Oh, mamas.. we love our babies, and we give so much of ourselves to them, emotionally and physically. We are their first home as they enter this world. We change our habits, activities, and way of living to make sure we do the best we can for them. And there’s no denying it, our bodies are forever changed in some way, however big or small, whether it’s a scar, a stretch mark, or a different-looking belly. There is no magic food, beverage, exercise, or medicine that will get us back to our pre-pregnancy bodies. One of the hardest things for some of us mamas is weight gain. Despite it being a normal part of pregnancy, it still has an effect on us. Even when a change is expected, it is still something to which we must adjust. It is still something that causes stress. And if you’re looking for someone who’s been there, too, I’m right there with you mama.
Throughout my first pregnancy, I luckily didn’t have any negative feelings toward my appearance. As the number on the scale went up (and up and up), I really didn’t think much of it, or believe it. To me, it was much higher than how I felt. I figured it was all baby, placenta, and fluid, most of which would come off fairly quickly post-baby.
I really didn’t see it in the mirror either – something I said out loud at work once. A coworker responded “really?” in a tone of surprise. I laughed it off at the time, not giving it too much thought.
Fast forward to my postpartum appointments… I was disappointed that the number on the scale was actually mostly me and not the baby. I thought back on that comment from a coworker, and I began to feel sad for the first time – thinking about my baby weight… about how noticeable it was.. about what I could or should have done differently while pregnant.
I was also disappointed that breastfeeding didn’t seem to help the weight ‘fly off’ like I was told by others, including some health professionals. I felt guilty again and confused. What was I doing wrong? A little digging showed me that expecting this to happen was actually a misconception – overall research studies have not been conclusive about breastfeeding helping with postpartum weight loss. Nursing mamas often report increased feelings of hunger. Add on inadequate sleep and the stress of adding a newborn to your family, it’s no surprise that breastfeeding isn’t this magic weight loss solution.
So what do we do? First, know you are not alone. The baby weight blues are common. Despite what we see on TV, in magazines, or on social media, most new moms do not reach their pre-pregnancy weight in record time. (And those that do likely have limitless help with child care and in-home trainers that most women do not).
One of the most helpful things for me was to ditch the scale. With future pregnancies, I plan to do the same right from the start and until I am done breastfeeding (maybe even longer). I plan to be on a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ plan with my provider, and they can tell me if it’s an issue or something to worry about. I plan to feel pride in the fact that I have eaten healthy or completed a healthy activity or exercise, and not what the result of it was. (I will also not feel ashamed of the occasional splurge on salty or sweet foods, because there’s nothing wrong with it on occasion, and fries and ice cream are delicious).
I will plan to talk to someone – a family member, friends, or professionals if my feelings and thoughts are affecting my mood and day-to-day interactions. I will give myself grace and remember it’s okay to not be okay sometimes. To be disappointed that my body doesn’t look the same… does NOT make me ungrateful and does NOT mean that I love my babies any less.
I hope you know this, too mama! It’s okay to be upset, angry, or frustrated. Don’t ever have mom guilt for missing your pre-pregnancy body or wishing you could fit back into those jeans you used to. And it’s not to say you never will! Some changes are long-lasting, others are not, but the most important thing is that we love ourselves and our bodies, no matter what the size or shape. Keep the positive self-talk and affirmations going… having good self-esteem is critical to our well-being and mental health. Find a mama who’s also been there and will lift you up. And know that me and all The Mama Coaches are here for you as well, to support you, encourage you, and remind you what an amazing and beautiful mama you are, and what a great job you are doing!