New moms have a lot to think about! When to feed the baby, what to do if they cry . . . and how to focus on fitness to get rid of those extra pounds packed on during pregnancy. There is a TON of conflicting information about how to lose the baby weight. So you’re not alone if you don’t know where to start (or if sifting through fat-loss programs makes your head spin). But getting back your pre-baby body doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are my 10 fitness tips for new moms!
10 Fitness Tips for New Moms
1. Be Happy
Let’s start here. Seriously. You just had a baby — you have so much to be happy about! You’ll have plenty of time to focus on fat loss. Don’t stress because you heard how a celebrity went straight from the delivery room to her size 0 jeans. Instead, take some time to enjoy these moments. Revel in the miracle of your pregnancy and the birth of your sweet bundle of joy. They say that time flies. And it’s true. You’ll never get these first few weeks back. Remember what truly matters. Don’t miss these moments by obsessing over a few extra pounds.
2. Just Do Something
What do you do when you’re so busy you barely have time to eat a meal, let alone get a workout in? Since having Jackson, “just do something” has become my motto. It comes down to either doing something or nothing. It’s your choice. It’s ok if you can’t commit to a full workout every day. With a new baby, finding just 30 minutes in a row might be impossible some days. That’s ok! I suggest breaking the time up into 10-minute increments. From there, work your way up to 20- or 30-minute sessions. The key is to do SOMETHING! Here’s an example:
- Bodyweight squats x 10
- Squat jumps x 10
- Lunges x 10
- Pushups x 10
3. Set Realistic Goals
When it’s time to get serious about your fat loss, keep your expectations in check. It’s tempting to set unrealistic goals and then feel frustrated when we aren’t where we “should” be. Every new mom is eager to look like her old self again. However, it’s important to be patient with yourself. Give yourself some grace, and remember, it CAN be done. Just know it will take time to get your body back.
According to the Mayo Clinic, most women lose about 13 pounds (5.9 kilograms) during childbirth, including the baby’s weight, placenta, and amniotic fluid.1,7 During the first week after delivery, you’ll lose additional weight as you shed retained fluids, but the fat stored during pregnancy won’t disappear on its own.7 It might be reasonable to lose up to 1 pound (about 0.45 kilograms) a week through diet and regular exercise. It might take six months to one year to return to your pre-pregnancy weight, whether you’re breastfeeding or not.1
4. Don’t Diet
You heard about “eating for two” while pregnant, but what about now? When you’re a new mother, your body needs maximum nutrition. Immediately dropping your caloric intake to an unreasonable level isn’t healthy. It may also cause you to gain weight or damage your metabolism.8 That said, you don’t have to begin counting calories (in fact, I prefer to focus on quality over quantity).
To sustain your baby while breastfeeding and safely lose fat, consuming at least 1,800 calories per day is recommended.2 For a healthy baby AND mama, concentrate on well-balanced, healthy food choices that include essential postpartum vitamins, like foods rich in calcium, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B6, and folate.9 Remember to focus on foods that balance your hunger, energy, and cravings. If you do that, the caloric intake will take care of itself.
5. Schedule Time for Yourself
I recommend planning 20 minutes each day for YOU. It is impossible to go, go, go forever, especially for new moms trying to balance and juggle so much. We must take time to recharge. Schedule time for yourself, whether it’s morning devotions, a short time of gratitude, a leisurely walk, or even a quiet SHOWER! (Yes, there are days when you feel like a human snot rag.) Each day, take a small amount of time to recharge and refocus without distractions. It will help calm your mind, renew your energy, and decrease the stress that is a big part of the lives of new moms.
