Lose That Baby Weight: Weight Control Tips For New Mothers

Tuesday, January 30, 2007 - 11:45am

By Katie Clark, MPH, RD

When some new moms think of losing their baby weight, their eyes wander toward the magazine covers in the supermarket checkout line. How do those celebrities lose their baby weight? Well, if starvation and a phalanx of personal attendants are within your means, then keep on reading those magazines! But for the new moms with a more realistic approach to post-partum weight loss, here are a few tips.

Avoid the “eating for two” trap

Avoiding unnecessary weight gain during pregnancy is the easiest approach to avoiding extra fat after pregnancy. Most women can and should gain somewhere in the range of 25-35 pounds during their pregnancy. During the first trimester, you should gain only 2-4 pounds. After that, a pound a week is a good rule of thumb. Record your weight at regular intervals throughout your pregnancy and talk with your doctor at checkups if your weight gain rate is too fast or too slow. Weighing yourself daily or weekly after pregnancy will help you keep close tabs on what is working and what is not.

How do women gain far more than the recommended 25-35 pounds during pregnancy? They are likely victims of the “eating for two” school of thought. Keep track of your actual caloric intake before, during and after pregnancy. During the first trimester you do not need to increase your caloric intake at all. During the second trimester you need an additional 350 calories and in the third trimester you can add another 150 to that.

Make time for exercise whilst you are pregnant

The amount of energy you expend in exercise is the greatest determinant of your total energy expenditure. The same holds true during and after pregnancy. Carrying a child, and then caring for a child are exhausting responsibilities and the average woman struggles to find time to herself for exercise.

Research shows that exercising regularly reduces fat deposits during mid- and late-pregnancy. Women who exercise during pregnancy have fewer complications during birth and lower rates of gestational diabetes. Exercising after birth is essential for weight loss. Some ideas include:

  • Get a durable, outdoor stroller and take your infant for a daily stroll.
  • Swap babysitting responsibilities with another new mom under the premise that you both use the time for personal exercise.
  • Join a “Mommy-and-me” yoga or exercise class.

You should aim to get one hour of physical activity at least five times per week. The exercise can be cumulative, so if you can’t swing an hour, find two or three shorter periods throughout the day to get moving.

For more information on exercising during pregnancy see the following article from TheDietChannel: Exercise During Pregnancy: What You Should Know?

Remember: Calories do count

Motherhood is nutritionally demanding, and breastfeeding is especially so. You cannot drastically restrict your caloric intake and still adequately provide enough breast milk for your child. During the first six months of breastfeeding, you need an additional 330 calories per day. You need 400 extra calories per day during the second six-month period. Be careful, this may sound like a lot, but 330-400 calories can be easily obtained with a number of small meals and snacks, such as:

  • A turkey sandwich with two slices of cheese and two slices of whole wheat bread
  • One cup of cereal with 1/2 cup of skim milk and a large banana
  • A low-fat yogurt, an apple and a small bagel

Avoid eating too much during breastfeeding to prevent further weight gain. If you are overweight, you may not need as many calories when breastfeeding. If you are not breastfeeding, it may be appropriate to begin gradually reducing the amount of calories you eat, but be wary of any diet or nutrition plan advocating less than 1,800 calories per day. It is unlikely that you can safely lose weight at ultra-low calorie levels and still obtain adequate nutrients.

Strike a balance between healthy diet and exercise for post-pregnancy weight loss

Your post-partum diet needs to consist of a few things, namely:

  • Small, frequent meals
  • 25-30 grams of daily fiber, whole grains and fruits and vegetables
  • At least 2 liters of water
  • Lean protein sources
  • Limited amounts of concentrated sweets
  • Continued prenatal vitamins, with a physician’s supervision

Working with a registered dietitian is an ideal way to determine your exact calorie needs for post-pregnancy weight loss. Feeding your child and taking care of your family are important priorities, but the key is making time for yourself to construct a healthful diet and a regular exercise plan.