Postpartum Weight Management
On average, 10-12 pounds are lost immediately after delivery and another 5 pounds is lost a week after. The rest of the weight that is normally gained during pregnancy will gradually fall off over the post-partum months. However, the issue is when women gain a little (or a lot of) extra weight—I’ve seen women gain upwards of 60 lbs, which is well beyond the expected gain!
Getting back on track is possible to do in a way that is not too stressful for you or for your baby. In general, a safe weight-loss goal beginning 6 weeks after birth is to lose 1 pound per week, which should generally be achievable with a good diet and moderate exercise.
Things to consider when striving for healthy weight loss:
· Breastfeeding is a helpful tool because your body’s fat stores will be used for making breast milk. So not only do you get all important bonding time with baby through breastfeeding, but those calories are being used to nourish him/her.
· Good nutrition is important for continued reproductive health, adequate breast milk production for those breastfeeding, emotional wellness, regaining strength and energy, and so many other things.
· Many cultures feed the mother nourishing foods to rebuild her blood and impart strength and energy. From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, cold foods are avoided and warm, simple soups and stews are prepared that contain grains such as rice and barley, small amounts of meat, and root vegetables. Chicken and eggs are also commonly given foods.
· Nutrient dense foods are best, like a yogurt smoothie with fresh fruits or vegetables gives you protein, minerals and vitamins.
· Protein: needs aren’t increased from pregnancy to lactation, in fact they may be slightly less. Nevertheless, be sure to eat high-quality protein foods, including beans, legumes, tofu, nuts and seeds, and lean meat.
· Carbohydrates: complex carbohydrates found in whole grains are best, such as: whole wheat, brown rice, millet, buckwheat, barley, oats, and quinoa, among others.
· Vitamins and minerals: several servings of fruits and vegetables daily, along with nuts and seeds, whole grains and some dairy products should provide ample nutrients for you and baby. Although whole food nutrients are best, if you’re really busy and just cannot eat as well, a supplement like a good multivitamin can be helpful.
· Fats: Healthy fats are important for maintaining breast milk and for your baby’s growing brain. Nuts and seeds, avocados, fish, and olive oil all contain healthy fats. If you use a fish oil product, using one that is higher in DHA while your baby is under 2 years is beneficial because they need more DHA than EPA for brain growth and development. Flaxseed oil (1-2 tbsp daily) and evening primrose oil (1500-2000 mg daily) can also be used as supplemental sources of essential fatty acids. Butter can be eaten in moderation, and always choose butter over margarine.
· Water: not only will drinking plenty of water help with breast milk supply, it also prevents fatigue, depression and constipation. Ten 8-ounce glasses of water each day is recommended while breastfeeding. Keeping water in easy to reach places and packing a water bottle in the diaper bag can be helpful ways to remind you to get your water intake.
Note about dieting/ severe caloric restriction: the postpartum period is not the time to be worrying excessively about counting calories and losing large amounts of weight. The safest and easiest way to lose the extra pregnancy weight is to establish a healthy diet that maximizes nutrients and minimizes empty carbs, unnecessary fats and sugars (eg. chips, pastries, desserts.)
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
· We all are guilty of comparing ourselves to other women. However, worrying that you aren’t losing your weight after birth as fast as the woman next door is not going to be helpful. Stress causes the release of stress hormones like cortisol, and too much cortisol will hinder any weight loss efforts you might try.
Seek Professional Help
· The best time to talk to your ND, midwife, or OB/GYN is before birth. Your regular check up is a time to check in on your weight gain to make sure it’s within the recommended range. You can still talk to your health care provider after baby is born about your weight loss goals. Everyone is unique and has different rates of metabolism. They will be able to let you know if you have gained more weight than recommended during pregnancy and help monitor you as you work towards healthy weight loss.
Ask for Help
· Feeling overwhelmed trying to care for a new baby and yourself? Don’t be afraid to ask for support. Ask your Mom if she can help you make a few freezer meals that you can thaw and heat up on another day. Ask a friend if they’ll watch the baby while you make some healthy snacks. You don’t have to do everything on your own.
Note: Specific treatment suggestions are best discussed with your Naturopathic Doctor as each person is unique!
Romm, A. (2002) Natural Health after Birth. Healing Arts Press.
Pitchford. P. (2002) Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. (3rd Ed.) North Atlantic Books.
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I am a Naturopathic Doctor and Doula providing care in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. I have a passion for helping people with their health issues and improving the birth experience for Moms, and their babies. I also have a life long love affair with soccer, curling, and the alto saxophone.