New Baby, New Body
All you have to do is type #postpartum or #postpartumbody and be prepared for the onslaught of images of the remarkable weight loss body comparison pictures. It leaves me to wonder, are all of these images of these svelte bodies creating unrealistic norms for today’s new moms? And worse, what affect does it have on the mindset related to embracing our bodies’ changes post pregnancy, especially if your body does not look like those postpartum pics? We all struggle with certain aspects related to our body image, especially post baby; I have not escaped the woes of trying to embrace my new mom bod.
So with this in mind, here are ten things to keep in mind to help with your postpartum recovery, AKA the fourth trimester. Remember: stay body positive!
- Understand your body just went through a life changing transition. You grew a human and birthed a child, and possibly even went through major abdominal surgery if you underwent a cesarean section. You’re remarkable!
- Give yourself the proper time to heal. Doctors often talk about the six weeks postpartum clearance but rarely give any further recommendations about proper recovery. Take the six weeks to truly rest and focus on that beautiful life you brought into the world. (Stay tuned for a postpartum fitness feature!)
- Patience. Remember it took TEN months for your body to go through the changes needed to create your little human. Give your body that necessary time to heal and find balance.
- Dieting is not your friend. Remember this: if you want to gain weight, go on a diet. Diets are counter intuitive. Drastic calorie reduction tricks your body. You may lose water weight quickly, but your body will not burn the fat cells if it believes it’s in survival mode (often triggered by insufficient calorie intake) resulting in more weight gain in the long term. This, plus deprivation of certain types of foods, tends to lead people to yo-yo with their weight and often also leads to over indulging while “dieting.” If breastfeeding, drastic calorie reduction can often hinder milk production. Rather than focusing on calorie reduction, turn your attention towards a mindfulness of what you are eating. What are you fueling yourself with? The focus should continue on eating a colorful balanced diet well into the fourth trimester.
- Obviously your greatest focus is on nurturing your baby, but YOU need to be nurtured yourself! Get as much rest as possible. This by far has one of the greatest influences on your postpartum experience (mind and body). I know this may be harder for some, but do ask for help, whether from your partner, family, or friends. You need to sleep and if you cannot sleep when baby sleeps, then it is time to call in the troops for help.
- Hydrate! They give you that jumbo hospital water mug for a reason. Drink to thirst, which is often far more than you are used to. Your body is mostly composed of water and needs to be replenished (especially if breastfeeding). Jazz it up if you are not a fan of the basic H2O. A little strawberry basil or lemon-lime goes a long way.
- Now is not the time to be comparing. Looking at the images of the #postpartum bodies can often lead to that inner critical voice chiming in. It’s important to remember many factors go into this including genetics, your pregnancy fitness and diet, and often times, very good angles and even Photoshop. Rather than turning outward by comparing your body to others, turn inward affirming the amazing body that just went through the greatest miracle.
- When you are ready (and medically cleared) to get back into fitness, take it slow. Make sure you are checked to confirm you do not have diastitis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles) before starting any core exercises. You can do a self-check and ask your OBGYN at your second postpartum visit. Starting slow means get the baby in the stroller and go for a short walk. Gradually build up your endurance and strength. Most women experience muscle mass loss during their pregnancy, so it will take time to build your strength back. Also, be advised you still have the relaxin hormone in your body for at least six months postpartum; that means make sure you always warm up, take it slow, focus on proper form and stretch. The weakest muscles tend to be the core and back, which will also become the most important. (Take it from me, a baby wearing, breastfeeding momma who often only survived those first few months by holding, cuddling, or wearing her babe! These muscles are critical!). Create a plan with set goals. Whether it’s three twenty minute walks a week or 10 body squats a day for a week. The more clearly you define and set the goal, the more likely you are to accomplish it.
- Shoot to do at least one positive self-care activity for yourself a day during the first critical and precious months. This means even a ten minute shower (which can often feel like a day at the spa in those first few weeks). Add a luxurious lavender body scrub, or even venture into the bath (again, once medically cleared) and throw in a bath bomb. Slather your body in coconut oil (healthy for you and baby), get a pedicure, go out for a coffee (even if it’s your third of the day), or even slap on some makeup. Remember happy healthy mommy will help to have a happy healthy baby.
- Lastly, remember you are a goddess! Your incredible body brought a precious and perfect being into this world. Affirm yourself with body positive statements such as above. Understanding your body post baby may be different, but it is yours, and it is the only place you have to live, and where that beautiful baby just formerly called home.
Photo Credit: Dream Photography Studio