Healthy Tips for Losing Weight after Pregnancy

During pregnancy, every woman gains weight, usually 15-35 pounds. These added pounds are perfectly normal and contribute to optimal health for your newborn. Unfortunately, after childbirth, the added weight doesn't all magically disappear now that it is no longer needed. While many diets and workout plans exist for weight loss, most of these plans are totally unsuitable--even potentially harmful--for postpartum moms. You can, however, lose all your pregnancy pounds and keep them off without risking damage to your body by following these healthy tips for losing weight after pregnancy.

Get Plenty of Sleep

Okay, you're saying, sleep is not a weight loss tool. But studies have shown that getting enough sleep has as much impact on post-pregnancy weight loss as diet and exercise. Women who sleep more than seven hours per day are three times more likely to lose significant weight in the year after giving birth than those who sleep less than five hours. Researchers believe this is partly due to sleep deprivation affecting hormones that control appetite and promote weight gain. Exhaustion due to lack of sleep also makes you less likely to take care of yourself in other ways, such as getting enough exercise and making sure you eat nutritious meals as opposed to junk food.

Still, you may think, "Easier said than done; those researchers should try sleeping through the night with a crying baby." The best solution to this problem is to catch a few hours of sleep during the day as well as the night. It also helps to have someone else tend to the baby at least some of the time.

Breastfeed

Sound too easy to be true? It's not. Women who breastfeed burn up to 500 calories per day because of the extra demands of producing nutrient-rich milk. Studies have repeatedly shown that women who breastfeed are more likely to lose all their pregnancy weight. Breastfeeding your baby also greatly increases the amount of weight you are likely to lose in the first six months. Doctors recommend breastfeeding for at least the first six months for the health of the child, so you'll be helping your little one and helping yourself at the same time.

Eat a Nutritious Diet

You may be tempted to try a low calorie diet to lose the weight you gained during pregnancy. However, excessively rapid weight loss is more likely to be regained, and if you are breastfeeding, you can actually harm your baby's health with a crash diet. Rapid weight loss produces toxins that can make their way into your breast milk. Eating too little can also reduce your milk supply, and what you eat may affect the nutrient value of your milk.

On the other hand, there are positive steps you can take to help lose weight while getting plenty of nourishment for both you and your baby. Eating more often helps keep your metabolism elevated, so the same amount of nutrients from five or six small, wholesome meals a day will keep you leaner than three large meals. And a balanced, nutritious diet emphasizing whole foods will help you feel better and be more active than a diet high in processed junk foods.

Drink Plenty of Water

Especially if you are breastfeeding, it's important to stay hydrated. Drinking water also helps reduce appetite and may increase your metabolism. Juice and decaffeinated tea can also be good fluid sources, but water doesn't add to your caloric intake. Avoid drinks with caffeine such as coffee and some teas, and especially avoid soda, because of all the additives. While a good health tip in general, this is particularly important if you are breastfeeding.

Exercise

Don't worry--there's no need to embark on an intensive regimen designed for Olympic athletes. Instead, start out with simple but effective activities that won't overly stress your body but will help you get back in shape. While a minimum of 20 minutes is usually recommended for aerobic workouts, new mothers will usually want to start out with 10 minute walks and gradually work their way up to longer sessions. Walking a total of two and a half hours a week, or just over 20 minutes a day, is enough to give your muscles a useful workout and get your metabolism going.

And your new baby can actually help with these activities! Pushing a stroller is a great activity the two of you can enjoy together and burns more calories than walking alone does. Simply carrying your baby around is a workout in itself, of course, and with the help of a baby carrier, it's easier to spend more time walking around with your baby.

Exercise also carries additional health benefits for a new mother. The endorphins your increased activity produces reduce stress and improve relaxation. Regular exercise also helps you sleep longer and more deeply.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Too much exercise too soon can actually be extremely damaging to your health. Avoid high impact, high stress activities such as jogging or weight lifting for at least the first two months after giving birth, and four months is probably a better length of time to wait if you had a C-section. And when you do start running or lifting weights, start off carefully to see how your body feels, and gradually ease into more difficult workouts. After giving birth, your body needs time to recover before you resume highly intensive exercise.

If you feel pressure to get back to your old self right away, remember that slower weight loss is more likely to become permanent weight loss. A normal healthy weight loss after pregnancy is about .5 to 2 lbs a week. It took you 9 months to gain all this weight; don't try to lose it overnight!