6. Understand the Hormones
Calories in vs. calories out is NOT the whole picture regarding fat loss — especially postpartum. Two key factors in sustainable fat loss are a caloric deficit (burning more calories than you consume) and balanced metabolic hormones.10
The hormonal balance becomes even more critical for new moms who are breastfeeding and can’t sustain a significant caloric deficit. Postpartum hormones are complex, but here’s the deal in a nutshell. Prolactin, the master hormone responsible for lactation, affects many systems throughout the body.3 Prolactin stimulates the production and secretion of milk, depresses fat production in the liver, and promotes the delivery of glucose and lactate to the mammary gland for enhanced fat production.11
Research shows suppression of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis at this point, which is responsible for releasing stress hormones.4 This may dampen the responses to exercise in terms of having increased energy and fat burning, and many women experience a slight lowering of their basal metabolic rate (the calories you burn at rest), as well as an increase in water and weight retention.12
7. Embrace the Endorphins
Beyond helping burn fat, exercise provides additional hormonal benefits to a new mom. It lowers stress hormones, stimulates fat-burning hormones like HGH, and releases endorphins.13 Endorphins help ease the postpartum blues that almost every new mom encounters.14 Not only does it help with depression, but just 10 to 20 minutes of exercise can help you sleep better.15
It’s also a huge help in relieving stress.13 As wonderful as it is, having a new baby in the house is stressful. You can still take advantage of those feel-good hormones even if you don’t have the time or energy to return to a full training schedule. Just squeeze in short 10- to 20-minute walks as soon (and as often) as possible.
8. Do It at Home
“Getting slim without the gym” has been my new favorite motto. As you know, there are some days when getting out of the house to exercise is not an option. The good news is you can still get fit in the comfort of your home. Don’t despair if you don’t have time to get to the gym. Remember, our goal is to do SOMETHING. And you can get a fabulous fat-burning workout in the comfort of your own home. Here are a few ways to include your kids in your workout routine:
- While holding your baby, do squats and stationary lunges for your lower body (no weights needed!)
- Lift your baby overhead (get ready for some giggles) to strengthen your arms and shoulders
- Lay on your back and do “baby chest presses”
- During those precious 30-minute nap times, grab some dumbbells and get in some rest-based training hybrid workouts, pushing hard until you can’t and then resting until you can
9. Prioritize Sleep
Getting eight hours of sleep when your baby needs you throughout the night is challenging. But being sleep-deprived will make fat loss harder. In one study, new moms who slept five hours or less a night held onto their extra pregnancy weight more than women who slept for seven hours.5 Yes, it’s much easier said than done, but don’t be afraid to ask for help from your partner, family, or friends. Also, the adage, “Sleep when the baby sleeps,” is excellent advice.
When you’re tired, your body releases cortisol and other stress hormones that can promote fat storage.6 Plus, when you’re tired, you often don’t feel like taking good care of yourself. Exhausted moms are less likely to choose healthy food and more likely to raid the pantry and load up on stimulants and sugar.6
Also, if you’re low on sleep, you are less likely to have the motivation to exercise. When you sleep, your body restores and rebuilds muscle, burns fat, and resets hormones. It’s preparing your body to be energetic, motivated, and ready for the next day.16 So, go to bed early, and until the little one is sleeping through the night, make it a priority to nap when your baby naps.
10. Find Some Accountability
Social support, whether through friends or family, is critical to reaching your long-term goals. We often feel good when we have someone who listens and relates to what we’re going through. Consider getting involved with mommy and baby fitness classes where you can work out and bond with your baby simultaneously. Or join a group workout if you belong to a gym. Group training allows us to get a great workout and develop and foster friendships — many of which reach beyond the gym’s walls.
If you don’t have a local group, connect with moms in a similar situation online. If you need a friend, join Baby Chick’s Mom with Tots Facebook group and meet other mamas seeking community. The key is establishing a built-in support system and ensuring you have someone to help you on your journey.
Knowing where to start with weight loss is difficult if you’re not an expert. Especially when you’re sleep-deprived, overwhelmed, and already have so much on your plate with a new baby! Take some of the pressure off yourself, and once again, remember: just do something. We hope these tips help with both your physical and mental state. You deserve to feel good about yourself, mama!