So you’ve had your baby, and you look down at your tummy in the shower and you still feel six months pregnant. Why isn’t the baby weight falling off with breastfeeding like everyone said? Why hasn’t your tummy “snapped back” like all those yummy mummies on Instagram? Have I left it too late to lose the baby weight??
Whether your baby is one month old or one year old, how to shed that stubborn baby weight is a common question we get from mums. It feels super frustrating that you still can’t fit into your old clothes, yet you can’t bear to wear your maternity clothes for one more second!
Women’s bodies are incredible. It is a miracle that you can grow a whole human in your tummy. But along with that amazing miracle and wonderful bundle of joy comes some changes that we don’t enjoy, like stretching of our skin and muscles, and all that extra weight that our body encourages us to gain to ensure we can feed our bubba. Although we feel proud of our bodies for creating a beautiful, nurturing home for our babies, now we want that extra weight gone.
From postnatal exercise to healthy eating, what is the best way to get your tummy muscles feeling strong, and how to ditch that excess baby weight once and for all? We share our top tips to get you on the road to feeling like your old self again.
How long does it normally take to lose weight after having a baby?
There really isn’t a “normal” when it comes to losing your baby weight. As with all things, some women seem to snap back quicker, while others take longer.
How fast you lose your baby weight and get your pre-baby shape back doesn’t seem to be impacted by your pre-pregnancy fitness or your age, so it’s important to understand that the only ‘normal’ is this: everyone loses baby weight at different speeds.
However, I know it’s important to have a guide, so my advice is this: it took 9 months to grow your baby, and the process put your body through 9 months of significant changes, inside and out! So, after you’ve had your baby, we would expect you to take at least 9 months to start feeling like you’re getting back to your pre-pregnancy shape.
Try to see your post-pregnancy weight loss as a marathon, not a sprint. Be patient. The good news is that it’s a marathon you WILL win, as long as you have the right coach!
Reasons why you’re not losing your baby weight
Everyone knows sleep plays an important role in losing weight, but we also know that sleep is often compromised when you have a young baby! If you find you are making nutritious food choices, you’ve cut out unhealthy snacks and you’re getting regular exercise, but you’re still not losing your extra baby weight, it might be time to look carefully at the quality of your sleep.
If your baby is still waking several times a night, it might be time to chat with the maternal child health nurse to help you with some sleep strategies.
Every baby is different, so don’t panic if your baby isn’t sleeping through the night but it seems like everyone else’s baby is. My cheeky boys woke once or twice a night for the first 9 months of their lives. Just when I was at my wit’s end, they suddenly slept through. Those extra hours of uninterrupted sleep each night made all the difference to my energy, and that’s when I noticed the last few kilos dropped off. Plus because I felt more energy I found much more motivation to exercise.
#2 Portion sizes and snacks
It might be time to take a closer look at your portions. Have you recently weaned or dropped a feed, but haven’t adjusted your portion sizes? How about snacks? Sometimes, when you feel too tired to prepare meals, or you’re bored, it’s easy to find yourself snacking throughout the day. All these snacks add up though, so if your baby weight isn’t budging, skip some of the snacks, or swap them for fresh, simple cut up veggies or a small piece of fruit.
Breastfeeding definitely warrants an extra snack or two but when your bub starts solids, this often coincides with a drop in feeds. So you might need to reduce your portion sizes to match the reduced calories being used to produce breast milk.
#3 You’re not drinking enough water
It’s important to avoid dehydration, as it can sometimes be misinterpreted as feeling hungry. Make sure you are drinking 1.5-2L of water daily (so that your pee is pale yellow) and carry your water bottle with you everywhere so you can constantly top up during the day. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty, as thirst is a poor indicator of hydration.
#4 You’ve reached a plateau with your exercise
Are you doing the same thing, day in, day out? If you walk the same 15-minute circuit each day, eventually your body gets used to it and expends minimal energy to complete it. It’s important to mix up your exercise routine, including cardio, strength and core work, so keep your body guessing and keep churning through those calories.
#5 You need more time to recover and heal
Sometimes your body just isn’t quite ready yet for the stress and strain of exercise, and you just need to give yourself a bit more time before you embark on your weight loss mission. Common reasons to wait a bit longer include complicated delivery, difficulty with breastfeeding or limited support.
How to lose weight naturally after pregnancy
Losing weight after pregnancy will usually happen fairly naturally once you are making nutritious food choices and you’ve started to move your body more regularly.
Here are our top tips to losing your baby weight naturally, with just a few simple lifestyle changes.
