You may be surprised with the way your belly looks like after giving birth.
Even though your newborn is out and you have spent weeks taking care of him, you may still look like you are five to six months pregnant with a squishy and flabby tummy. After pregnancy, it takes time for your belly to shrink down and fully recover to its normal size.
What exactly happens to your abdomen post pregnancy?
As soon as your baby came out, your body will immediately undergo different hormonal changes. Such hormones are not just responsible for your intense emotions after birth, they also try to restore your body to the way it was before your pregnancy, including shrinking back the uterus to its pre-pregnancy state.
This process takes at least six to eight weeks, for cesarean moms, it takes longer.
Your belly will still look swollen as your body slowly expels the extra fluids retained during your pregnancy. The water weight that is contributing to the size of your abdomen will eventually be flushed out through vaginal secretions, sweating and urinating. The fat stored during your pregnancy will eventually start to burn off especially when you are efficiently and consistently breastfeeding your baby.
So how long will your “pregnancy pouch” exactly shrink back to normal?
We have heard how some people, especially supermodels were able to get back to a tight and flat tummy right away. Though it is possible, it does rarely happen. In fact, there are cases where the pouch will never entirely go away.
The average woman needs to work hard for at least a month to see slight results. Just think about it, it took you nine months to stretch your abdomen and grow a child inside your womb. It could also take that long to tighten it back. Patience is the key if you want to successfully lose your post pregnancy belly for good.
The transition and speed of weight loss also depends on your normal body size and the amount of weight you gained during these nine months. Lifestyle and genes are also contributing factors to this change. Often times, women who exclusively breastfeed, exercise regularly and gained less that 30 lbs. during their pregnancy are more likely to slim down quicker.
As what Sarah B. Krieger, MPH, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says, if you gained more than the recommended 25 to 35 lbs., losing the excess weight including the postpartum belly could take a bit longer than usual.
What can you do to start transitioning back to having a flat stomach?
On the early months after childbirth, start breastfeeding immediately. Your body utilizes extra calories every feeding because it has to work and produce another supply of milk for your baby’s next feeding, making it the easiest form of “workout” for new moms.
Moms who nurse their baby tend to lose weight quicker than those who do not. Breastfeeding also stimulates uterine contractions that help speed up the shrinking process of your uterus.
Exercise is obviously a no brainer to fix this problem. As soon as your body is ready and your doctor clears you for exercise, start right away. Rigorous exercise routines like aerobic workout movements from zumba, insanity or other classes can help tone your abdomen fast.
Overall, becoming physically active helps burn calories and tone your stomach. A simple stroll in the park or taking postpartum yoga or pilates class is a great start.
Some women are prone to baby bulges. This happens when pregnant women experience a condition called diastasis recti. It is when the right and left muscles in your belly separates to make room for a growing baby. Women who have more than one child are prone to this problem.
This medical condition is not painful at all. In fact, you might not even notice that it occurred to you until your doctor mentions it. This disorder however gives moms extra soft tissue and skin on their abdomen, leaving them with baby bulges. Exercising can also help tone up this problem.
Should you go on a diet?
As mentioned above, breastfeeding is a great start to gain back a flat belly. However, you may want to begin dieting at least six weeks postpartum before cutting back on the calories. Nursing requires extra energy, hence the crazy and out of control cravings. Simply supplying your body with enough energy sets the tone for your body’s production of milk.
The question now is if you are producing a steady amount of breastmilk. If you are, you can begin reducing your calorie intake. Nursing moms require 2,400 calories at most a day and cutting back by 500 calories will do no harm. You can successfully do this by eating less food or increasing your activity level. Try to not go beyond one pound a week to avoid feeling fatigued.
Source your nutrients from natural and healthy whole foods. Do not go on a severe diet while breastfeeding as it causes stress to your body. This reaction reduces your milk production and can eventually hurt your breastmilk function and your intent to lose weight the natural way.
Here are simple dos and don’ts you can follow to initiate shedding that pregnancy pouch:
- Eat fiber-rich foods to stay full for longer periods of time. This prevents you from eating junk foods.
- Keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, particularly water. This helps increase your milk production and efficiently moves fiber into your intestines.
- Eat fruits and vegetables that are water-rich: oranges, watermelon, tomatoes, celery, tomatoes and asparagus. They act as a natural but gentle diuretic.
- Eat fruits and vegetables rich in potassium – spinach, bananas and apricots. They help flush down sodium out of your body..
- Eat slowly and chew your food well. This prevents you from gulping air that can cause belly bloating.
- Drink carbonated drinks. They cause gas and bloating.
- Eat foods with high amounts of salt. This causes water retention in your belly, legs, arms and face.
- Eat sugar-rich food. Too much sugar intake can lead to weight gain.
- Eat cruciferous vegetables. Like carbonated drinks, they also cause bloating.
Krieger also warns moms to avoid fad diets that do not promote long-term weight loss. They only contribute to the delay of your body’s healing process. According to American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), they deprive your baby from the critical nutrients they should get from breastmilk.
The bottomline is, the only way you can lose your post pregnancy belly for good is to follow safe and natural weight loss techniques as soon as you can after childbirth.