Giving birth was easily
one of the hardest thing s I have EVER done. My labor began on a Friday. I had contractions sporadically all throughout the day (and the day before), then around 8:00pm they became more regular and intense so I went to lie down and rest. It was a week after my due date so I knew it was very likely that the baby was finally coming. Once I laid down, the contractions kept coming. First they were 15 minutes apart, 10 minutes apart, then 5 minutes apart. I decided to go to the hospital around 11:30pm. When I got up to Labor and Delivery, they hooked me up to the monitors and let me know that my contractions were 1 minute apart. They eventually hooked me up to an IV in hopes that my contractions would slow down to give me a break in between each one. They didn’t slow down.
Long story short, baby boy didn’t come out until 9:11pm Saturday night. I only pushed for, thank God, about an hour. Even though I was up walking to the bathroom about two hours later (delayed by all of the skin to skin) I was SORE!
I start with this story about my labor and delivery, because I want to really put emphasis on the magnitude of what you do when you give birth before I say anything about getting fit postpartum. I don’t care how you gave birth-natural, epidural, at home, in a hospital, c-section, or vaginal. If you had a human being (or multiple human beings) inside of your body and they are now out of your body, you are a miracle and your body is now the site of a miracle. We need to be conscious of how monumental childbirth is and considerate of this fact as we go about getting fit postpartum. All that being said, I understand wanting to look great and feel amazing, because I wanted to look great and feel amazing after having my baby too…and eventually I did.
The best thing about my postpartum journey was I listened to my body and trusted it. Nothing felt forced. Everything was about doing what felt good, when it felt good. Pregnancy helps prep us for this by making you super aware of every inch of your body in ways you never were before. So listen carefully to your body and give it what it needs (even though sometimes it might tell you it needs its own medium cheese pizza and you know that’s a want….unless you’re me, for me it’s a need).
Full disclosure: Before giving birth, I’ve never weighed more than 135lbs (and that was from the birth control patch – also known as the devil) so I am a naturally petite woman. I gained 36lbs with my pregnancy and I lost 39lbs in the first 3 months postpartum. I wasn’t tracking weight-loss by week, but by the time I went to my late postpartum visit I had lost all of the weight plus some. I say this just as a reminder that this post is what I did postpartum that worked for me and is no way the right way for all moms. I’m sharing it in hopes that you might learn something new, be introduced to new fitness trainers, and feel more hopeful about your postpartum journey.
Did you know that it takes more calories to produce breastmilk for a baby than it does to grow one inside of your body? About 500 calories to be exact. I like to think of it as one of the few ways to burn calories with your feet kicked up. Breastfeeding also helps to shrink your uterus back to its normal size quicker postpartum. It causes your body to secrete the hormone oxytocin, which causes your uterus to contract, helping it return back to its normal size postpartum. Plus, the longer you do it, the healthier it is for you and your baby (and yes, it gets easier with time).
For me, this came really easy postpartum, because I was thirsty! Drinking water helped me feel replenished, woke me up when I needed a pick me up for a late night/early morning feeding, and had several health benefits that I’m sure you’ve heard before so I won’t bore you here with. I will say that, in addition to just drinking water, what you put in your water can have different impacts on your weight loss journey. I, personally, love putting cucumbers and lemon in my water and did this pre-baby anyway to increase my water intake. It makes the water so fresh and yummy. It helps to quench your thirst while simultaneously curbing your hunger and craving for unhealthy snacks or drinks. It also aids in ridding your body of toxins and excess bloating. I used to hate water, but I’ve gotten to a point where if I don’t drink enough water, my body craves it…and I listen to it. Postpartum I started using two large infuser water bottles that I would fill with lemon and cucumber. I would keep one in the freezer, while drinking the other, because I like my water Gucci Man cold.
(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, we receive a small commission if you make a purchase using the link.)
Being patient with yourself postpartum is so important. It’s easy to get caught up in pictures of what you looked like before the baby or pictures of other moms after their babies with their belly buttons tapping their spines, but getting into good shape after delivering a baby takes time and you have to be patient with yourself and your body. If you go too hard too soon and hurt yourself, you can cause yourself serious harm and set yourself back.
I was anxious to start working out around 4 weeks, but I stayed patient and waited six weeks before I started working out at all. It was important for me to remember that there is no rush. It took me 10 months and one week, to get to where I was by the end of my pregnancy (pictured here exactly 20 days before giving birth and moments before getting engaged =D) and it really isn’t realistic to expect my stomach to be completely flat 6 weeks later. No matter what you see online or in the magazines, it is a process and every body is different.
Even while I was being patient with my body, I was able to be a little active while simultaneously spending time with my bambino. After a few weeks, I started taking him for short walks every day. We were still waiting for our stroller to come in so I just strapped him to my body and we went for short walks. Now, where I live there are a lot of hills so the walks were a little taxing if I went too far, but as long as I paced myself and drank water it was really nice. It was an opportunity to slowly build my strength back, get some fresh air with my baby, and it’s something we still do.
The jury is still out on whether a belly band itself helps you shed the pounds postpartum, but it most definitely makes moving easier which encourages you to move more. In those first few weeks, walking felt like a chore, but with my band I felt so much more support. After you give birth, your abs feel like jelly but you still have fluid and a larger uterus so having some assistance with lifting that extra weight up will really support your lower back, improve your posture, and make walking so much easier. I wore my band on and off for a little over a month after having JT. I used the same band that I used throughout my pregnancy too, so that was nice on the pockets.
