New mums have a lot on their plates – and often they’re so busy with the baby that any well-intentioned plans to lose their pregnancy weight and get back into shape become a struggle to achieve.
It is very important not to do anything that is risky for your health when it comes to shedding kilos straight after having a baby. Your body has just been through a lot of strain thanks to nine months of pregnancy followed by labour.
Don’t be in a rush to lose weight, and make sure any exercise programme you start takes into consideration the fact you’ve just given birth. It’s particularly important to look after your back and abdominal muscles at this time – get professional advice if necessary.
Plus, you need to be eating well so you’re getting plenty of nutrients, especially if breastfeeding. Drastically restricting calories or going on a fad diet is a really bad idea.
Here are some sensible and effective ways to slowly lose the excess weight you’ve gained.
Go for a walk
Start out with a simple exercise, like walking. Not only will it help to burn off the calories and tone your leg muscles, it is easy to do with your baby in the pram, and it’s a good way for both of you to get out and enjoy some fresh air. Gradually increase the distance you cover and your walking speed – and include some hills in your route.
There are certain so-called “superfoods” that will give you the nutrients you need without hugely increasing your calorie consumption. These include:
• Fish. Not only is it good for you, but it’s packed with essential omega-3 fatty acids that help your baby to develop a healthy brain and nervous system. Fish like salmon, sardines and tuna are especially good for you
• Vegetables and fruit. You just can’t get enough of these, especially vegetables. They’re full of vitamins and minerals, as well as fibre, which will get your bowels moving regularly
• Lean meat and chicken. They’re low in fat (as long as you don’t eat the chicken skin) and high in protein. They’ll keep you feeling full for longer
• Milk, yoghurt and cheese. Also sources of protein, they will help to curb your hunger if you include them at every meal. They are also very good for your bones.
Drinking water is important for staying hydrated – especially crucial when you are breastfeeding – but it can also help with weight loss, because it fills you up so you don’t eat as much. It may also speed up your metabolism. Keeping a bottle of water handy to sip while you are breast-feeding will make it easier to get the fluid you need.
Get some sleep
This may seem impossible when you’ve got a small baby, but being sleep-deprived can make it harder for you to drop those excess kilos. One study showed that new mums who slept for five hours or fewer a night were less likely to lose their pregnancy weight than those who got seven or more hours’ sleep. That’s because when you are tired, your body releases cortisol and other stress hormones that can contribute to weight gain.
Also, when you are tired you are less likely to be motivated to exercise or spend that extra time in the kitchen preparing and cooking healthy food.
Try to sleep whenever the baby does – leave the housework and other tasks until later. Ask your partner or other family members to take over baby care so you can have a nap – every bit of sleep helps.