The 4 things I did to get in shape by 4 months post-pregnancy
Since giving birth to my first child last May, many people have asked me how I lost my baby weight so quickly. To be honest the answer is simple - most of the weight disappears when baby comes out! After baby was born my body was swollen and recovering for weeks but by six weeks post-pregnancy, much of this had gone away and a lot of the weight had come off naturally. No special workouts or diets required!
Before I got pregnant I was 117 lbs. At the end of my pregnancy, I weighed 145 lbs, having gained about 28 lbs. Six weeks post-pregnancy I was down to about 130 lbs. By 4 months post-pregnancy, I was down to 115 lbs and have maintained that weight since. I did have a natural birth though so I was back on my feet fairly quickly and would likely have taken more time to reach my pre-baby weight if I had had a c-section.
Here is what I did to get back to my pre-baby weight:
I didn't worry about losing the weight
As much as looking in the mirror and seeing myself looking so much larger than I'm used to bothered me, I knew the weight would eventually come off. Although I wanted to get back in shape as fast as possible, I knew I needed to maintain a full, healthy diet with more calories than I'm used to in order to ensure my milk supply would not be affected.
While it's great to have goals so you know what you're working towards, you never know how pregnancy and its aftermath will go so don't worry if you don't get back in shape as quickly as you had hoped. If you maintain healthy habits, you will get there with time. If you get there in 9 months vs. 6 months for example, that would still be an amazing accomplishment! Although you might be eager to get back to feeling like yourself physically, a few months will not make a difference in the grand scheme of things.
This is definitely not the time to be doing anything extreme like Insanity or P90X or eating an extremely low-carb diet. I learned this the hard way - I tried an Insanity workout about 3 weeks post-pregnancy and stopped about 5 minutes in when I realized that my pelvic floor was definitely not yet strong enough to handle that kind of jumping 😂.
I focused on sleep
This is a tough one! Anyone who has had a child knows that the first 3 months after having a baby (aptly referred to as the fourth 'trimester') can be the hardest from a sleep perspective - particularly for Mom if she's breastfeeding. Even if all you want to do is sleep, often you need to be up every few hours to feed baby and this can really mess with your body. Whatever you can do to allow yourself the opportunity to catch up on sleep, you must do it! This is not only for weight loss but for your general wellbeing and mental wellness. I've learned that sleep is critical.
I received this advice from others and I didn't listen but I really should have. Call on anyone you can to help you through this period. Seriously - if there is any time to call in reinforcements, this is it. Here are some ideas to help you through this period:
Pump breast milk and / or use formula and have your partner alternate feeds with you so you can get at least one or two longer stretches of sleep through the night
Ask a parent, sibling, cousin or friend to come help you either at night (you know they truly love you if they agree to this!) or during the day so that you can nap while they watch baby
Nap while the baby naps! This was the piece of advice everyone gave me but never seemed to actually work for me. I know many people that swore by this but for me, by the time I actually fell asleep, my baby would be up crying 10 minutes later and I would just feel worse and groggy waking from such a short nap. But this is a great idea and if baby had cooperated, I definitely would have done it!
The key here is to recognize that the most important thing you can do for the overall health of your body, which includes your body weight, is to allow it the time it needs to rest. It truly is incredible that following potentially the most physically traumatizing feat you will endure - giving birth - you are often not able to get a full night's rest for MONTHS afterwards! Think about this - if you completed a marathon, a grueling physical feat, you would probably give your body at least a full week of rest to recover. You'd put the recovery of your body first so that you could heal. This is often not the case with new moms - new moms put baby first and themselves second and it can have a huge impact on their health.
Obviously, I'm not suggesting you ignore baby but I am suggesting that you call in reinforcements to help you get the rest you need in those early months. Beyond the health of your body, it will simply make the days more enjoyable. I was fortunate enough to have my mother-in-law stay with me for 1 month and my mother stay for 2.5 weeks so that gave me about 7 weeks to take the time to nap whenever possible and to spend time resting and enjoying my time as a new mother as they took care of things around the house. I am not someone that easily takes help from others so this was a bit hard for me but it definitely made a big difference in those early months.
If you don't have anyone that can come over to help, do everything else you possibly can to outsource things you might otherwise do like cooking and cleaning. Ask friends to drop off food or give you food delivery gift cards if they want to get you a gift and aren't sure what you need. Pay cleaners to clean your place for a few months or if that isn't affordable, scale back how often you clean. Everything doesn't need to be spotless - a little dust never hurt anyone. Basically lower your standards just for a few months while you focus on getting rest.
