06.27.22 6 min read

Postpartum Weight Loss: What You Need to Know

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Trying to lose weight postpartum can be challenging. You’re trying to adjust to a new routine, take care of a newborn, and recover from pregnancy and childbirth. 

It can feel like a lot. Still, focusing on your health is important for your energy levels, mental health, and overall physical health. 

With all the messaging about “bouncing back” quickly after birth, it leaves many women wondering what’s normal for weight loss after childbirth. 

How much weight is lost after giving birth?

It’s recommended for most women to gain about 25-35 pounds during pregnancy if they were a healthy weight before pregnancy (1). During pregnancy, the weight you gain is a mix of the baby’s weight, placenta, fluid, breast tissue, and extra fat stores.  

The extra fat stores provide an energy reserve for your body’s increased needs during pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. 

Right after giving birth, you’ll experience a drop in weight, regardless of whether you had a vaginal delivery or cesarean section (C-section). 

You may end up losing about 10-13 pounds after giving birth. Most newborns weigh between 5 pounds 8 ounces and 8 pounds 13 ounces. In addition to the weight of your baby, you’ll also lose some pounds from the weight of the placenta, amniotic fluid, and other fluids. 

How long does it take to lose weight after pregnancy?

Most women who gained the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy are able to return to their pre-pregnancy weight within 6 months to 1 year after giving birth. 

Still, that’s just an estimate. It could take a shorter or longer amount of time depending on how your body recovers after childbirth, hormones, and other factors. For some people, it could take a few years to reach their pre-pregnancy weight. 

Most experts recommended aiming for weight loss of about 1 pound per week. However, in the beginning, you may experience faster weight loss because of changes in your body postpartum with fluids, uterus shrinking, and other changes. Seeing a dietician can help you can on the fast path to weight loss.

Does breastfeeding help you lose weight?

Breastfeeding may help you lose weight because producing milk increases metabolism by 15-25% (2). Your body may pull the energy needed for breastfeeding from the fat stored during pregnancy or from the foods you eat. 

This calorie-burning boost may be enough to help some moms return to their pre-pregnancy weight. The hormones released during breastfeeding also help shrink your uterus, which helps your stomach appear flatter. 

A 2014 study found that exclusively breastfeeding for at least 3 months increased postpartum weight loss. They found women were more likely to return to their pre-pregnancy weight or weight a lower number when exclusively breastfeeding for the first 3 months (3). 

Still, not every breastfeeding mom will experience weight loss from breastfeeding alone. To meet the increased energy demands of breastfeeding, your appetite will likely increase. 

And lowering your calories too much to lose weight could affect your milk supply. Some women find it’s easier to drop those last few pounds when their appetite goes back to normal after they are done breastfeeding. 

What should you eat postpartum?

You may be wondering what you should be eating postpartum to support weight loss. The good news is any unusual cravings or food aversions should disappear after childbirth.

While your body’s needs may change as your body adjusts postpartum, nutrition is still important to support needs for recovery and breastfeeding. 

Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help support your body’s recovery, weight loss, and breastfeeding. Try choosing foods like:

  • Non-starchy vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Lean proteins (chicken, fish, beans, eggs, tofu, etc.)
  • Whole grains
  • Limit added sugar
  • Incorporate healthy fats

Your body may respond differently to foods after having a baby. If you have any questions about navigating your postpartum diet, schedule a visit with a dietitian. They can help you create a plan that suits your new nutrition needs and supports your postpartum weight loss journey.

When can you exercise after giving birth?

The recommendations for exercise after childbirth have changed over the decades. It used to be recommended to wait up to 6 weeks after giving birth to start exercising again. 

Nowadays, postpartum mothers can start doing light movements within a few days of giving birth if they feel up to it. Of course, you won’t be able to jump right back into intense workouts because your body is still healing. However, light exercises like short walks may help with recovery.

When you can start exercises may depend on the type of delivery and if you experienced any complications. Be sure to follow your healthcare provider’s instructions and ask them any questions about how much activity is recommended for you. 

You may notice some changes in your body after giving birth. But not all of these have to become your new normal. If you experience any changes to your pelvic floor, like peeing a little when jumping or running, it may be time to see a pelvic floor specialist. They can help you strengthen those muscles so this problem stops happening.  

What can new moms do to adopt a healthy lifestyle postpartum? 

Here are some tips for helping you lose the baby weight and following a healthy lifestyle postpartum:

Watch portion sizes

Keeping an eye on your portion sizes can help limit overeating and support returning to a healthy weight. Try using smaller plates and waiting a few minutes before deciding whether you want to go back for seconds. Sometimes it can take to realize you’re full, so waiting. between servings may prevent overeating.

Try to get enough sleep

This tip can be challenging with a newborn. Still, research shows lack of sleep is associated with less weight loss in postpartum women (4). When possible, try to focus on getting enough high-quality sleep. 

Manage stress

Bringing a newborn home is a fun and exciting time. And it can be filled with stress and unique challenges. Mental stress is associated with changes in sleep and body weight (5). Try to find healthy ways to cope with stress like light exercise, meditation, talking with friends, doing hobbies you enjoy, and consider getting support from a professional.  

Stay hydrated 

Drinking enough water is important for your overall health and milk production if you’re breastfeeding. In addition, staying hydrated is shown to help support weight loss (6).

Add in more physical activity 

In the beginning, start by adding in light movements, like walking. When you feel ready and you get the OK from your doctor, start adding back in more intense exercises, like strength training and cardio workouts. It can take time to regain your strength, and you likely won’t be able to pick back up where you left off in your training. 

Avoid crash diets 

Trying to lose weight too quickly with a restrictive diet or very low calories can do more harm than good. After childbirth, your body needs more nutrients to help recovery and support milk production if you are breastfeeding. Too little nutrition could leave you feeling more tired and interfere with your milk supply.  

Get support

Don’t hesitate to reach out for help, whether you’re looking for new mom groups, breastfeeding support, physical therapy, or mental health therapy. Getting the support you need can help you recover faster after having a baby and lower your risk for complications. 


Looking for postpartum care beyond your OB/GYN? Find and book lactation consultants, dietitians, physical therapists, mental health therapists, acupuncturists, and more on Zaya. 


References 

1. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Weight Gain During Pregnancy. Reaffirmed 2020. Retrieved from https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2013/01/weight-gain-during-pregnancy 

2. Gunderson EP. Impact of breastfeeding on maternal metabolism: implications for women with gestational diabetes. Curr Diab Rep. 2014;14(2):460. doi:10.1007/s11892-013-0460-2. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4146528/ 

3. Jarlenski MP, Bennett WL, Bleich SN, Barry CL, Stuart EA. Effects of breastfeeding on postpartum weight loss among U.S. women. Prev Med. 2014;69:146-150. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.09.018. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25284261/ 

4.  Xiao RS, Kroll-Desrosiers AR, Goldberg RJ, Pagoto SL, Person SD, Waring ME. The impact of sleep, stress, and depression on postpartum weight retention: a systematic review. J Psychosom Res. 2014;77(5):351-358. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2014.09.016. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4252881/ 

5. Geiker NRW, Astrup A, Hjorth MF, Sjödin A, Pijls L, Markus CR. Does stress influence sleep patterns, food intake, weight gain, abdominal obesity and weight loss interventions and vice versa?. Obes Rev. 2018;19(1):81-97. doi:10.1111/obr.12603. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28849612/ 6. Thornton SN. Increased Hydration Can Be Associated with Weight Loss. Front Nutr. 2016;3:18. Published 2016 Jun 10. doi:10.3389/fnut.2016.00018. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4901052/