It’s super common for a new mom to have “baby blues” in the first weeks postpartum. Hormones are fluctuating, sleep is lacking and life has just changed big-time—it’s only natural to experience some moodiness. However, your body image doesn’t have to be part of your woes, especially if you approach this time in your life realistically. Amy Levi, professor of midwifery at the University of New Mexico, recommends, “It’s best not to have expectations since every woman will have a different path to her new body, and it may never look like it did before pregnancy.”
Cut yourself some slack, and don’t pack your prebaby skinny jeans in your hospital bag. “Whatever you wore and loved when you were six months pregnant, start with that and work your way backward through your maternity clothes until you’re back in real clothes,” suggests mom Elisabeth Rice of Portland, Oregon. “And at the point you’re back to your ‘normal’ size, know that the numbers might not be the same anymore.” Wear what’s comfortable and flattering at present, even if that means buying a few new items, and don’t lose sleep over the number on the tag. (Come on, you’re losing enough sleep as it is!)
Easing into weight loss
The first three months postpartum have been dubbed baby’s “fourth trimester.” And you know what? It’s a fourth trimester for mama, too. This should be a period of healing after 40 weeks of physical stress and an intense experience in the delivery room. It’s a time to figure out breastfeeding, bond with your baby and squeeze in as much rest as possible. During this time, at least for the first six weeks, don’t put any pressure on yourself to lose weight, diet or start a new fitness regimen.
“If you do too much too soon, stress increases, and it’s harder to lose weight,” warns Erica Ziel, founder of Knocked-Up Fitness and The Core Rehab Program. “Pretend like you’re still pregnant, and do your third trimester exercises in those first couple months.” Ziel recommends light movements, good posture and walking. Walking is one of the best ways to regain strength and reconnect with your body during the fourth trimester. Levi likewise urges new moms to keep moving; a daily walk for 20 or 30 minutes will impact both physical and emotional well-being, she promises.
Where nutrition is concerned, you’re always going to feel better when you’re eating natural, healthy foods. Just make sure you’re taking in plenty of calories to support healing and breastfeeding. Get all the basics—protein, calcium, fruits and veggies—but don’t stress out about maintaining a picture-perfect meal plan right now. Want to treat yourself to an occasional bowl of ice cream? Do it!