- Move more.
Walking, cycling, dancing, or even housework! Choose something you love and do more of it! Catch up with your friends at the park rather than the cafe, and stroll while you chat. Head to storytime at the local library and walk there instead of taking the car.
- Avoid sitting for longer than 45 minutes.
By reducing sitting, and trying to change position regularly, you’ll be avoiding back pain and other postural aches and pains, and you’ll be getting your muscles and joints moving and burning calories.
- Eat nutritious meals and reduce snacks.
It’s a no brainer – make healthy food choices, and it’s not just you who benefits! If you’re breastfeeding, essential vitamins and minerals from the food you eat are passed on to your baby. When your kids are older, modelling healthy food choices to them sets them up for success to become healthy kids.
- Get some quality sleep.
It sounds impossible, but if you can, try to go to bed earlier, ask your partner for help with the ‘dream feed’, and get some quality zzz’s under your belt. The extra energy you gain from improved sleep helps you to make better food choices, and the extra energy means you’ll also be more in the mood to exercise.
Your body has undergone enormous physiological changes during pregnancy, and I take great delight in reminding my 3 boys that my tummy was their home for 9 months (they find it quite mind-boggling!)
When you are tired, it can be easy to reach for sugary snacks, coffee or soft drinks to give you a quick energy kick. If you want to feel healthier, have more energy and lose weight, replace sugary snacks with healthier options.
Healthy go-to snacks for a new mum
- a piece of fruit (fresh not dried)
- cheese & crackers
- a berry yummy smoothie
Incidental exercises to help you drop those post-baby body kilos
Moving your body with intention is important, as is ensuring you schedule time to workout and rebuild your strength. I know that some days it’s going to be hard to get around to doing your daily workout, but there’s another activity you can do to help drop those extra kilos, and it’s called: incidental activity.
What is incidental physical activity?
It’s any small physical activity you might do in your daily life that isn’t specifically ‘working out’. For example choosing to walk 2 kilometres around the park specifically for fitness or recreation is planned exercise, whereas walking 2kms on foot to reach your local health service is incidental exercise.
Adding more incidental activity into your day is an easy, natural way to build your fitness and return to an active lifestyle again.
TIP: Try to incorporate more incidental activity into your day, especially if you are trying to lose weight.
Here are some ideas to increase your incidental activity each day:
- When you go down the hallway, bounce or bop, don’t walk.
- When you’re brushing your teeth, do a few squats
- When you’re cooking dinner: do some calf raises
- When bub is playing, get down on the floor and join in
All exercise adds up and, whether it’s an incidental activity or a scheduled workout, you will soon feel your strength and energy start to return, with the added bonus of losing that extra baby weight!
Is it harder to lose weight after your 2nd baby?
For many women, losing their baby weight after the second baby is quicker and easier the 2nd time around, as you are so busy you rarely get a chance to sit down!
Entertaining a toddler while you’re nursing a newborn can be a tiring job, you’re likely to be moving around a lot more than you did when you only had the one baby – so you’re getting in a lot more incidental exercise. You also know what you’re doing now, so bringing home your newborn isn’t as daunting and you’ll likely already have an established feeding and sleeping routine that your new baby becomes a part of. The upside of this is that this routine helps you regulate your own feeding and sleeping schedule!
However, not all women have the same experience of losing weight after their 2nd baby. Some of our 28er mums have shared that, before they joined our program, they found it tricky to lose their weight after baby number two, as their regular exercise plans were disrupted, and the battle to get enough sleep began all over again.
Just remember “this too shall pass” and while it can feel like your weight loss progress is slow, and there is no time for mama, just keep making small, sustainable healthy changes – that means healthier food choices and more incidental exercise, and your weight loss will come.
Meet Terleah, A 28er on our postnatal program
Kilos, centimetres and dress sizes… Gone!
Does your body change more after your second pregnancy?
Yes. When you have your second or third baby you’ll likely find your abdominal muscles will have stretched a little more than they did after the first pregnancy. Your physical recovery can often be a little slower after your second or third pregnancy too.
It might take you longer before you feel ready to jump back into exercise, or get back into your old clothes, or lose those last couple of pregnancy kilos.
Your abdominal skin and muscles stretch a little more than the first time around, so it can take longer for them to tighten up and shrink back in. This can make your tummy feel like you still look pregnant, even months after your baby is born, which can be pretty disheartening! Also, as your abdominal muscles are likely a lot more stretched than they were with your first pregnancy, you need to be mindful of not pushing yourself too fast. Until your core muscles to tighten up a bit, your pelvis and lower back joints are vulnerable to injury, and it can also simply feel ‘weird’ if you try to walk longer distances, jog or return to exercise too soon.
