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Health and Fitness News

Bye, Bye, Baby Weight

Tips for new moms to lose those extra pounds.

The average pregnant woman gains 25 to 35 pounds. While most of those pounds are expected and unavoidable, some women take the “eating for two” thing a little too seriously and end up gaining more than they should. Pregnant women should eat about 300 extra calories a day to support a growing baby, but it’s easy to eat too much and exercise too little when you’re expecting.

When the baby arrives nine months later, you’ll automatically lose the weight of the baby plus the amniotic fluid, but the rest of the weight sticks around until you work it off. While a small percentage of women seem to quickly fit back in their skinny jeans after delivery, it’s not the norm. After all, it took nine months to gain the weight, so no one should expect to lose it overnight.

Though weight loss isn’t your first priority while caring for a newborn, it is possible to return to your pre-pregnancy weight with a few weeks or months of effort. Here’s what it takes.

Opt for Breastfeeding

It may not work out for you and your baby, but if it can, breastfeeding is the way to go. Besides providing free, convenient, perfect nutrition for your baby, breastfeeding is nature’s way of helping you lose those extra pounds. With the ability to create a 500-calorie deficit a day, breastfeeding also triggers the release of hormones that work to shrink the size of your uterus.

Go with a Healthy Diet

Whether breastfeeding or not, your diet plays a big role in how successful your weight loss efforts will be. That said, dieting shouldn’t even be on your radar until at least six weeks postpartum. During this time, your body is still recovering from delivery, working to feed your baby, and working to keep the two of you healthy. Talk with your doctor about if and when you can start dieting.

After six weeks, a safe weight loss goal should be to lose no more than one and a half pounds a week. Low-calorie diets are not a safe weight loss plan when you’re breastfeeding or caring for a newborn. Without enough calories, you won’t be able to produce enough milk, you’ll lack energy, and the pounds will return when you go back to your regular diet.

The number of calories you should consume while breastfeeding depends on your pre-pregnancy body mass index and the amount of exercise you get. Most breastfeeding women require an average of 500 extra calories day to keep up their milk supply. The average breastfeeding woman’s daily caloric intake should be 2,200 to 2,400. Women not breastfeeding need 1,900 to 2,200 calories a day.

Rather than jumping into a diet, make healthy eating a priority. Focus on nutrient-dense whole foods that provide the nutrition your baby needs for healthy development and that you need for energy.

Get Plenty of Exercise

The third piece of the weight loss puzzle for new moms is exercise. Physical activity helps burn extra calories, leads to faster weight loss, boosts your energy, and improves your mental well-being. Until your baby is six weeks old, take it easy on the amount of exercise you get. You just had a baby and need to give your body time to recover from delivery.

After six weeks, you should be safe to start with low-intensity, low-impact workouts. Following a vaginal birth, women should avoid high-intensity exercise for 12 weeks. And if you have a caesarean section, you should avoid strenuous exercise for three to four months.