If there’s anything we know, it’s that achieving a healthy weight post-baby can be a struggle. It can be stressful taking care of a newborn, adjusting to a new routine, and recovering from childbirth. It’s a lot.
However, it’s important to return to a healthy weight after delivery, especially if you plan to become pregnant again in the future.
We’ll go over some effective methods to help you achieve a healthy postpartum weight so you can take on parenthood with pep in your step.
What is ‘baby weight?
Here’s some background on what “baby weight” is, why it happens during pregnancy, and why it won’t be needed after baby makes their appearance in the world.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that women within a healthy weight range who are carrying one baby gain 25 to 35 pounds (11.5 to 16 kg)Trusted Source during pregnancy.
Recommended weight gains for expectant people who are underweight, overweight, or carrying multiple babies are different. Check out the interactive calculators at the Institute of Medicine/National Academies to determine your individual recommended weight gain.
Your healthcare providers may also have a different recommendation based on your own needs.
According to research published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & GynecologyTrusted Source, pregnancy weight gain consists of:
- the baby
- amniotic fluid
- breast tissue
- uterus enlargement
- extra fat stores
The extra fat acts as an energy reserve for the birth and breastfeeding. However, excess weight gain can result in too much fat. This is what people generally refer to as “baby weight,” and it’s very common.
Nearly half of all pregnant women gain more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy, according to the CDCTrusted Source.
The consequences of keeping on some of this extra weight after pregnancy include:
- increased risk of being overweight
- heightened risk of diabetes and heart disease
- greater risk of complications during pregnancy
- higher health risks for women with gestational diabetes
The following list provides evidence-based tips to help you lose the extra pounds.
Tips to help lose baby weight
1. Keep your goals realistic
Despite what magazines and celebrity stories would have you believe, losing weight after pregnancy takes time.
In one 2015 study, 75 percent of women were heavier 1 year after giving birth than they had been before pregnancy. Of these women, 47 percent were at least 10 pounds heavier at the 1-year mark, and 25 percent had kept on 20 more pounds.
Depending on how much weight you gained during pregnancy, it is realistic to expect that over the next 1 to 2 years you could lose around 10 pounds (4.5 kg). If you gained more weight, you may find you end up a few pounds heavier than you were pre-pregnancy.
Of course, with a good eating plan and exercise, you should be able to achieve any healthy level of weight loss that your doctor gives the thumbs up.
2. Don’t crash diet
Crash diets are very low calorie diets that aim to make you lose a large amount of weight in the shortest amount of time possible.
A low calorie diet is likely to be lacking in important nutrients and will probably leave you feeling tired. This is the opposite of what you need when taking care of a newborn, and when you’re likely sleep-deprived.
Assuming your weight is currently stable, decreasing your calorie intake by about 500 calories per day will stimulate safe weight loss of about 1.1 pounds (0.5 kg) per week. This amount of weight loss is considered safe for breastfeeding women, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
For example, a woman eating 2,000 calories per day could eat 300 fewer calories and burn an extra 200 calories through exercise, making a reduction of 500 calories in total.
3. Breastfeed if you can
The World Health Organization (WHO)Trusted Source, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the CDC all recommend breastfeeding. Breastfeeding your baby during the first 6 months of life (or much longer) has many benefits for both you and your baby:
- Provides nutrition: Breast milk contains all the nutrients a baby needs to grow and thrive in the first 6 months of life, according to the WHOTrusted Source.
- Supports the baby’s immune system: Breast milk also contains important antibodiesTrusted Source that help your baby fight viruses and bacteria.
- Lowers the risk of disease in infants: Breastfed infants have a lower risk of asthma, obesity, type 1 diabetes, respiratory disease, ear infections, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and gastrointestinal infections.
- Reduces the mother’s risk of disease: People who breastfeed have lower risksTrusted Source of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer.
Additionally, research has shown that breastfeeding can support your postpartum weight loss.
However, in the first 3 months of breastfeeding, you may experience no weight loss or even some weight gain. This is due to increased calorie needs and intake, as well as reduced physical activity during lactation.