The good news is that, even if you’re feeling like your progress is slow after your second or third baby, you will get there, you just need to be patient with yourself.
Those (slightly boring but very important) deep abdominal ‘drawing in’ exercises, together with your pelvic floor exercises, are so important when you are getting back into exercise, particularly if you are trying to lose weight. You need support throughout your whole core “cylinder” – the bottom (pelvic floor muscles); the sides (transversus abdominis muscle); and the back (multifidus) before you can safely increase your exercise intensity.
The key to ongoing weight loss is to ensure that you keep challenging your body, by exercising at an intensity which challenges you.
It’s similar to lifting weights, as you get stronger, you’d need to lift heavier weights to continue to improve. With weight loss, you need to continue to mix up the intensity of your physical activity, once you have built a strong core foundation, to keep your metabolism firing and for your body to rebuild muscle strength.
That’s why the 28 by Sam Wood program works so well for new mums. It’s designed to be fast and simple, with metabolism-boosting HIIT workouts and totally different exercises each day. You’ll be taken through all the right muscle toning moves and you’ll have easy to follow meal plans that ticks all the right nutritional boxes.
The big difference with a second or third pregnancy is that now you know what you are in for!
You have a wonderful opportunity to learn from your first pregnancy and change things up a bit this time around. For example, if you didn’t exercise after your first pregnancy (perhaps you never found activities you liked, or your work hours were crazy) and you gained a lot of weight that was hard to lose, then it’s great motivation to focus on your fitness this time around.
After your first pregnancy, you might have felt that your pelvic floor muscles never really got back to tip-top condition before you fell pregnant with your second or third baby, so this can be a great reason to focus your pelvic strength right now, right from the beginning so you feel strong, stable… and safe when you jump!
Did you know?
If you make an extra effort to do your core exercises early on in your pregnancy, often you’ll be stronger at week 35 that you were in your first trimester!
How do I know if I am activating my muscles correctly?
- Picture the muscles of the pelvic floor as a muscular sling running from your tailbone to your pubic bone.
- Imagine the sensation of trying to hold in wind from your back passage.
- Squeeze the muscles upwards and inwards as if you are trying to avoid passing wind.
- If you can, bring the pelvic floor lift further forwards as though you are also trying to stop the flow of urine.
You should be able to feel your muscles working in a standing or sitting position, whether lying on your back or lying on your side. You might feel a gentle indrawing of your lower tummy muscles, but essentially you shouldn’t be able to see or feel any other muscles moving.
Sometimes when your muscles are weak it is easiest to feel them working when you’re lying down.
What NOT to do when exercising your pelvic floor muscles:
- Don’t squeeze your buttock muscles (that’s not your pelvic floor)
- Don’t squeeze your legs together (that’s not it either)
- Don’t hold your breath (this can be a challenging habit to break!)
- Don’t move your spine or hips
Is it harder to lose baby weight in your 30s?
Whether you are in your 20’s or 30’s the same postnatal weight loss rules apply – if you make small, consistent healthy changes to your lifestyle you will see results.
To regain your pre-pregnancy body shape more quickly:
- be conscious and mindful of what you’re eating
- choose high quality, nutritious food
- move your body every day
- avoid unhealthy snacks
You can’t rush your post-childbirth recovery though, there is no quick-fix. So enjoy the journey with your little one, and focus on progress, not perfection. You’ll get there!
Is it harder to lose baby weight in your 40s?
Although mums of every age lose their excess baby weight in basically the same way (eat healthily, move more, avoid unhealthy snacks), there is no denying it can feel a little harder after 40.
If you’re in your 40s and you feel it’s harder to lose the baby weight compared to when you were younger, it might be because you have less muscle mass now, compared to your 20s.
Your muscle mass plays an important part in determining how many calories your body burns. Unfortunately, somewhere in our 30s, we start to lose muscle mass. Once we hit middle age, muscle mass diminishes by up to about 1% a year in a process called sarcopenia. Unless, that is, we do something about it! Luckily it’s been proven that it’s never too late to rebuild muscle strength and endurance by doing resistance training.
You can get that metabolism firing again by rebuilding your lean muscle so you can burn more calories, naturally!
So, as long as you’ve gotten the all clear from your doctor to engage in vigorous exercise, the easiest way you can rebuild your calorie-burning lean muscle is though 28-minute HIIT resistance workouts.
The secret to losing baby weight naturally? The short answer is: eat healthily and… build those muscles!
