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25th February, 20216 min read

Postpartum weight loss – how to lose weight safely after giving birth

Medical reviewer: Dr Adiele Hoffman
Author: Helen Prentice
Last reviewed: 25/02/2021
Medically reviewed

All of Healthily's articles undergo medical safety checks to verify that the information is medically safe. View more details in our safety page, or read our editorial policy.

After giving birth (postpartum), once you’re enjoying life with your baby, you might start to wonder: ‘when can I lose my baby weight?’

If, like many new parents, you’re feeling tired and overwhelmed, exercise might not be top of your list of priorities. But, when the time is right, physical activity will help your body to recover from childbirth. And eating a healthy diet is important, too.

So read on to learn what happens to your body after you’ve had a baby, and when and how you can lose weight safely.

Your post-baby body

The good news is that you’ll lose some of your baby weight in the first few days after giving birth. After you’ve given birth, your womb (uterus) gets smaller, your blood volumes go back to normal and your body gets rid of the extra fluids that build up during pregnancy.

After these first few days, however, weight loss usually slows down. You may have seen celebrities who seem to be back in shape just a few weeks after giving birth, but this is unusual. Remember, your body has been through a lot and it needs time to recover.

Breastfeeding your baby can help you lose weight, especially if you do it for 6 months or more. This is because some of the extra fat your body stores during pregnancy is used as energy for feeding.

And if you follow a healthy diet and try to keep active with regular exercise, you should be able to steadily lose any excess weight over the next few months.

When can I start to lose weight?

It’s generally best not to rush into doing strenuous exercise after having a baby, but what’s suitable for you will depend on the type of birth you had.

If the birth was straightforward, you can start to do gentle, low-impact exercise as soon as you feel up to it. This could include:

  • walking
  • gentle stretches
  • pelvic floor exercises
  • tummy exercises

If you want to start swimming, it's advisable to wait until 7 days after your postpartum bleeding stops.

It’s generally best to wait until you’ve had your postnatal check-up with your doctor before you start anything more high-impact, such as running or aerobics. But this also depends on how active you were before you had your baby, and you may feel ready sooner.

If you had a complicated birth or delivered your baby by caesarean, it will take a bit longer for your body to recover. In this case, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or midwife for advice about when and how to start exercising.

How can I start to lose weight?

Both exercise and diet will play a part in losing your baby weight, but you need to take the right approach, so that you lose weight safely.

Diet

It’s important to make healthy eating a priority, both for you and your baby. This includes eating at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

Now isn’t the time to go on a ‘crash diet’ – where you eat very few calories in order to lose weight quickly. Your body needs nutritious food to help it heal and recover. Plus, a low-calorie diet is likely to leave you feeling tired – not ideal with a new baby.

If you’re breastfeeding, you may actually need more calories than normal, as it can use about 330 calories a day. Make sure you drink plenty of water when breastfeeding, too.

Exercise

As discussed above, it’s a good idea to be led by your body in terms of when you feel ready to start exercising. You should generally start with gentle exercise and talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.

Also bear in mind that some parts of your body may be weaker after pregnancy, particularly your tummy muscles and lower back. Your joints and ligaments will be more flexible for a few months, too, so you need to be careful not to hurt yourself when stretching or twisting.

You might need to buy a new sports bra, as your size is likely to have changed.

After you exercise, if you notice that your postpartum bleeding (which happens for about 6 weeks after the birth) gets heavier or changes colour, it could be a sign that you’re doing too much, too soon, and you should probably slow down.

Listen to your body and go at your own pace – and get plenty of rest, too.

Postpartum weight-loss tips

If you’re keen to lose your baby weight, there are things that can help you reach your goal and keep you motivated. Try to:

  • be realistic – it takes time to lose weight in a healthy way
  • keep healthy snacks handy, such as mixed nuts, veggie sticks and fruit – and keep unhealthy snacks out of the house
  • limit added sugars, found in things such as soft drinks and processed foods
  • avoid alcohol – it contains ‘empty’ calories and may lead to excess belly fat
  • drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
  • get enough sleep – lack of sleep is associated with weight gain
  • find a type of exercise that you really enjoy, so you’ll stick with it
  • take your baby for longer walks in the pushchair, or join a pram-based exercise class – it can be even harder to find the time to exercise with a baby to look after
  • get support from a baby group, either in person or online

Remember, it took 9 months for your body to prepare for giving birth, so it may well take 9 months to go back to how it was before.

When to get help

Having a baby is a huge life change, and stress and lack of sleep can leave some new parents feeling overwhelmed. So remember, while it’s important to look after your body with a healthy diet and exercise after the birth, you don’t want to put too much pressure on yourself.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, either from friends and family, or your doctor or midwife if you need further support. They will be able to advise on healthy weight management, too.

Key points

  • once your baby is born, you’ll lose some weight in the first few days
  • the rest will be more gradual, as it takes time for your body to recover
  • if the birth was straightforward, you can start gentle exercise as soon as you feel ready
  • if the birth was more complicated, you may have to wait a bit longer
  • both regular exercise and a healthy diet are important in postpartum weight loss
  • don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends and family, or speak to your doctor or midwife if you need to
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Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.

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