Losing baby weight

You've carried your baby for several months. Now that she's here, you couldn't be happier to see her beautiful face. Once the two of you settle into a routine, you'll probably be ready to start losing the weight you gained during pregnancy.

Before beginning your quest to shed extra pounds, remember that the weight you gained during pregnancy was a good thing. It helped give your beautiful new baby the nutrients she needed to grow. Now that she's here, it's perfectly fine to try and get back into shape. With your health provider's OK, you can start light exercises as soon as you feel up to it. Just be sure to take things slowly.

Healthy eating
It's no secret that a key part of losing weight is to watch what you eat. This means to make healthy food choices as often as you can. Making healthy food choices is not only important in helping you lose weight, but also for your overall health.

When choosing your meal, focus on the following:

Fruits, veggies

  • These foods give you fiber and important vitamins like A, C and folic acid.
  • Eating these foods can help you feel full for longer periods of time. You may have fewer cravings for unhealthy snacks.
Proteins
  • Meat, pork, poultry, fish, eggs and beans contain important nutrients like protein and iron.
  • Choose lean meats. They have the nutrients your body needs, but without the extra fat.
  • When you buy meat, look at the label on the package. It sometimes tells you the percentage of fat. For example, the label says "95% Lean." This means that the meat contains 5 percent fat. Select meats that are low in fat.
  • When preparing poultry, remove the skin and trim away visible fat for a healthier meal. Fish like salmon, herring, sardines or fresh-water trout are another good option. These fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important nutrients that your body needs.

Whole grains

  • When choosing breads, pasta or rice, try eating products made from whole grains.
  • These foods are high in fiber. They also provide essential vitamins like folic acid.
  • Whole grains help give your body the energy it needs when it's on the move.

Low-fat dairy

  • Milk, yogurt and cheese are all major sources of protein, calcium and vitamins.
  • Choose dairy products that are low in fat. In this way, you get the nutritional benefits without the extra fat.

Pass on the junk food

  • Chips, cookies, sodas and other junk food contain too many calories with little nutritional benefit.
  • If you like to snack between meals, choose healthy treats like fruit.

Smaller portions

Healthy cooking

  • Use healthy cooking methods like steaming, boiling, baking or broiling.
  • Avoid frying food as it adds unhealthy fats to the meal.
  • Reduce calories when you cook. Lower the amounts of cream, butter and sugar in your recipes, or make low-calorie substitutions. For instance, use skim or 1 percent milk instead of whole milk.

Exercise
Exercise is a key component of a healthy lifestyle before, during and after pregnancy. After pregnancy, most women can start exercising as soon as they feel ready. Talk to your health provider before beginning your exercise routine.

With regular exercise, you'll start to see healthy results. You'll also have more energy, which will help you keep up with caring for a newborn.

Walking

  • You may want to start your way back into fitness with a walk.
  • Take a brisk walk whenever you can, every day if possible.
  • When you feel up to it, move on to more intensive exercises like running or biking.

Swimming

  • Swimming is a great workout.
  • Some local fitness and community health centers offer special workouts for new moms.

Exercising tips

  • Be sure to include aerobic activities. They get your heart rate up.
  • Include strength training in your workout routine. It builds your muscles.
  • Stretching activities are important, too. They improve your flexibility and movement. 

Breastfeeding
Not only does breastfeeding benefit babies, it's also good for moms. Nursing helps new moms burn more calories. This can help moms return to their pre-pregnancy weight faster than if they fed their babies only formula.

Be realistic
Many of today's Hollywood moms get back to their original figure in record time. When you see how great they look, you may feel pressure to drop the baby weight quickly.

The great shapes of celebrity moms may set unrealistic and unhealthy expectations for many women and their partners. Remember: It's not a race to the skinny jeans. Focus on living a healthy lifestyle, and the rest will fall into place.

More tips

  • Go at your own pace.
  • Choose a workout that's right for you.
  • Have healthy eating habits.

Last reviewed April 2009

Most common questions

Can I get pregnant while breastfeeding?

Yes. Breastfeeding may decrease the odds of getting pregnant by delaying the return of a woman's menstrual period. However, breastfeeding does not prevent pregnancy, even if the mother is not getting a period. Many women ovulate before they see their period return. If you want to be certain not to conceive again until you and your partner are ready for another child, talk with your health care provider about when to return to using birth control. Note that some oral contraceptives that contain estrogen may decrease a woman's milk production. If you think this might be a problem for your milk supply, discuss different birth control options with your provider.

I just had a baby. How soon can I get pregnant again?

Most experts recommend that, after the birth of a child, you should wait at least 18 months before getting pregnant again. This applies both in the case of a vaginal or cesarean birth. Waiting 18 months gives your body the time it needs to fully recover from the last pregnancy. It also helps prevent health risks during your next pregnancy, like premature birth or having a low-birthweight baby. Spacing pregnancies too close together also has been associated with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Frequent pregnancies can have an impact on the mother's health.
Sometimes it's not possible to wait so long, either because of your age or other reasons. The best thing to do is to talk with your health care provider about what’s best for you.

