And crunches/sit ups can exacerbate that particular problem
posted by linettasky at 9:14 PM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I also had a flat stomach pre-pregnancy, so it was kind of a shock to discover that not only did it not particularly go away, I've noticed most women have round bellies, no matter their weight. So for me, part of it was just trying to accept that my body has different curves now.

For a lot of people I've heard that they lose weight after weaning -- for me it was continued breastfeeding. My daughter nursed tons even after she started eating solid food -- I'd say it was still her main source of food at one year. And I think it was around when she was 9 or 10 months old that I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight. I walked around the neighborhood a bit, but have never really been great at exercising or dieting. So I do think it's possible for it to just come off, for some of us just nursing a lot is enough.
posted by Margalo Epps at 9:51 PM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

While yes, your hormones are broadly back to "normal" they won't really be normal until you quit breastfeeding and likely 18-24 months postpartum.
Your body will rearrange itself again then. Keep doing the things you should be doing (eating to support breastfeeding or your optimal health) and don't worry too much about extra fat/larger ribcage/waist/thighs/butt/gut for a year or so. It will go when your hormones straighten out as long as you are eating and exercising well. There's not a lot you can do about it. Looser skin may improve a bit, but probably just something to accept.
posted by littlewater at 9:51 PM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

This falls in the category of old wives tales but when I said something like this to my mother back in 1960, she said, your body took nine months to reach extreme changes and it stands to reason that it will take that long to get back in shape. It actually took me a little longer than that and, even though I never attained the exact shape as before pregnancy, I did find some comfort in her suggestion for a gentle patience with my body.
posted by Anitanola at 11:05 PM on August 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, also, buy clothes that fit, if you can. Even if you're just going to Old Navy and buying enough to see you through the next six months, I've found it easier to decide to take care of my body if I'm already doing what I can to feel good in it. Clothes that fit go a long way.
posted by linettasky at 11:18 PM on August 11, 2014 [6 favorites]

I'm starting to lose those extra 7-8lbs now that I'm weaning. Breastfeeding was the opposite of the much flaunted "weight loss magic" for me but, then again, I react very poorly to diminished estrogen.

I'm four months out and I'm definitely starting to notice my body adjusting slowly back to normal. It'll just take time and no hormonal maelstroms, I'm afraid.
posted by lydhre at 12:48 AM on August 12, 2014

I'm using myFitnesspal to record calories and finding that this is a convenient method in that I just aim to stay within the required calories and loosely fit their suggested carb/protein/fat ratio. I don't change what we eat as a family, really, except that I'm bulking it out with veggies and eating way less rice than I used to.

I am no longer bfing though and I think this def makes it easier. My baby is nearly 7 months and I've been doing this for about a month and lost 3.5 kgs out of the 5 that had hung around after the rest was gone naturally. I found that at 6 months my life had settled sufficiently that I could imagine dieting.

It's been pretty easy now that I am actually able to diet so I think don't panic and try to wait until things settle, and perhaps until you wean, before having a go. Seconding forking out for some clothes that are not maternity that fit. You can always use them next time, right?
posted by jojobobo at 12:58 AM on August 12, 2014

Um, I hate to tell you this, but my body changed shape after each baby and never went completely back to my pre-baby normal. You sound a lot more motivated than me about losing weight, but even when I dropped down below my original pre-baby weight, my old clothes still didn't fit right. Just adding a counterpoint to the comments above saying you'll go back to normal, it just takes time. I had to accept that my body had changed, and I heartily nth the comment about finding clothes that you feel good in now.
posted by chickenmagazine at 1:19 AM on August 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

My baby has just gone a year old and I stopped breastfeeding at around the 7/8 month mark. For my first child, the weight fell off and by the time he was four weeks old, I was fitting onto jeans I hadn't worn for five years. For my second, I didn't have to time to focus on it, she was such a bad sleeper (I survived on two hours sleep a night for 7 months)and I was constantly exhausted. Then for the late three months I've had a chest infection that turned into asthma, I've just been run down and very ill.

I did a bit of research and learnt that wheat and dairy and carbs can contribute so for the last two weeks I've cut it all out and basically gone paleo. Weight loss really wasn't the goal but it's all come off anyway, to the point that I'm actually concerned that if it keeps going this way, I'll end up waaaay too thin. But there you have it.

It's not that hard, just swap out sweet potato for potato and have a rice wrap for sandwiches instead of a wheat wrap. Eat dark chocolate instead, use olive oil spread not butter etc. But yeah, two weeks! And I haven't excercised at all because I've been so sick, it's all been diet. It doesn't have to be a massive diet overhaul (unless your normal diet is, I dunno, McDonalds). Best of luck.
posted by Jubey at 2:54 AM on August 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

The belly issue, specifically, may not be 100% to do with the weight. Abdominal muscles and connective tissue can be stretched out by a pregnancy, and in some cases there's a persistent "gap" between the vertical muscles that allows the belly to pooch out even if there's not much fat there. "Diastasis recti" is the term to Google, and Julie Tupler (Maternal Fitness) has some good books on exercises to tighten everything back up down there.
posted by Bardolph at 4:14 AM on August 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Your baby building parts take a while to shrink back down to size. 5 months isn't that long. Also, your body may be trying to hold on to your current shape in expectation of another baby soon. I found that after the 1 year mark, my body would give up that shape on its own.

