This page was reviewed or revised on Thursday, October 29, 2009 1:15 PM
If you've just had a baby, you may be anxious to get back into shape. Keep in mind that the birth of your baby brings changes not only in your life but also in your weight and shape. This is a time to enjoy your new bundle of joy rather than worrying about wearing your old clothes again. You may lose weight quickly at first and then level off. Many women are discouraged to find that the last few pounds come off much slower. Most women approach their pre-pregnancy weight six months after the birth of their baby. However, it may take nine months or more to return to your previous figure. For some women, this change in shape may even be permanent. Try to focus on feeling good about yourself rather than on your size. Both you and your baby will benefit from this healthy outlook.
During pregnancy, healthy women gain as much as 10 pounds of fat as stored energy. This stored fat supplies energy needed for breastfeeding. This extra weight is slowly lost in making breast milk. By breastfeeding, you can lose this added weight faster than by bottle feeding. If you choose to breastfeed, you will need an extra 500 calories a day above your pre-pregnancy energy needs. This is equal to ½ a meat sandwich, a medium piece of fruit and 2 cups of 2% milk. These calories and the fat stored during pregnancy are used to make milk for your baby.
By following Canada's Food Guide, you can meet your added energy and nutrient needs. A diet with less than the recommended number of servings from Canada's Food Guide is not advised. So don't even think about weight loss diets when you're breastfeeding. Unhealthy eating habits can affect both the quantity and quality of the breast milk. Instead, relax and enjoy healthy eating and making milk for your baby.
More fluids are also needed. A helpful guide is to drink 8 ounces (1 cup or 250 mL) of fluid (water, juice, milk) each time you feed your baby.
If you choose to formula feed, both your nutrient and energy needs return to pre-pregnancy levels. By choosing the lower number of serving from Canada's Food Guide and being active, you can reach and maintain a healthy weight.
Unhealthy eating habits can affect how you feel and act, and how you see yourself. Losing weight faster than one pound a week can lead to lack of energy, tiredness, and irritability. This can affect your ability to cope with your baby, other family members and friends. You should be wary or diets that restrict any one food group or severely limit calorie intake. Do not trust any diet that promises quick and easy weight loss.
In the rare case of weight gain after the birth of your baby, choose foods that are lower in fat and higher in fibre more often. Being active will also help you reach and maintain a healthy weight. Your pelvic area expands during pregnancy. So it may take more time for your hips to return to their pre-pregnancy shape. You can help the return of your previous figure by being physically active and making healthy food choices more often. Begin with simple activities such as walking, biking, swimming or gardening to name a few. Slowly build a routine of regular physical activity.
You've gone through a major life change. It's better to lose weight slowly as this poses less of a health risk and will help you keep the weight off. Give yourself time to get back to what you weighed before you became pregnant. Enjoy your new baby rather than worrying too much about those pounds. They will come off in time if you make a few simple changes.
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
5th Edition. La Leche League International. 1991.
The Working Woman's Guide to Breastfeeding
A. Price and N Dana. 1987.
Feeding Your Baby in the Nineties.
L. Lambert-Legace. 1992.
You and Your Baby! The popular guide to pregnancy, birth and child care. Health and Welfare Canada. 1991.
Call your local Health Unit for your own copy of Canada's Food Guide.