Lose the Pouch: Strategies for Shedding Postnatal Pounds
By Neena Higgs

While browsing a Hallmark store with my infant son, Nicholas, a 20-something clerk peeked into our stroller and asked me how old the baby was. “Six months,” I said, beaming with pride over my first-born. “He’s so cute,” she added, and I nodded with absolute agreement. Then she dropped the bombshell. “Awwww, and I see you’re pregnant again!”

Pregnancy Pounds in Perspective

How much weight women gain during pregnancy varies greatly. The rate at which you shed those pounds after giving birth also varies quite a bit. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you strive to get back to your old self:

• Women lose approximately half of the weight they gain during pregnancy when they deliver their baby.

• Most of the remaining weight is retained fluid, which women usually lose over the next few weeks through increased urination and perspiration.

• The rest of the weight is stored fat – calories for milk production. How you shed the final pounds depends on how much weight you gained during pregnancy and your postpartum nutrition and exercise program. Most women return to their normal weight before pregnancy within about nine months to a year after giving birth.
I felt nauseous. But it was at that enlighted moment that I realized the pooch around my waist wasn’t going to go away just by nursing or wishing upon a star. I was going to have to start exercising.

Even with a baby in tow, there is an abundance of exercise programs targeting postpartum poundage, whatever your pleasure or pocketbook.

Most postnatal moms want the same thing, says Laura Page, a certified trainer who runs Stroller Power, a stroller boot camp in Encino. “They all want to start losing the weight . . . and they want the fellowship of other women who are going through the same thing.”

Page and partner Erin O’Bright (both are Valley Village moms who met while walking their babies) lead moms through jogging, lunges and free weight exercises along a nature preserve in Woodley Park.

Likewise, at Stroller Strides, a national licensing company with exercise groups in South Bay, Venice Beach, Brentwood and Santa Monica, trainers walk moms and babies through a full-body workout.

Redondo Beach mom Jill Levine, 38, says she couldn’t motivate herself to exercise after her son, Laykin, was born. She found the Manhattan Beach Stroller Strides, and now exercises with other moms along the Strand.

“So many times I’ve joined gyms and yoga classes and paid for them, and it’s just not my thing,” says Levine. She gained 70 pounds during pregnancy. “I enjoy that I can be with other moms and their babies. I love being at the beach and being outside.”

After two months with the group, Levine has dropped 15 pounds, attributing it to her trainer, J.J. Flizanes, who is more than willing to give advice on a nutritious diet.

“There are times when your baby is fussing and crying, and of course, the baby comes first,” Levine says. “But J.J. will say, ‘We’re going to walk up this hill, do it at your own pace. Oh, and suck in your stomach.’”

Postpartum experts say it’s important to get your blood circulating and use the muscles that were stretched during pregnancy. “You have a window of time where your body is recovering in many different ways . . . joint changes, cardiovascular changes, realigning your pelvic bone, re-strengthening your stomach and lower back,” says Nancy Griffin, owner of the Mommy Care Mothering Center in West Los Angeles, which provides mom and baby postpartum exercise classes. “If you don’t give those things a chance to recover fully and heal, it’s more difficult in subsequent pregnancies.”

Many local YMCAs and hospitals have classes for postpartum women, but if you’re just too stressed to leave the house, consider popping in a video or DVD.

Melinda Bryan, owner/director of Pilates Studio of Los Angeles, recently made such a video, Pilates After Pregnancy.

“It’s hard to take time for yourself,” she says. “I’m a mother of three. I work. I run around with my head cut off like everyone else. Women like us need an option. That’s why the video is simple, easy to follow, but the exercises are still challenging.”

ormal>Bryan’s video also includes a 10-minute isometric section for women who have cesarean sections. “Most physicians are conservative with C-sections, but they still want woman to get up and go to the bathroom, nurse their newborns,” Bryan says. “They’re sore. They’re in pain. They need something to get them out of bed.”

ormal>Bryan recommends throwing exercise into your regular routine. For example, pull in your stomach while nursing or park a little further away to increase your walking distance.

ormal>It takes the average woman nine months to a year to go back to her pre-pregnancy weight, postpartum experts say, but living in the limelight of celebrity pregnancies, some moms expect immediate results.

ormal>“They say, ‘I’ve got to lose five pounds by Friday,’ “ says Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, 60, director of Golden Bridge Nite Moon, a Kundalini Yoga center in Los Angeles. In her popular postpartum yoga class, she teaches women to “breathe, relax and let things unfold.”

ormal>“Some women come back and they look like they never had a baby and others have to work at it,” she says. “What we do to really make us unhappy as women is; we compare. I just say, ‘Relax.’ To actresses, I say, ‘Don’t plan to take a role right after this, wait six months or so.’ If you’re neurotic about it, then you’ll make neurotic mother’s milk.”

ormal>For most new moms, bonding with baby and simply deflating become more important than a beautiful body, Bryan says. “You never want to be uptight and say to yourself, ‘You have to look good in eight weeks,’ she says. “If you can pop a video in when the baby is sleeping and Grandma has the 2-year-old, and you can do a few exercises and get a nap, that’s about all there is.”


ormal>Most experts agree a new mom should wait two to three weeks after giving birth to start an exercise program. Most classes require six weeks and a doctor’s approval. Here are a few places to start shedding those pregnancy pounds. Also check with your local hospital, YMCA or community center for postpartum workouts.

• Stroller Power: Outdoor boot camp. Woodley Park, between Burbank and Victory boulevards, Encino. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. $12 a class or 12 classes for $120. 818-506-1596;

• Stroller Strides: Outdoor full-body workout. Groups meet in South Bay, San Gabriel Valley, Los Angeles and Encino areas. Monday through Thursday and Saturday. $75 initiation fee. $15 per class, month for $75 or 10 classes for $100. 1-866-FIT-4MOM;

Mommy Care Mothering Center: Babies are welcome at postpartum exercise class, which includes baby massage. 11870 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles (in Dance Factory). 10:15 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday, 8:30 a.m. Saturday. $15 per class or $7 per class for a two-month unlimited pass. 310-394-6711.

ight: normal">West Hills Hospital Pregnancy Gym: 7325 Medical Center Drive, Suite 203, West Hills. Postpartum and pregnancy yoga, aerobics and kickboxing classes, gym equipment. Bring your baby or daycare is available. 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Call for class times. $50 initiation fee, $45 per month if you delivered at West Hills. Otherwise $55 per month. 818-676-4747;

ight: normal">Golden Bridge Yoga Center: 5901 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles. Postnatal Mommy & Me yoga Monday,12:30 p.m. Tuesday. $15 per class. 323-936-4172;


ight: normal">• Melinda Bryan’s Pilates After Pregnancy – Exercises to strengthen core muscles. Includes 10-minute segment for women who have had a cesarean. Sugar Public Relations $19.95. 310-202-8107;

ight: normal">• On the Ball Pilates Workout for Beginners – Lizbeth Garcia uses exercise ball to stretch and strengthen core muscles and improve balance.

• The Method: Baby & Mom Postnatal Yoga – Yoga instructor Gurmukh leads mom and baby through exercises and meditation. $12.98 video, $14.98 DVD. 800-272-4214;

Deena Higgs is a Mission Viejo-based freelance writer who still fights the pooch after three children.