4. Monitor your calorie intake
We know, calorie counting isn’t for everyone. But if you’re finding that eating intuitively just doesn’t seem to be working, monitoring calories can help you work out how much you are eating and where any problem areas in your eating plan may be.
It can also help you ensure you are getting enough calories to provide you with the energy and nutrition you need.
You can do this by:
- keeping a food diary
- taking pictures of your food as a reminder of what you have eaten
- trying a mobile calorie tracking app
- sharing your daily calorie intake with a friend who is also monitoring calories for accountability
Using these techniques can help you reduce your portion sizes and choose healthier foods, which helps with weight loss.
5. Eat foods high in fiber
It’s time to get those healthy grains and veggies on your shopping list. Eating foods that are high in fiber has been shown to help with weight loss.
For example, a 2019 studyTrusted Source of the 345 people found that an increase of 4 grams of fiber over what participants had eaten before the study led to an average additional weight loss of 3 1/4 pounds over 6 months.
These effects on digestion may help reduce calorie intake, though results of studies overall are mixed.
6. Stock up on healthy proteins
Studies show that protein has a greater “thermic” effect than other nutrients. That means that the body uses more energy to digest it than other types of foods, which results in more calories burned.
ResearchTrusted Source also shows that protein is also able to suppress appetite by increasing the fullness hormones GLP and GLP-1, as well as reducing the hunger hormone ghrelin. Less hungry hormones means less hangry-ness!
Healthy protein sources include:
- lean meats
- low mercury fish
- nuts and seeds
Check out these portable high protein snacks to take on the go.
7. Keep healthy snacks handy
The foods you have around can have a big effect on what you eat. And when you’re searching the pantry for something to munch, a healthy alternative is just the ticket.
By stocking up on healthy snacks, you can ensure you have something close at hand when the mood strikes. Here are some to keep on hand:
- cut vegetables and hummus
- mixed nuts and dried fruit
- Greek yogurt and homemade granola
- air-popped popcorn
- string cheese
- spiced nuts
- seaweed snacks
Likewise, a comparative study showed that having unhealthy foods out on the counter is associated with increased weight. Pro tip: Keep processed foods and sweets out of the kitchen, or even better, out of the house.
We’re loving these healthy snack ideas for the office, the pantry, or wherever you go.
8. Avoid added sugar and refined carbs
Though they may be tempting, sugar and refined carbs are high in calories and usually low in nutrients. And there are healthy and delicious alternatives.
Research associates a high intake of added sugar and refined carbs with an increase in weight, diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, and even cognitive decline.
Common sources of added sugars include:
- sugary drinks
- fruit juice
- any type of refined sugar
- white flour
- sweet spreads
When you’re choosing food at the grocery store, read the food labels. If sugar is one of the first ingredients on the list, that product is probably better to avoid.
It’s easy to reduce your sugar intake by avoiding processed foods and sticking to whole foods such as vegetables, legumes, fruits, meats, fish, eggs, nuts, and yogurt.
Here are some examples of low sugar breakfast ideas to get your wheels turning.
9. Avoid highly processed foods
If you’ve been taking note so far, a lot of these tips are made far easier when you’re eating whole, unprocessed foods. They’re usually full of protein, fiber, and less sugar.
Processed foods, on the other hand, are often high in sugar, unhealthy fats, salt, and calories, all of which can counteract your weight loss efforts, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH)Trusted Source.
These foods include:
- fast foods
- prepackaged foods
- cookies and baked goods
- ready meals
- boxed mixes
- processed cheeses
- sugary cereals
Plus researchTrusted Source has associated consumption of processed foods with more addictive eating behavior.
Unfortunately, these foods make up a large part of many people’s nutritional intake, according to research published The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
10. Avoid alcohol
Research has shown that small amounts of alcohol, such as a glass of red wine, do have some health benefits.
However, when it comes to weight loss, alcohol provides extra calories without much in the way of nutrition.
Additionally, alcohol may be related to weight gain and may lead to more fat being stored around the organs, also known as belly fat.
When you’re in the mood to celebrate, we’d recommend something low sugar and bubbly like an unsweetened flavored sparkling water.