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When can I start to lose weight?Your midwife probably won't recommend that you start to lose weight straight after you've given birth. Your body needs time to recover from having your baby. So you may want to wait until you've had your postnatal check with your GP before you think about losing weight. Your check will usually happen between six weeks and eight weeks after you've had your baby.
How can I lose weight safely?Eat healthily, including plenty of fruit and vegetables in your meals. Drink water throughout the day to stay well hydrated and choose the right snacks. As well helping you lose weight at a healthy pace, it will also make sure you have the energy to adjust to life with your newborn (NHS Choices 2011).
These tips will help you to achieve and maintain a healthy weight:
- Make time for breakfast in the morning.
- Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
- Include plenty of fibre-rich foods such as oats, beans, lentils, grains and seeds in your meals.
- Include starchy foods such as bread, rice and pasta (preferably wholegrain varieties for added fibre) in every meal.
- Go easy on fatty and sugary foods, takeaways, fast food, sweets, cakes, biscuits, pastries and fizzy drinks.
- Watch your portion sizes at mealtimes, and the number and type of snacks you eat between meals (NHS Choices 2011, Nice 2010: 7).
Combining healthy eating with exercise will be the most effective (Amorim Adegboye et al 2013, NICE 2008), because it helps you to lose fat instead of lean tissue. You will also improve your fitness levels (Amorim Adegboye et al 2013).
What exercise can I do?Finding the time to fit exercise into your daily life, now that you have a newborn, can be tricky. But it's not impossible, as long as you make it a priority.
You can start to do some gentle exercise such as walking, pelvic floor exercises and stretching, as soon as you feel up to it. However, you should wait six weeks or so, or until you feel that you've recovered from the birth, before taking up more strenuous exercise (Nice 2010: 15, RCOG 2006).
Or you could exercise with your baby. Take your baby for walks in her pushchair, or try a pram-based exercise class. Find your nearest Buggyfit class here. Group classes are also a great way to meet other mums, and the fresh air may also help to lift your mood.
How many calories do I need?How many calories you need depends on your current weight, how active you are, and whether or not you are breastfeeding.
It can be difficult to lose weight after having a baby, but try to lose the weight you gained during your pregnancy before you try for another baby. This is especially important if you were overweight or obese to begin with, or if you gained a lot of weight during your pregnancy.
It may surprise you to know that even a small weight gain of one or two BMI units between pregnancies can increase the risk of complications in your next pregnancy. Complications include high blood pressure and gestational diabetes (Ehrlich et al 2011), as well as increasing your likelihood of giving birth to a big baby and having a stillbirth (Nice 2010: 15, Villamor and Cnattingius 2015).
If you were a healthy weight in your first pregnancy and gain at least two BMI units before your next pregnancy, your baby is at risk after the birth too. Maintaining a healthy weight, or losing weight if you are overweight, will reduce these risks (Villamor and Cnattingius 2015).
Losing the extra weight you've gained after you've had a baby may also help you to manage your weight in the longer term, and to keep the weight off (Linne et al 2003). It will pay off in the long run in wider health terms, as keeping your weight under control also cuts your risk of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and some cancers (NICE 2010).
Does breastfeeding affect weight loss?If you are breastfeeding, you should wait until you and your baby have got the hang of it before you start to lose weight.
You’ll need slightly more calories than if you were formula feeding your baby. You’ll need around an extra 330 calories a day to have the energy to produce milk. However, some of these additional energy needs will be met from your body’s existing fat stores (Nice 2010: 22).
This means that breastfeeding can help you to lose weight if you avoid taking in the extra calories required for breastfeeding, while eating healthily and staying active (Rooney and Schauberger 2002). Breastfeeding may even help you to keep your weight off in the longer term (Bobrow et al 2012).
It’s safe to lose weight when breastfeeding if you lose it gradually (SOGC/CSEP 2003). Losing between 0.5kg and 1kg (1lb to 2lb) a week shouldn't affect the quality or supply of your milk, or your baby's growth (AND 2012, Daley et al 2012, More 2009, SOGC 2003, NHS Choices 2011, NICE 2008, 2010). Losing weight gradually will also make it more likely to stay off in the long run.
When will my body be back to normal?Give yourself time to get back in shape, and don't despair if the weight doesn't fall off immediately. Ignore stories of celebrities getting back into shape a few weeks after childbirth. Such quick weight loss is unrealistic for the average new mum, so take a more gradual approach.
Bear in mind that your body may change shape after pregnancy, and returning to your exact pre-pregnancy weight or shape may be difficult.
As long as you feel healthy and ready, as a rough guide, you should aim to return to your pre-pregnancy weight by the time your baby is about six months old (Amorim Adegboye et al 2013). If you're finding it takes longer than this, don't give yourself a hard time. Just set yourself a target of getting to the weight you want by your baby’s first birthday.
While it’s important to focus on your health it is also important not to set yourself unachievable goals. One study showed that only about four out of 10 mums had lost their pregnancy weight by the time their babies were six months (Rooney 2002).
If you put on a lot of weight during your pregnancy, it will take longer to come off. If you'd like some help with losing weight, talk to your GP or health visitor about exercise or weight-management classes in your area. Joining a class can help to motivate you and you'll meet other people in the same situation as you.
Read our parents' tips on managing your weight after having a baby. And see our gallery of BabyCentre mums' post-baby bellies.
Last reviewed: July 2014
AND. 2012. Which dietary factors would affect breast milk production (or breast milk supply, established lactation)? Evidence Summary. Evidence Analysis Library. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Amorim Adegboye AR, Linne YM, Lourenco PMC, et al. 2013. Diet or exercise, or both, for weight reduction in women after childbirth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews Issue 3. Art. No.: CD005627. Published Online: 23 JUL 2013 onlinelibrary.wiley.com [Accessed July 2014]
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