Back to the mental component of this experience. Growing a human baby (or babies for you super super woman out there) is extremely trying on the body. It will stretch you and mold you in ways you never knew were possible. It’s easy to look at yourself in the mirror after (or during)your pregnancy and think, who in the world is this woman looking back at me? And that version of Milan is not cute. But, it’s so important to remember that you just did the most amazing and one of the hardest things in the world.
Celebrate the little wins!
8 weeks after giving birth, I posted a picture on Instagram with my stomach out. Was I where I wanted to be fully? No. Was I uber proud of myself for how far I’d come? (A hardy) hell yes!
I read a quote from the beautiful and always inspirational Kerry Washington that said,
“I’ve been really focused on not being ‘back’ to anything, but being the best version of myself right now. My body is the site of a miracle now. I don’t want to be pre-miracle.”
I love love love this quote and let it guide me through my postpartum journey. We really have to be careful about our language and how we talk about ourselves and view ourselves and what goals we set. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be fit or healthy, but placing the focus on looking the way you looked at a different time in your life can be really emotionally damaging.
If you notice throughout this article I have not used any “back to” or “pre-baby body” language, because I don’t think that should be the focus. I look at pictures of myself when I was pregnant way more than I look at pictures of myself before I was pregnant. Every day is not the same, but I’ve learned to be understanding towards my body and let go of the fact that some days I’ll be bloated and other days I’ll look like I’m on a diet. Even the days I’m displeased with the skin that’s still saggy around my belly button, I have to remind myself just how much that skin was stretched out. Even if it is never tight in that region again, it does not make me any less beautiful or amazing. The goal is to be healthy and love the way you look, not perfection, not what you see on Instagram, and one of the most important things is to keep a positive, loving mindset towards yourself.
Now that that’s out of the way GET YOUR ASS ON THE FLOOR AND GIVE ME 50 CRUNCHES. Just kidding, crunches are probably one of the least effective ab exercises and I never do them.
I tried a couple different types of exercises postpartum that were really effective and some that could have been effective if I stuck to them. I learned that some exercises I don’t like to do to get fit and others I don’t like to do at all. What I mean by this is, I love doing pilates for fitness but, oddly enough, I do not like doing yoga for fitness. Yoga definitely is effective for weight loss and I do it often, but for me, I prefer to do yoga to relax, stretch, or prepare for meditation. I also did some cardio exercises after 6 weeks that were REALLY effective, but after about 12 weeks, I let that go because to be really honest, I don’t like sweating (don’t judge me). I know different exercises work for different people so I’ll list all of the different workouts I tried below for you to try. On top of the physical benefits, I found that working out made me feel really good, mentally, when I first started back up (sweat or not). When I finished, I always felt really proud of myself and energized.
- Call me old school, but Denise Austin is my all time favorite Pilates instructor. She’s so encouraging and pleasant and her workouts WORK. If you’re not familiar with pilates, I would recommend starting off easy and then building up to more intense workouts, both only 10 minutes.
- Now for those of you who want to feel the burn and see results QUICK (like I’m talking within days (for me) quick), the workout you want is Jillian Michaels 6 pack in 6 weeks 35 minute workout. As you may know, Jillian is intense but this workout gives you the option of a couple different levels and it reallllly works your core out.
- For those of you who want to use yoga, a highly effective path, as a method to get fit or just to become more centered, my favorite yoga instructor is Boho Beautiful Yoga on YouTube. The cool thing about yoga is you can do yoga focused on your core or just regular ol’ yoga, either way you’re going to get some type of core workout. Yoga is also great to stretch your muscles before or after a cardio workout. (She also has great pilates videos too.)
- On really busy days, when I just wanted a straight to the point ab exercise, this Fitness Blenders video got the job done, quick and dirty.
No matter your poison, get your mat (leaving your mat out on the floor is a great way to guilt yourself into sticking to your plan), get on the floor, and get at least 10 minutes of some type of workout done every day. For me, switching it up was the best way to stick to it consistently, so create a schedule.
M, W, F: 10 min Fitness Blenders
Tues./Thurs.: Pilates with Denise Austin
Saturday: Cardio with Jillian
Sunday: Yoga with Boho Beautiful
Boom, bam, done.
Several Little Meals
Last but not least, of course what you eat makes a major impact on your postpartum fitness. Now, because I breastfed, I was HUNGRY all of the time, especially in the beginning. I remember hearing about needing to intake at least 500 more calories per day to keep up with breastfeeding and thinking how in the world am I going to eat more food? My appetite didn’t pick up that much during my pregnancy, I actually probably ate less and drank more, especially being nauseous the first 3 months. Surprisingly, after I gave birth, my appetite was present and on time and continued to increase the first few weeks.
Wanting to eat wasn’t the problem, figuring out what to eat was. Luckily, because I was hungry all of the time, I was finally able to start eating the way health gurus tell you to: several smaller meals throughout the day instead of the traditional 3 large meals.
When you’re home with a little baby keeping you busy, you don’t have much time to cook unless you have a super sweety pie helping you with the baby or cooking for you. Here are some easy healthy snacks to eat in between meals to keep you satisfied:
- Peanut butter and apple slices
- Oatmeal with banana slices (or just about whatever fruit you want)
- Whole grain toast with avocado slices, roasted tomato, and basil on top
- Green smoothies
- Homemaid Yogurt Parfait
- Hummus and veggies
- Trader Joe’s Vegan Chili and crackers
- Quinoa and kale salad
I truly wish you the best postpartum recovery and pray that you are not too hard on yourself. If you are tempted to be hard on yourself, do me a favor and imagine how patient and loving you would be if your child was trying to lose weight. You wouldn’t call them fat, ugly, and lazy, would you? So don’t do that to yourself. Remember who made that little baby that you love so much and be good to her too.
With Lots of Love,