You should plan to return to your pre-pregnancy weight by 6 to 12 months after delivery. Most women lose half of their baby weight by 6 weeks after childbirth (postpartum). The rest usually comes off over the next several months.
A healthy diet with daily exercise will help you shed the pounds. Breastfeeding can also help with postpartum weight loss.
Take Your Time
Your body needs time to recover from childbirth. If you lose weight too soon after childbirth, it can take longer for you to recover. Give yourself until your 6-week checkup before trying to slim down. If you are breastfeeding, wait until your baby is at least 2 months old before you try to lose weight.
Aim for a weight loss of about a pound and a half a week. You can do this by eating less food and getting more exercise.
To do this, cut out 500 calories a day from your current diet. Ask your doctor how many calories you need each day.
DO NOT drop below the minimum number of calories you need.
If you are breastfeeding, you will want to lose weight slowly. Weight loss that happens too fast can make you produce less milk. Losing about a pound and a half a week will not affect your milk supply or your health.
Breastfeeding makes your body burn calories. It helps you lose weight. If you are patient, you may be surprised at how much weight you lose naturally while breastfeeding.
Eat to Lose Weight
These healthy eating tips will help you lose weight safely.
DO NOT skip meals. With a new baby, many new moms forget to eat. If you do not eat, you will have less energy, and it will not help you lose weight.
Eat 5 to 6 small meals a day with healthy snacks in between (rather than 3 larger meals).
Eat breakfast. Even if you do not normally eat in the mornings, get into the habit of having breakfast. It will give you energy to start your day and stop you from feeling tired later.
Slow down. When you take your time eating, you will notice that it is easier to tell that you are full. You will be less likely to overeat.
Choose nonfat milk and dairy products. Look for low-fat or fat-free dairy products. You do not need to drink whole milk in order to make good breast milk.
When you reach for a snack, choose fruits and vegetables. Foods like apples, oranges, berries, bananas, carrots, and pepper strips are great snack choices. They are low in fat, but high in vitamins and fiber.
Drink 8 or 9 cups of liquids a day. Drinking water helps your body flush out fat. Limit drinks like sodas, juices, and other fluids with sugar and calories. They can add up and keep you from losing weight.
Choose broiled or baked rather than fried foods.
Limit sweets, sugar, and fat.
Do Not Crash and Burn
DO NOT go on a crash diet (not eating enough) or a fad diet (popular diets that limit certain types of foods and nutrients). They will probably make you drop pounds at first. But those first few pounds you lose are fluid and will come back.
Other pounds you lose on a crash diet may be muscle instead of fat. You will gain back any fat you lose on a crash diet once you return to normal eating.
You may not be able to return to your exact pre-pregnancy weight or shape. For many women, pregnancy causes lasting changes in the body. You may have a softer belly, wider hips, and a larger waistline. Make your goals about your new body realistic.
A healthy diet combined with regular exercise is the best way to shed the pounds. Exercise will help you lose fat instead of muscle.
Once you are ready to start losing weight, eat a little less and move a little more each day. It may be tempting to push yourself into a hard routine for fast weight loss. But rapid weight loss is not healthy and is hard on your body.
DO NOT overdo it. Just a quick walk around the block with your baby in the stroller is a great way to add exercise to your daily routine.
Berger AA, Peragallo-Urrutia A, Nicholson WK. Systematic review of the effect of individual and combined nutrition and exercise interventions on weight, adiposity and metabolic outcomes after delivery: evidence for developing behavioral guidelines for post-partum weight control. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 2014;14. Accessed Nov. 24, 2014.
Mottola MF. Exercise prescription for overweight and obese women: pregnancy and postpartum. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. 01 Jun 2009; 36:301-16, viii.
Newton ER. Lactation and breastfeeding. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, et al, eds. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 23.
Cynthia D. White, MD, Fellow American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Group Health Cooperative, Bellevue, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.