Your little bundle of joy arrived and surprisingly weighed in at a small fraction of your total pregnancy weight gain. The numbers aren't adding up and you may -- like many moms -- begin to wonder if you will ever get your body back after baby.
Celebrity moms like Victoria Beckham and Angelina Jolie that have rapidly snapped back from pregnancy to their previous svelte shapes have led many new moms to set unrealistic expectations. Well, don't despair! It is neither realistic nor healthy to transform yourself so quickly.
Your post-baby body is still undergoing a lot of changes. Excessive weight loss worries and an overly restrictive diet can cause heath problems for both you and your baby, interfere with maternal-infant bonding and disrupt the supply of breast milk. So, forget the crash diet and consider instead these 10 doctor- and mom-approved tips to getting your body back after baby.
1. Don't rush!
Savour the moment! Your little bundle of joy is changing by the minute -- but you don't have to. Don't be too rushed in transforming back to your pre-pregnancy weight or shape. Just remember it took you nine long months to gain the weight -- it can often take as long or longer to shed the pregnancy pounds. Stay the course with patience and determination.
2. Breast is best!
If breast feeding is an option, it is a great way to burn extra energy while bonding and feeding your newborn. Breast feeding consumes more energy than pregnancy and is a great way to help get your body back into shape. The daily caloric burn when exclusively breast feeding is 500 calories, while pregnancy burns 300 calories daily.
Breast milk not only provides infants with optimal nutrition it can help regulate mom's metabolism and hormones, provides a kick start to baby's immune system and has been shown to reduce the risk of ear infections, allergies and asthma. If breast feeding is not an option, you can get your partner involved with bottle feeding and take the opportunity to get in an extra work out or nap.
3. Make sleep a priority!
Sleeplessness is inevitable in the early post-pregnancy phase and can make it more difficult to lose the extra inches. Lack of sleep has been associated with poor eating habits and weight gain. Even if your nighttime sleep is disrupted, you can try to get some shuteye through out the day when your baby does. Make naps a priority. The stack of dirty dishes and pile of laundry can always wait until later.
4. Take a time out!
Time outs aren't just for little ones. Parents may find they too need a break -- even a brief reprieve from the stress of parenthood. Time outs can help us better cope with stress and keep cortisol levels controlled. Cortisol, the stress hormone, can block our best intentions around weight loss. Keeping stress at bay is good for baby and your body.
5. Get moving early on!
Invest in a good stroller with sturdy rubber wheels and equipped with a large carry basket. Pack a bag with water, diapers, and an on-the-go healthy snack like trail mix and get going! A long brisk walk outdoors with baby in tow is the best activity for you and your little one.
The moderate intensity is just right, the work required to push the stroller is a good transition back to weight training, and the sensory stimulation of the outdoors is good for both mom's mental health and early brain development of the baby.
Vary your walking route and make it purposeful by walking to do your chores with trips to the grocery store or bank. Until your baby is ready for sleep training, usually around four to five months, stroller naps are considered by most experts to be an acceptable option.
6. Rebuild your core
The stretching of the abdominal wall to accommodate a growing baby will temporarily weaken your core. In about 15 per cent of women, the abdominal muscle sheath may split during pregnancy (called a diastasis) leaving a gap through which abdominal contents can bulge or herniate.
With a diastasis present, women must be extra vigilant when starting on an exercise program and are best off avoiding exercises that excessively strain the central core muscles. Oblique curls and planks are preferred and attention must be paid to the pelvic floor.
7. Restore your floor
Further destabilizing a mommy's middle is the combined impact of pregnancy, labour and delivery on the tone of the inner core -- the pelvic floor. Having a larger baby, prolonged labour and a vaginal delivery can all increase the likelihood of having laxity and weakness in the pelvic floor muscles and experiencing difficulty with bladder control. Incontinence can persist and significantly impact a new mom's quality of life if left untreated.
But with proper diagnosis and treatment, it is possible to repair the pelvic floor. Kegel exercises are key to successful recovery. Kegels work best when co-ordinated contractions of the pelvic floor muscles are supported by activation of adjacent muscle groups like the abdominal, gluteal and leg muscles.
There are training devices and specialists that can help you further hone the perfect Kegel. Consider seeing your doctor or a women's health expert to ensure you have properly diagnosed the problem and what type of pelvic floor rehab is right for you.
8. Eat purposefully
With a frequent feeding schedule and disrupted sleep profile, a three-meal-a day-diet plan may not work best. More frequent and smaller meals may better match your energy needs and hunger. If breast feeding, ensure that you are eating and drinking sufficiently with each feed.
Plan your diet to be rich in plant-derived phytonutrients and healthy sources of protein and fat and low in potentially harmful chemicals like pesticides, added flavouring and colouring chemicals in processed foods. The addition of supplements like vitamin D3 and calcium can help meet the higher needs of breast feeding women.
9. Join a mommy group or class!
New babies and their never ending needs can lead to social isolation. Make an effort to join a new mommy group or sign up for baby programs to meet other new moms. Stroller classes and other post-pregnancy fitness programs can keep you socially connected, fit and help foster baby's development.
10. Take care of mommy, too!
Don't skip out on your own health needs and self-care. Take time to visit your doctor to discuss any new problems like; persistent sadness, crying, hair loss, breast or nipple pain, excessive fatigue, bladder difficulties, acne or brown spots, and sexual health problems including pain with intercourse and low libido. These are just some of the many common health concerns that can emerge in a new mom and which can be properly investigated and treated by a doctor.
Getting your body back also means taking care of yourself. Take time to eat right and exercise. Take your time outs and cat nap. Listen to your favourite music and pamper yourself with a spa day.
There are many safe and effective treatments to help you on the journey including skin-tightening treatments offered by medical experts that can help tighten lax skin, contour the mommy tummy and shed the extra few pregnancy pounds. Skin tightening devices that combine radiofrequency with magnetic therapy can also minimize the appearance and symptoms of a diastasis.
So, take time for Mom this Mother's Day and consider these 10 tips to reclaim your body after baby.
Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook
MORE ON HUFFPOST:
Follow Dr. Jennifer Pearlman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drjpearlman