Weight loss after pregnancy takes time, but it's possible. Concentrate on eating a healthy diet and including physical activity in your daily routine.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you're like most new moms, you're eager to put away your maternity clothes and slip into your old jeans. Understand the smart way to approach weight loss after pregnancy and promote a lifetime of good health.

When you were pregnant, you might have adjusted your eating habits to support your baby's growth and development. After pregnancy, proper nutrition is still important — especially if you're breast-feeding. Making wise choices can promote healthy weight loss after pregnancy.

  • Focus on fruits, vegetables, monounsaturated fats, and whole grains. Foods high in fiber — such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains — provide you with many important nutrients while helping you feel full longer.
  • Eat smaller portions. Eating smaller portions is linked with weight loss and weight maintenance over time. Don't skip meals or limit the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet, though — you'll miss vital nutrients.
  • Avoid temptation. Surround yourself with healthy foods. If junk food poses too much temptation, keep it out of the house.
  • Don't try quick fixes. There's no magic bullet for losing weight.

In the past, women were often told to wait at least six weeks after giving birth to begin exercising. Today, however, the waiting game is over.

If you exercised during pregnancy and had an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, it's generally safe to begin light exercise within days of delivery — or as soon as you feel ready. If you had a C-section or a complicated birth, talk to your health care provider about when to start an exercise program. Generally, you might be able to start light exercises about 4 to 6 weeks after your delivery.

When your health care provider gives you the OK:

  • Get comfortable. If you're breast-feeding, feed your baby right before you exercise to avoid discomfort caused by engorged breasts. Wear a supportive bra and comfortable clothing.
  • Start slowly. Begin with simple exercises that strengthen major muscle groups, including your abdominal and back muscles. Gradually add exercises of moderate intensity, such as brisk walking or bike riding on a level surface.
  • Include your baby. If you have trouble finding time to exercise, include your baby in your routine. Take your baby for a daily walk in a stroller or baby carrier. Lay your baby next to you while you stretch on the floor, or include your baby in strength training activities — such as lifting the baby above you while you lie on your back.
  • Don't go it alone. Invite other moms to join you for a daily walk, or try a postpartum exercise class. Working out with others might help motivate you.

Remember to drink plenty of water before, during and after each workout. Stop exercising if you experience pain. This might be a sign that you're overdoing it.

Breast-feeding can also help you lose weight gained during pregnancy. This is because when you breast-feed, you use fat cells stored in your body during pregnancy — along with calories from your diet — to fuel your milk production and feed your baby.

Most women lose more than 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) during childbirth, including the weight of the baby, placenta and amniotic fluid. During the first week after delivery, you'll lose additional weight as you shed retained fluids — but the fat stored during pregnancy won't disappear on its own.

Through diet and exercise, it's reasonable to lose up to 1 pound (0.5 kilogram) a week. It might take six months or even longer to return to your pre-pregnancy weight, whether you're breast-feeding or not. Even then, your weight might be distributed differently from how it was before pregnancy.

Be gentle with yourself as you accept the changes in your body. Above all, take pride in your healthy lifestyle.

July 31, 2015