However, if you're planning to have more than one child, it's best to wait no more than five years between pregnancies.

What is a cesarean wound infection?

A cesarean (c-section) wound infection is caused when bacteria get inside the incision (cut) from a c-section. A c-section is surgery in which your baby is born through a cut that your health care provider makes in your belly and uterus. Bacteria can cause the cut to get infected.

Signs of infection are fever and painful, red, swollen skin around the incision. Call your health care provider if you have any of these signs. Your provider may drain the incision to release the trapped bacteria.

Most c-section incisions heal without any problems. You’re more likely to get an infection if you:

  • Abuse alcohol
  • Have type 2 diabetes
  • Are obese with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more.

What is deep vein thrombophlebitis (DVT)?

Deep vein thrombophlebitis (DVT) is a blood clot inside a vein. DVT is rare, but it can be a serious health problem if it’s not treated. Without treatment, the blood clot can travel to your heart and lungs and block blood flow. This can cause chest pain, breathing problems and, in rare cases, even death.

Blood clots also can happen in the veins around your pelvic area. This is more common if you’ve had a cesarean birth (c-section). A c-section is surgery in which your baby is born through a cut that your health care provider makes in your belly and uterus.

Signs of DVT include a high fever and tenderness, pain or swelling in your leg, especially around your calf.

Hormonal changes make all women at risk for DVT after giving birth. Other risks for DVT include:

  • Having a c-section—Your chances of having a DVT in your leg is about 3 to 5 times greater after a c-section than after a vaginal birth
  • Being obese
  • Being older than 35
  • Not being able to walk around after surgery as much as your provider wants you to

If you think you may have DVT, call your health care provider immediately. You may need to go to the hospital. Your provider may give you a blood thinner to treat the clot and prevent any new clots.

What is endometritis?

Endometritis is infection of the endometrium, the lining of the uterus (womb). Bacteria that cause endometritis grow in the uterus lining, at the spot where the placenta breaks away after birth. The placenta grows in your uterus and supplies your baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord.

Endometritis can spread through the uterus. Sometimes it reaches blood vessels in the ovaries and pelvis.

Endometritis usually happens 2 to 3 days after birth. If the infection isn’t treated, it can cause more serious health problems, like infertility.

Signs of endometritis include:

  • Abnormal or vaginal discharge that smells bad
  • Backache
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • General discomfort
  • Headache
  • Tenderness or pain in your lower belly

Call your health care provider if you have any of these signs.

If your health provider finds that you have endometritis, antibiotics (medicines that kill infection caused by bacteria) can help clear up most cases.

What is mastitis?

Mastitis is a breast infection that’s caused by bacteria. Bacteria usually get into the breast during breastfeeding.

Bacteria from your skin and your baby’s mouth can get into the breast through a crack in the skin of your nipple. Bacteria also can enter your breast through the opening to milk ducts in your nipple.

Signs of mastitis include:

  • One or both of your breasts feel sore, hard and hot.
  • One or both of your breasts swell and get red.
  • You have a fever.

Mastitis can be painful, but it usually doesn’t lead to serious health problems. Your provider may give you antibiotics (medicines that kill infection caused by bacteria) or acetaminophen (like Tylenol) to reduce your fever and help you feel better.

Even though it may hurt, it’s best to keep breastfeeding or breast pumping if you have mastitis. This helps empty your breasts and takes away some of the painful pressure. You can’t pass the infection to your baby through breast milk, so it’s safe to keep breastfeeding.

What is postpartum bleeding?

Postpartum bleeding is bleeding from the vagina after giving birth. It’s normal. However, heavy bleeding (hemorrhaging) can be a sign of other health problems. The most common causes of serious, heavy bleeding after birth are:

  • Uterine atony: This is when the muscle in your uterus (womb) doesn’t contract (tighten). When your uterus contracts, it helps manage bleeding. The placenta grows in your uterus and supplies the baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord. If you have twins or a large baby, or if you are in labor for a long time, you may be at risk of having uterine atony.
  • Retained placenta: During the third stage of labor, you deliver the placenta. If the placenta doesn’t pass within 30 minutes after your baby is born, you may have heavy bleeding.
  • Tearing: If your vagina or cervix (opening to the uterus that sits on top of the vagina) is cut or torn during birth, you may bleed heavily.

If you have serious bleeding after birth, it most likely happens when you’re still in the hospital. Your health care provider may massage your uterus or give you fluids through an IV needle into your vein. This can help stop the bleeding. She also may give you oxytocin (a hormone that can help your uterus contract). In very rare cases, a woman may need surgery or a blood transfusion.

When will my period return after the baby is born?

Your period may start again 6 to 8 weeks after giving birth if you're not breastfeeding. If you are breastfeeding, your period may not start again for months. Some women don't have a period again until they stop breastfeeding.

©2013 March of Dimes Foundation. The March of Dimes is a non-profit organization recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3).