You sound like you are a healthy weight. It might be best to buy a few new outfits and embrace your new body. You are not photoshopped. You do not spend 5 hours with a personal trainer only to go home and eat something prepared by a nutritionist. You will never look like those women in magazines. They don't even look like that. To quote Danny Castellano from the Mindy Project, "You are a woman, look like a woman."
posted by myselfasme at 6:20 AM on August 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've had three kids, I'm pretty athletic, and my body has never gone back to how it looked pre-pregnancy. I weigh 10 lb. less than I did 23 years ago, but I have a little lower-abdomen belly, my hips are wider, my feet are bigger, my breasts are smaller.

And that's fine. All I can advise is that you continue to eat for energy and health, that you remain active and do some weight training, some HIIT or whatever aerobics float your boat (I became a runner after I had my second kid), and find some other outdoor activities you like to do for the heck of it (I kayak and hike).

You need to reframe your thinking that it's possible this IS your new body, a body that carried a baby and is powerful and beautiful.
posted by kinetic at 6:23 AM on August 12, 2014 [8 favorites]

I lost the most baby weight between 6 and 9 months of breastfeeding. I've read the "it takes 9 months to grow a baby, it'll take 9 months for your body to recover". I had also cut out dairy and wheat and didn't drink any alcohol in that time.

But my body is definitely a different shape than it was pre-pregnancy. I think it is unrealistic to expect your body to go through such a HUGE change as growing and birthing a child and to not be changed itself.
posted by jillithd at 7:08 AM on August 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

+1 it won't come off while breastfeeding.

My personal anecdote is that eating like I did before I was pregnant didn't just magically take it off. I got serious about losing it when my "baby" was 3 years old, and then it came off easily with a low-ish carb diet. Though, I still have a bigger belly than I did before I got pregnant. I suspect it's because my ab muscles still don't have the tone they did prepregnancy and I could reduce that a little if I committed to daily situps/ab work but so far I haven't been able to establish that routine.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:24 AM on August 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

It wasn't until I stopped breastfeeding at 10 months that I was able to lose that last 5 pounds. I've actually lost about 5 more in the last two months but nothing I owned pre-pregnancy fits because my body is so weird shaped now. I'm learning to live with it.

To keep exercising, I got a fitbit to track my steps and increase my goals every week or so. Also, my son really likes it when I do yoga with him. When he was little I just laid him on the floor and he watched and made faces. Now he crawls all over and sometimes on top of me so it's an added challenge and a fun activity to do together.

A really cool thing is that even though my arms are pretty flabby looking they have gotten super strong from lugging baby/carseat/playpens and all that other junk around. For the first time in my life I am able to do pushups and it's awesome!

Good luck and enjoy this time with your little girl. You'll get a lot of exercise soon just chasing her around.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 9:06 AM on August 12, 2014

I have a one-year-old. Starting in January, I lost most of the weight (still working on the last 5 lbs) on what I call the Scandal diet: I go to the gym in the evening and walk/jog for the length of a Scandal episode (or other show, whatever interests me). I don't have to jog if I don't feel like it, just walk. I also cut out sweets (allowed to have one dessert a week) and wheat (somewhat arbitrarily) because I didn't want to do low-carb, but everything I WANT to eat has sugar or wheat in it, so there was nothing left to binge on. I can eat as much as I want as long as it's not sweet or wheat. I already didn't drink. It's come off slowly, maybe 4 lbs per six weeks of the Scandal diet, so don't get discouraged. My height/weight is not too far from yours.
posted by Ollie at 9:14 AM on August 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have a 7-month old (my first) and during my pregnancy I didn't gain too much weight (25 pounds) and carried kind of small, so I was shocked to find out I had diastasis when my postpartum yoga instructor checked me--and not a small separation, either. FWIW, this wasn't part of the regular postpartum check with my OB, which surprised me because evidently it's a common issue. (Having a "huge belly" postpartum even after losing weight is a sign of this issue.) I've had a lot of success with rehabbing my pelvic floor and abdominal muscles over the past few months, and that has helped enormously with the "different shape even at same weight" issue, but it definitely hasn't been intuitive to me what exercises are helpful and which are not.

You might have some success looking for local classes at a place that does prenatal yoga that focus on postnatal recovery, that's how I found my class. Also if you have physical therapists who specialize in pelvic floor PT, they'd be able to give you exercises that would help. I'm not sure if there are DVDs or books out there that get at the same thing; you definitely don't want a general core-strengthening program (because crunches and planks and other ab work will make the diastasis worse and your belly seem larger)--you'd want something specifically aimed at postpartum women that focuses on strengthening your transverse abdominis to start pulling your ribs and abdominal muscles together, which will improve your functionality and as an added bonus start to give you more of your old waist back.
posted by iminurmefi at 9:45 AM on August 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, you should get checked by your OB for diastasis recti. That can cause the persistent pooch.
posted by Ollie at 10:19 AM on August 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Didn't lose the last 10 until I weaned.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:14 AM on August 12, 2014

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