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 out there about how to lose the baby weight. If you’re not an expert, it isn’t easy to know where to start. Especially when you’re sleep-deprived, overwhelmed, and already have so much else on your plate!
If you don’t know where to start (or if sifting through fat loss programs makes your head spin), you’re not alone. But getting back your pre-baby body doesn’t have to be complicated . . . Here are my 10 fitness tips for new moms.
1. Be happy!
Let’s start here. Seriously. You just had a baby–you have a lot to be happy about! You 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 today. In fact, with a new baby, some days finding just 30 minutes in a row might be impossible. 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 as you can. The key is to do SOMETHING… Here’s an example:
- Bodyweight squats x 10
- Squat jumps x 10
- Lunges x 10
- Push-ups x 10
3. Set realistic goals!
When it does come time to get serious about your fat loss, make sure you 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 our old selves again. However, it’s important to remember to be patient with yourself. Give yourself some grace and remember, it CAN be done. Just know that it’s going to take time to get your body back.
The National Women’s Health Information Center advises that about one pound per week is a safe amount of weight to lose postpartum, and will not affect your milk supply or the baby’s growth. With the average woman gaining about 25-35 pounds during pregnancy and typically losing around 18 to 20 in the first month, that final 10 pounds will push your postpartum fat loss goal to several months after baby arrives.
4. Don’t Diet.
You heard all about “eating for two” while you were 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 do long term damage to your metabolism. That said, you don’t have to begin count calories (in fact, I prefer to focus on quality over quantity).
To give you an idea of what you need to sustain your baby while you are breastfeeding and safely lose fat, the National Women’s Health Information Center advises consuming at least 1,800 calories per day. For a healthy baby AND momma, concentrate on well-balanced, healthy food choices that include foods rich in calcium, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B6, and folate. Remember to focus on foods that keep your hunger, energy, and cravings balanced. If you do that, the caloric intake will take care of itself.
5. Schedule time for YOU!
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 heck–even a just 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 when it comes to fat loss–especially postpartum. There are two key factors in sustainable fat loss: a caloric deficit (burning more calories than you consume) and balanced metabolic hormones.
But for new moms who are breastfeeding and can’t sustain a significant caloric deficit, the hormonal balance becomes even more critical. Postpartum hormones are complex, but here’s the deal in a nutshell. Prolactin, the master hormone responsible for lactation, affects a large number of systems throughout the body. 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.
Research shows there is also a suppression of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis at this point, which is responsible for the release of the stress hormones. 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.
7. Embrace the endorphins!
Beyond helping you burn the baby fat, exercise provides additional hormonal benefits to a new mom. In addition to lowering stress hormones and stimulating fat-burning hormones like HGH, exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins help ease the postpartum blues that almost every new mom encounters. Not only does it help with depression, but just 10 to 20 minutes of exercise can help you sleep better. It’s also a huge help in relieving stress. As wonderful as it is, having a new baby in the house is stressful. Even if you don’t have the time or energy to get back into a full training schedule, you can still take advantage of those feel-good hormones. 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 that you can still get fit in the comfort of your home. Don’t despair if you feel like 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 just a few ideas:
- While holding baby, do squats and stationary lunges for your lower body (no weights needed!)
- Lift 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. For rest-based training
9. Prioritize sleep!
It’s challenging to get a full eight hours of sleep when your baby needs you throughout the night. 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. 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 still great advice.
When you’re tired, your body releases cortisol and other stress hormones that can promote fat storage. Plus, when you’re tired, you don’t feel like taking good care of yourself. Moms who are exhausted are less likely to choose healthy food and are more likely to raid the pantry and load up on stimulants and sugar.
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. 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.
Find 10 tips for moms to get more sleep HERE.
10. Find some accountability!
Social support, whether through friends or family, is key to reaching your long-term goals. We feel good when we have someone who listens and can relate to what we’re going through. Consider getting involved with mommy and baby fitness classes where you can workout and bond with your baby at the same time. Or join a group workout if you belong to a gym. Group training allows us not just to get a great workout, but to develop and foster friendships–many of which reach beyond the walls of the gym.
If you don’t have a local group, connect with moms in a similar situation as you online. If you need a friend, connect to some mamas via Baby Chick’s popular Moms with Tots Facebook group, we’ll keep you accountable! The key is to establish a built-in support system and to make sure you have someone to help you on your journey.