If you have been a long-time Bump Life reader, you may remember parts of this post. But I found myself answering the question of Baby Weight vs Extra Weight just this weekend, so I thought it deserved to be updated and reposted!
One of the first things many of my new mom clients want to know is how to lose the “baby weight.” As a fitness professional AND a mom of young kids, I find myself straddling the line of reminding new moms to cut themselves some slack and pointing out little habits that can completely derail weight loss after childbirth.
But what really is baby weight anyway, and is there a difference between baby weight and regular weight…when it comes to losing it? Does “baby weight” come with more issues?
Let’s Define Baby Weight
Baby weight is all in the definition. Are we talking about weight that was gained during pregnancy, or weight that was gained from the demanding first few months of motherhood when mom is sleep deprived, stressed out, not exercising and doing a lot of ‘convenience’ eating? Sometimes these two overlap and get confusing.
So, Is Your Extra Weight, Baby Weight??
How old is your Baby (that caused this baby weight)?
If they are under a year (or more so, under 6 months) and especially if you are still breastfeeding, then I would consider that ‘pregnancy weight.’ The average mom gains around 30 lbs during pregnancy and it is made up of the weight of the baby, placenta, increased cellular fluid, increase breast tissue, increased blood volumn, and some increase fat. In fact, increase in blood volume alone accounts for about 4 pounds and increase breast tissue is 2 pounds!
Are You Breast Feeding?
Breast-feeding is a big contributor to weight loss. Although very calorically expensive (some say breast feeding is the best weight loss system…never the case for me), your body tends to store between 5-10 lbs of weight (read: fat) while you are feeding a baby to make sure that if there is a famine in your village or your tribe is not able to kill a buffalo, you will still be able to feed your child. No one has told our bodies about Whole Foods, and that, really, its ok to ditch that security weight.
What About Wacky Hormones?
Weight around pregnancy is very hormonally driven, just like gaining weight at puberty and menopause is common. When hormones start to regulate, the weight some times does too. Experts say hormones can stay out of balance for 6-18months post partum. *If you are doing EVERYTHING right and still not able to lose weight, you should have your hormone levels checked.
OR, Is It Too Much Take-out?
If you find yourself a year or more out, no longer breastfeeding, with less time to exercise and you survived on too much take-out, and vanilla lattes in those early months, the extra weight is probably just that, extra weight.
For most us, it’s probably the latter. What tends to happen, in the few weeks following birth, the ‘extra’ weight IS pregnancy weight, extra fluid, blood volume etc. But as those factors start to regulate (and come down), mom’s habits are taking over.
- We are most likely sleep deprived and eating extra carbs, sugar and caffeine for that energy boost.
- We are probably eating that creamy noodle casserole the neighbor brought over, or
- We ask our husbands to pick up something on his way home, since the baby cries from 4pm to 10pm straight and there is no way to make a healthy dinner during the witching hours (that wasn’t just me, right??)
Why Don’t I Fit In My Old Jeans???
One more thing. Remember that bone structure can actually change during pregnancy. Sometimes expanded hips or rib cages don’t go all they way back to pre-pregnancy size. So, if you are back (or close to back) to pre pregnancy weight *number* but not fitting in your old clothes, this could be the culprit.
A year after my first son was born, I was totally confused why my old jeans were too tight, but the size up was too big. A lovely sales lady brought me some different styles to try and low and behold…they fit! Shocker, I no longer wore the style jeans I had worn since college, right??
So, What Do I Do?
Whether your baby is 6 months or 6 years, the best approach to weight loss is common sense eating and realistic, appropriate exercise.
The most important thing for moms is making realistic choices that fit with their new, crazy, lifestyle. And for those of you with babies under a year (or heck for all moms) cutting yourself some slack. Being healthy and taking care of that new little life is the most important thing and the weight loss will follow.
But maybe I should get that latte habit in check?