When I was pregnant with my first child, all I wanted to do was make it to delivery. Of course, I read a few things about taking care of newborns, but I didn’t really read up on how to take care of myself post-delivery. I mostly didn’t want to think about it, because I know recovery can be different for everyone depending on how your labor and delivery goes. But one thing that just about all postpartum moms have in common is that darn baby weight.
Gaining weight during pregnancy is a good and natural thing, but once the baby’s born you don’t really need all of that extra weight. Some of it will come off naturally (birth of the baby, loss of fluids, etc.) while at least a third of it will require conscious effort to shed. I’ve never met a mom who didn’t want to lose her baby weight postpartum, and some moms struggle with it more than others. I’ve had some friends that didn’t really have to work on it, while others failed to meet the “nine months on, nine months off” goal. As I will say about all things related to motherhood, losing that baby weight is hard for a lot of us. And it’s not like losing weight during a normal season of life – you have an infant to take care of now – which means you are either sleep deprived, emotional, tired, stressed, or all of the above on any given day.
That being said, people will have advice and encouragement to give you in this area (as with all other areas), but this article will debunk three myths about losing the baby weight that I heard or read during my postpartum period.
Myth #1: If you exercise too much or eat too little, you’ll dry up your milk
If you are breastfeeding, not only do you have to provide nutrition for yourself but for your little one as well. The key to keeping your milk supply up is hydration, and drinking lots of water won’t cause you to gain weight. Now, it is important to not wear yourself out too much so that you can be strong to tend to the other needs of your baby, but if your body doesn’t get enough caloric intake to produce milk, guess where it will take it from – your fat stores that you built up during pregnancy. Your body will regulate your caloric intake and expenditure.
If you are exercising, you will need to make sure you drink even more water. The only way exercising too much can dry up your milk is if you become dehydrated. Just be mindful of how each workout affects your overall mood and physical function, and adjust as needed to do what’s best for you and your baby.
Myth #2: All the fat will melt away when you breastfeed
This myth almost sounds in opposition to myth #1. But, as I said earlier, your body budgets your caloric intake and expenditure, along with fats, vitamins, minerals, etc. So if you’re not getting enough nutrition, your body will take from your stores to produce that nutrition for the baby. If you are nutritionally depleted, you will continue to feel more tired and more likely to binge on junk food. Eating a lot of food with little to no nutritional value and then breastfeeding around the clock will harm your body more than help it.
The key to this myth is to eat highly nutritious food in frequent intervals to avoid nutritional depletion and dips in blood sugar. After I came home from the hospital, I was so hungry I ate at least every 2-3 hours. At first it was hard to make sure I ate healthy all the time, but eventually I saw the value in it and succeeded (most of the time). Although, it was always harder to eat healthy when I went for long stretches without eating or didn’t drink enough water.
Myth #3: You won’t lose any weight while you’re in the hospital
I heard from many people, “don’t be surprised if you’re the same weight when you come home from the hospital”. I believe I lost 7 pounds from labor and delivery, and lost another 3 pounds in the several days that followed. So, I’m sure that’s not everyone’s experience, but this myth is not always true either. But to lose a third of my baby weight (I gained 30 pounds total) in the first week of having my little one was a huge encouragement to me!
The fact that I lost so much weight in the hospital might be related to the fact that I had a natural labor and delivery. I don’t think labor is ever a walk in the park for anybody, but for me it was a marathon. I was in the hospital for at least 14 hours before delivery, and during that time I only drank Powerade and chewed gum. During active labor I fell asleep in between contractions I was so tired. So, if you decide (or have to) introduce medicine into your labor and delivery, you may not leave as much of the baby weight behind as I did. I’m all in favor of natural births – but I do understand they’re not for everyone. All that being said, don’t be surprised if you do lose a few pounds while in the hospital, for one reason or another.
Just like every birth story is different, every woman’s recovery is different. I hope that this post encourages you that things you may hear or read may not end up being true for you. If you do want to read more about the postpartum period, I have a whole page devoted to it! Be encouraged; postpartum is just one step in the long journey of motherhood!