Motherhood brings joy, of course, but you might also be feeling fat and tired. Here are eight tips to help you lose the baby weight and get your energy back.
Aside from a healthy baby, of course, there are two things new moms want most: to lose the baby weight and get their energy back. If you’re wondering if you’ll ever get rid of that spongy belly, or get back into skinny jeans, know that you can and you will—but you can’t rush it. One day you’ll also manage to get through the day without feeling like you need to prop your eyelids open. Losing the baby weight and building your energy levels back up takes time. And as a new mom, you need to focus on taking care of your baby and yourself.
Yes, if you’re a new mom you’re probably carrying some extra baby weight. But there’s a reason you gained baby weight in the first place. Mother nature wanted you to accumulate some extra fat on your hips, thighs and belly to make sure you’d have enough energy stored up to provide nourishment for your baby. If you try to lose that baby weight too quickly, it can zap your energy. And if you’re nursing, it could affect the quantity and quality of your breast milk.
Of course you’re tired. You’re still recovering from delivery and you’re up and down all night with feedings. You barely have enough energy to wash your hair, let alone prepare a healthy meal. Take heart! As time goes by and your baby starts sleeping for longer stretches, you’ll gradually have more time to prepare meals and find time to exercise, at which point you’ll start to shed the baby weight. As part of your healthy diet, protein shakes can be a lifesaver as an additional source of protein. It only takes a couple of minutes to whip up a protein shake with extra protein powder, milk and fruit. And it packs much of what new moms need—protein, calcium and fiber. A protein shake is something you can sip on easily while you’re caring for your baby.
Most women want to know how long it will take to lose the baby weight, but there’s no simple answer. Certainly in the first few weeks you should be focusing on adjusting to motherhood and bonding with your baby—eating well, staying hydrated and getting enough rest—not worrying about how many calories you’re eating. Once you and your baby fall into a routine, it’s a bit easier to establish an eating and exercise pattern that can help you lose about 1-2 pounds of baby weight per week.
Especially in the first month or so, pay less attention to your calorie intake and a lot more attention to meeting your nutrition needs to help your body recover. At this point you shouldn’t really be thinking about baby weight at all. Your goal is to pack as much nutrition as you can into healthy, easy to prepare meals that include lean proteins, dairy products, healthy fruits and vegetables and whole grains. This will ensure that your body gets the nutrients it needs, such as protein to repair body tissues, and important minerals such as calcium and iron that are much needed by new moms. Your body is going through a lot of changes and your focus should be on eating well, getting lean and fit. Don’t expect the baby weight to fall off.
As long as you’re going to the trouble, it’s great to have leftovers to freeze for another meal, or to refrigerate for lunch the next day. If you don’t have a slow cooker, think about getting one. You can get a soup or stew or even a whole chicken started in the morning—and have a delicious dinner waiting for you at the end of the day.
Dehydration can lead to fatigue, so adequate fluids are important. Whenever you sit down to feed your baby, make a point to have a glass of water or a cup of herbal tea. If you’re nursing your baby, avoid caffeine. If you’re bottle feeding, curb your caffeine intake by afternoon so as not to disrupt your sleep at night.
If you’re nursing your baby, the fat you stored away during pregnancy helps provide the energy you need to produce milk for your baby—to the tune of about 500 calories a day. This can help with weight loss, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that ‘eating for two’ is the same as ‘eating everything in sight.’ You don’t just need extra calories to nurse a baby, you need extra nutrients, too. Those 500 calories need to provide nutrients like protein, calcium and iron. Nursing isn’t an excuse to chow down on fats and sweets – that will just lead to weight gain rather than helping you to lose baby weight.
Some new moms rely on frequent sugar shots throughout the day to fight fatigue, a practice that usually backfires. Blood sugar spikes are often followed by a crash, and the cycle starts all over again. And obviously sugary foods don’t provide high quality nutrition.
Frozen veggies and fruits and healthy canned foods like beans or tuna are lifesavers. The fruits can go into your smoothie or be thawed and spooned over some yogurt or cottage cheese. Frozen veggies are just as nutritious as fresh, and you can add them to convenience items—like canned soups or Chinese take out—to make them healthier. Keep your refrigerator stocked with cut up fruits, veggies and low-fat yogurt. Try to also stock your pantry with healthy high-fiber cereals, protein bars and whole grain crackers so you always have something healthy to grab quickly. Making healthy food convenient is your best defense against eating badly when you’re tired and hungry.
Your health and the health of your baby come first. It took you nine months to gain that weight, so don’t expect it to fall off overnight. Focus on your achievements, especially the biggest one of all—You’re a Mom!