From the moment the baby weight starts to accumulate on our bodies, the scheming begins about how to drop the pounds once the little one arrives. After your baby is born and your days gradually begin to regain somewhat of a routine, it’s time to put your ideas into action. If you’re not sure exactly how to begin, here are seven proven steps for working your way back to your prepregnancy bod—or better!
1. Get up and move
Most new moms are too sleep-deprived and overwhelmed to even think about exercise. That’s perfectly OK, says exercise physiologist and postpartum-fitness expert Renee M. Jeffreys, M.S. Most women’s bodies aren’t ready for serious exercise until six weeks after giving birth, anyway—longer if they’ve had a Cesarean section.
Start by walking around the block, Jeffreys says. If it feels good and doesn’t cause or exacerbate bleeding, walk a little farther the next day. Do this until your six-week checkup, after which you should be ready to do 20 to 30 minutes of cardio 3 to 5 times a week.
You don’t even have to leave your neighborhood: The Surgeon General says that pushing a stroller 1-2 miles in 30 minutes burns 150 calories. So does walking up and down stairs for 15 minutes.
Need some more ideas to get moving? Squeeze in a quickie workout that you can do with your baby, or try some ab rehab. And if you're looking to have better post-baby sex, make sure you do your Kegels.
When you’re breastfeeding, you need an extra 500 calories a day, or about 2,700 total. But since breastfeeding burns 600 to 800 calories a day, even if all you do is sit comfortably and feed your baby, you could still be losing weight.
Some lucky women can drop all their baby fat, and then some, through breastfeeding alone. That happened to Tiffany Tinson of Bronxville, N.Y. Six months after giving birth to her first child, Connor, Tinson had dipped to 10 pounds below her prepregnancy weight, even though she was eating more and not exercising much. “I attribute it all to breastfeeding,” she says.
But be aware that as soon as you stop or taper off breastfeeding, or begin supplementing your baby’s diet with solids, your calorie needs will plummet. You could really pack on the weight if you don’t adjust your diet downward and/or your exercise routine upward.
3. Lift weights, get strong
Weight training will go a long way toward speeding up your metabolism. However, instead of going to the gym or investing in a set of dumbbells right away, Jeffreys suggests incorporating your baby into your routine. Hold the baby to your chest and do lunges, say, or do lunges behind the stroller as you walk. Or lie on your back, holding the baby above your chest, and slowly press her up toward the ceiling several times.
If you’re unsure about what you’re doing, hire a personal trainer with a certification in prenatal and postnatal fitness for a few weeks to get you on the right track.