The good news is you don’t need to bulk up, you just need to tone up.
A lot of my female training clients used to worry that building muscle meant getting bulky. It doesn’t have to. Lean muscles don’t add bulk. They make you feel stronger, leaner and… they help you burn more calories naturally, even while you sleep!
The secret to losing baby weight naturally? The short answer is: eat healthily, do more incidental exercise and… build those muscles!
The good news is you don’t need to bulk up, you just need to tone up. In fact, it’s really difficult for women to bulk up, but a bit of extra muscle tone looks and feels great.
Lean muscles don’t add bulk. They make you feel stronger, leaner and… they help you burn more calories naturally, even while you sleep!
As your muscle mass increases, the rate at which you burn energy (calories) increases. This accelerates your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and when your metabolism increases, it helps you to burn more energy throughout the day.
So, assuming you’ve gotten the all-clear to return to exercise from your doctor (usually 6-8 weeks post natal), then start your low impact training to get back into the groove of exercise, giving your joints and muscles a chance to gradually strengthen. After 3 months, it’s usually safe to start adding some resistance. As always, start slowly and add load gradually, listen to your body, and stop if anything hurts. Lifting weights will add pressure to your pelvic floor muscles, so wait a bit longer if your pelvic floor still feels weak, or if you are experiencing any heaviness or loss or urine with exercising.
When you feel ready, usually about 6 months since you gave birth, you might like to try 28-minute HIIT resistance workouts. HIIT is quick, easy and effective, but you need to build a strong foundation with low impact exercise and light weights before you give it a go. It really is the easiest way to tone up and burn more calories.
The fastest way to gain lean muscle tone (without bulking) is to engage in HIIT resistance training at least 3 times a week.
The quickest way to lose your baby weight for good
The key to losing your excess baby weight is to make healthy eating and moving your body a daily habit.
Move every day
Small doses of movement throughout the day can really boost your overall daily exercise, and then, when you add in your daily resistance workouts, you will gradually start to lose weight.
#2 Eat for nutrition
Nutrition is vitally important. You need to be eating a variety of nutritious food to ensure your intake of vitamins and minerals is sufficient, particularly if you are breastfeeding.
#3 Cut the sugar
Sugary snacks will make you feel more tired in the long run, so plan your meals and make sure you keep your energy level consistent throughout the day with healthy meals and snacks. When you have more energy, you are more likely to do your workouts, which builds muscle and gives you more energy, so it’s like a healthy upward spiral!
And if you need a bit of extra motivation, remember the big picture: a healthy, happy mum leads to a healthy, happy family!
VIDEO: Try a postnatal workout at home
This is a great beginner workout to try once you’ve been given your doctor’s clearance. The suggested reps are listed next to each individual exercise, but as you regain strength and fitness try each exercise for 40 seconds on, 20 seconds off and repeat the sequence 4 times over – the perfect beginner 28 Minute Workout!
- Supported Squat (20 reps)
- Elevated push up (10 reps)
- Curl and press (20 reps)
- Boxing (30 seconds)
- Glute bridge hold (30 seconds)
- Slow alternating leg lowers (30 seconds) *Skip exercise #6 if abdominal separation has occurred
- Plank (30 seconds) *Do this on your knees if abdominal separation has occurred
How to lose your baby belly
If your baby belly is hanging around for longer than you had hoped, you’re not alone. The truth is: there are no shortcuts to losing your baby belly. It takes time and consistent effort to regain your abdominal strength and get back in shape, but it’s worth it.
You’ll lose your baby belly once you can consistently make healthy food choices, move more every day, plus do daily exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor and abdominals.
In addition to your postnatal workouts and increased incidental activity, you should keep up your daily pelvic floor exercises. When you regularly activate your pelvic floor muscles, you’re also strengthening your deep abdominal muscles, which helps to flatten your tummy too. Once the surrounding abdominal muscles are working properly again, your posture will improve and your pelvis and lower back joints will be protected.
As your baby belly starts to disappear and your abdominal strength returns you’ll feel so much stronger and you’ll also be far less vulnerable to injury, ready to handle whatever life throws at you.
Good luck mums, and don’t forget to reach out to Sam’s Crew if you have any questions while you’re losing your baby weight. You can do this!
I’d love you to join my 28 family
Designed by myself and my team of nutritionists and women’s health experts, our fitness program is safe and effective for new mums. It’s gentle enough when you’re just getting started, but tough enough to give you great results. The best part is that you can do it all from the comfort of your own home for less than $2 a day.