I stayed active
I've listed this as a tip but to be honest with a baby this will probably just be a given. You won't need to put a lot of effort into staying active since baby will be keeping you on your toes. Between appointments, loads of laundry and diaper changes, you'll be up and about nearly all the time and looking for an excuse to sit down (hello breastfeeding!).
I was fortunate enough to have a natural birth and this meant that I was on my feet pretty soon after giving birth. The hospital I gave birth at was about 10 minutes from my house so my husband and I actually walked home from the hospital with the baby (my mother was appalled when she found out about this!🤣). From there I didn't make any effort to exercise besides running around with baby and going for the occasional walk for the first 4 weeks post-pregnancy. I was definitely in survival mode and just trying to get as much sleep as possible!
By week five I was starting to settle into life with baby and my mother-in-law had come to stay with us and help out which freed up time for me to add in some more activity into my life. I started with some simple yoga and Pilates routines that I had done previously and felt comfortable with and then moved onto lower impact cardio workouts and light strength training. I also joined a mom's group and started walking with some of the other moms. I would definitely recommend this! I'm personally not a huge fan of going for walks just for the sake of it so I rarely went for a walk unless I had a purpose. Walking with others helped motivate me because it gave me a chance to socialize.
After my six week follow up with my OB who gave me the green light for all of my pre-baby exercise, I started in with higher-impact cardio and strength training Like I said before, I would definitely hold off on doing any super intense workouts. You know your body best - if you feel different, like weakness or pain where you wouldn't have previously - listen to the cues from your body. The last thing you want to do is injure yourself since this would just hinder your ability to work out going forward.
When I realized my pelvic floor was really weak, I went to a pelvic floor physiotherapist for a few weeks to get assessed and get a tailored exercise routine. Only once I became stronger did I start to do more high intensity workouts and I was sure to follow her advice about how to get started and gradually increase.
I focused on eating nutritious foods
This is going to seem like an obvious one because it is - if you want to lose weight quickly post-pregnancy, it's no different than losing weight at any other time in your life. Eating "clean" will be the quickest way to shed any unwanted pounds.
I'll point out that there is also a reason that staying active and eating nutritious foods are listed after the point about sleep. If you are not getting adequate sleep, exercising and eating healthy will be way harder. Trust me, I know from experience. Your body will crave processed, sugary foods for the energy and you will be too mentally run down to fight this feeling most of the time. Try to get as much sleep as possible to prevent this from happening.
If you do have family or friends come over to give you a hand, ask them to help make some healthy meals. And don't be shy to ask them to cook you extra so that you can freeze it for later when they're gone and you don't have time to cook. Soups, chili and stews are easy to cook in large batches and usually taste great even out of the freezer. My mother and mother-in-law each left me with a freezer full of food and it was a huge help! A couple less take-out meals can make a big difference.
Another tip here - stick to meals only and eliminate snacks, if possible. I had developed a bad habit of snacking throughout the day during the pandemic when I moved to remote working and kept that going for the first couple months post-pregnancy. When I realized that I was probably overeating and ruining my appetite for meals, I stopped snacking and only ate my three meals a day. This made it much easier for me to know that I was getting a good balance of carbs, protein and healthy fats and eliminating eating unnecessary (and usually not as healthy) snacks out of boredom. However, the caveat is if you find yourself missing meals or not eating enough because you're too busy with baby, which is very likely, then make sure you have some healthy snacks with you. Nuts and whole fruits and veggies are easy, go-to snacks. Homemade granola was a number 1 option for me when I felt like something carby.
You definitely don't want to go hungry especially if you're breastfeeding since it could affect your milk supply. Eliminating snacking for me helped me to reduce more processed foods and have healthier meals but this was just my experience. Everyone is different.
Also, everyone will give this same advice because it's true - you must stay hydrated! It's super important while breastfeeding but even if you're not, it's still really important if you want to keep your energy up and your body functioning properly. If you're sick of drinking water, soups can be a great option. I ate a ton of soup post baby. Not only is it tasty and hydrating, it's easy to cook in large batches and freeze for later.
Like I mentioned before, don't worry too much about losing the baby weight since most of it comes off naturally in the first six weeks or so. I made a goal to reach my pre-baby weight by 3 months post-pregnancy. I ended up getting there by 4 months - no big deal. In the end, I did what was comfortable for me. All pregnancies and people are different. Eventually, you will get there!
Let me know your questions, thoughts or any tips that worked for you in the comments below.