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  2. Adjusting to motherhood
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Post-Pregnancy Weight Loss: What to Eat and What to Skip

Weight gain helps support a healthy pregnancy for both mom and baby. For some people, shedding the extra pounds gained during pregnancy can be difficult. Learn what foods can help you achieve a healthy, sustainable weight.

During pregnancy, many people gain some extra pounds. This extra weight comes from the growth occurring within you. A growing baby, the placenta, amniotic fluid, breast enlargement, and other factors all contribute to this extra weight.

Additionally, pregnancy often prompts additional fat deposits in certain areas of the body. This fat acts as a reserve of energy for giving birth and in the challenging months that follow.

These extra pounds — also known as baby weight — are totally normal after giving birth. However, health care providers generally advise increasing your activity and modifying your diet postpartum to avoid potential health issues.

By making several tweaks to your diet, here’s how to lose weight after having a baby.

If you are trying to lose weight after giving birth, stay away from rigorous “crash” diets. A balanced diet will not only keep you healthy but also supports breastfeeding and recovery from vaginal or cesarean delivery. When planning your meals, here are some items that can provide the best diet after pregnancy to boost the health of you and your new baby:

  • Whole-grain cereals
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Low-fat dairy or soy products
  • Eggs
  • Legumes
  • Water

When preparing your plate, you can fill half of your plate with vegetables or fruit, accompanied by whole grains. This will promote healthy, sustainable weight loss while helping you feel fuller for longer.

Fortified, low-fat cow’s milk, cheese, and yogurt provide much-needed vitamins D and B (especially B12, which is essential for infant brain development), as well as calcium. 

Sometimes cow-based dairy products can create digestive issues for your baby. Paying attention to your baby’s diaper contents and using only pasteurized dairy products can help avoid these potential concerns. 

Whole-grain foods like brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and oatmeal are inexpensive, accessible options if you are thinking about how to lose weight. They provide plenty of fiber, which improves your digestive health and helps you feel more satisfied after meals. If you are breastfeeding, you’ll probably need an extra 450 to 500 calories per day, compared to your pre-pregnancy intake.

Eat fruits and vegetables, especially as a quick, easy snack. They offer an abundance of vitamins and minerals that support you and your baby’s health. Dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale, and chard also provide key minerals and vitamins A, C, E, and K.

Eggs and legumes contain protein and some vitamin D, which support healthy skin and eyesight. Your body relies on fuel after delivery to repair skin and muscle tissue that stretched during pregnancy. Fish, flaxseed (ground or oil), broccoli, cantaloupe, kidney beans, spinach, cauliflower, walnuts, and eggs also contain omega-3 fatty acids like DHA that support your baby’s brain development during pregnancy and breastfeeding. 

Also, drinking enough water can help flush out waste and encourage a healthy metabolism.

If you are breastfeeding, your appetite will increase, and you’ll need more calories to support milk production. Your appetite is also affected by your age, body mass index, activity level, and breastfeeding schedule.

For some people, this appetite boost can increase cravings. This is totally normal! Plan ahead for which healthy foods can meet your taste preferences. Doctors recommend avoiding or limiting the following foods during and after pregnancy:

  • Alcohol
  • Coffee
  • Fried or greasy foods
  • Fizzy soft drinks
  • Some seafood

Alcohol enters breast milk, which means it passes to the baby. Also, excessive alcohol consumption during breastfeeding can affect an infant’s sleep and early development. Some studies show that drinking alcohol reduces the amount of breast milk people produce.

Like alcohol, the caffeine in coffee can also enter breast milk, but consuming low to moderate amounts (about two to three cups of coffee per day) is safe for people who breastfeed their infants. Too much caffeine can make a baby irritable, gassy, and fussy with disturbed sleeping patterns.

Fried and greasy foods contain too much fat, especially for people who want to lose weight. Also, for people thinking about how to lose weight after cesarean delivery, these fatty foods can interfere with the body’s healing process.

Similarly, your doctor may advise staying away from fizzy drinks. These beverages make you bloated and can put stress on the abdominal wall, which is especially uncomfortable after cesarean delivery. They also contain lots of empty calories that can lead to gaining weight after your baby’s delivery.

In a post-pregnancy diet plan, not all fish and seafood is helpful. A lot of seafood contains mercury (such as bigeye tuna, king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, and tilefish), which is toxic. Instead, you can go for anchovy, crab, sardine, shrimp, oyster, salmon, and others.

During pregnancy, the body prepares for breastfeeding by increasing its fat stores. (Fat is a great source of energy.)

As a result, you may wonder if breastfeeding will help the body shed this excess fat. The answer is yes, it does. Your body breaks down these fat cells, together with calories from your diet, to produce milk and support breastfeeding.

By following a balanced diet that contains a variety of low-calorie, high-fiber foods, you can gradually lose weight as you breastfeed. This also promotes healthy habits for you and your baby.

To strengthen their body after baby delivery, some people may be tempted to try crash diets or do intense cardio sessions. 

Although this might yield some short-term results, it has some drawbacks. Rapid fat loss releases toxins, which end up in the breast milk, making it less nutritious for the baby. Realistically, modifying your diet or doing regular exercise can help you lose up to one pound (0.5 kilogram) a week. On average, most people reach their pre-pregnancy weight after about six months or more, regardless of whether they’re breastfeeding.

By eating well and slowly increasing your activity, you’ll be equipped to avoid any weight gain after pregnancy. If you have any concerns about your diet or weight, please speak to your health care provider.

During pregnancy, a person usually gains 11 to 40 pounds, depending on their pre-pregnancy weight and lifestyle. This weight gain is due to the growing baby, the enlarged uterus, and the placenta. Amniotic fluid, increased breast tissue, fat, and blood also add to this poundage.

When you give birth, some of this weight is lost. Depending on the size of your baby, you can lose about half of the weight after delivery. The weight of the baby, amniotic fluid, and placenta is lost.

But this still leaves half of the weight gain to shed later.

Two questions remain: how much weight do you lose after giving birth, and when will you lose it?

While many people lose a significant portion of their pregnancy weight in six months after delivery, others take a bit longer. Factors like activity level, hormone changes, and stress can also affect your metabolism.

There is no single right weight after pregnancy — as everyone has a different experience. However, with a balanced, healthy diet and exercise (at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week, such as brisk walking), you’ll be on your way toward sustainable, achievable weight loss.

“Weight loss after pregnancy: Reclaiming your body.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Accessed July 31, 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth/weight-loss-after-pregnancy/art-20047813.

“Weight Gain During Pregnancy.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Accessed January 17, 2019, www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/pregnancy-weight-gain.htm.

“Vitamin B12.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Accessed December 14, 2019, www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/diet-and-micronutrients/vitamin-b12.html.

“Risks from Unpasteurized Dairy Products.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Accessed February 9, 2019, www.cdc.gov/brucellosis/exposure/unpasteurized-dairy-products.html.

“Nutrition During Pregnancy.” ACOG, Accessed June 2020, www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/nutrition-during-pregnancy.

“Healthy Pregnant or Postpartum Women.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Accessed September 17, 2020, www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pregnancy/.

“Maternal Diet.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Accessed October 8, 2020, www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/diet-and-micronutrients/maternal-diet.html.

“What Causes Stretch Marks during Pregnancy?” ACOG, Accessed January 18, 2021, www.acog.org/womens-health/experts-and-stories/ask-acog/what-causes-stretch-marks-during-pregnancy.

“Alcohol.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Accessed January 18, 2021, www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/vaccinations-medications-drugs/alcohol.html.

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