Moms' Best Tips for Losing the Baby Weight

By Ellen Slotkin, Registered Dietitian

No one says it better than the moms who have been there themselves.

Weight LossFrom the conventional to the creative - we have assembled our readers’ most popular recommendations gleaned from our survey of 700 real-mom readers. Read on for practical suggestions for blasting those post-delivery pounds. Read on for suggestions, tips, and inspiration for methods for getting back into your pre-baby jeans!

1. “Breastfeed!” (35%) Thirty-five percent of moms agree—breastfeeding is the best way to blast the baby weight. “Breastfeed as long as you can do so” suggested one mom. “Try exclusive breastfeeding a year or longer” recommended another.

Because breastfeeding increases your metabolic requirements by an average of 300 extra calories per day, it can certainly help you reach your weight loss goals, but should be undertaken along with a sensible diet and exercise routine. Breastfeeding, like pregnancy should not be an excuse to over-indulge. One reader commented “When it comes to eating when you are breastfeeding, pretend you are still pregnant. Ask yourself what would be good for the baby?”

2 “Forget about it!” (17%) It was a surprise to see in a survey about baby weight, but many readers recommended not worrying about losing the baby weight; at least during the first six months. Parenthood moms suggested “Enjoying your baby” and noted “Taking care of a newborn keeps you too busy to eat.”

Health professionals agree, it is best to begin a diet and exercise plan when you are psychologically and emotionally ready to do so. It is not a bad idea to first get accustomed to your new routine (and ideally, to wait until your baby sleeps through the night) before you begin a baby weight loss regimen.

3. “Portion control and general healthy habits.” (15%) Sometimes the best advice is the simplest. Even if you ate less than perfectly during your pregnancy, Parenthood moms suggested getting back on track the sensible way.

Healthy habits (fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy sources) and practicing portion control are the way to go—no far-out fads or ridiculous restrictions needed!

4.“Pump it up-but keep it interesting!” (14%) Once you are cleared for exercise by your physician join a friend for group exercise classes, or try a convenient at home videogame workout. Whichever your choice, adding in fun exercise is the key to returning to pre-baby shape.

5. “Don’t gain too much while pregnant!” (3%) Well if you’ve already delivered it’s a little too late for this tip—but you can certainly pass it along to a friend, or use it for future pregnancies.

The official weight gain recommendations* for a single pregnancy are (Recommendations for multiple births will be provided by your health care provider):

28-40 pounds for an underweight woman (Body Mass Index <18.5 pre-pregnancy);
25-35 pounds for an average weight woman (Body Mass Index of 18.5-24.9 pre-pregnancy);
15-25 pounds for an overweight woman (Body Mass Index of 25-29.9 pre-pregnancy); and
11-20 pounds for and obese woman (Body Mass Index of 30+ pre-pregnancy).

Keep in mind that pregnancy isn’t actually “eating for two”- it’s more like eating for one, and having a little extra snack each day!

Your doctor can give you specific recommendations, but for women of normal weight, you generally require an average of 100 to 125 extra calories per day in the first and second trimesters (1 ½ ounce slice of bread), and 200 to 300 extra calories a day during the third trimester (½ of a peanut butter sandwich to one peanut butter sandwich). Women who use pregnancy as an excuse for an “all you can eat” buffet – are at greater risk for pregnancy complications and health problems in the long run, so start your baby’s life by making the best choices for her and for your waistline!

#6. “And the Rest…"(16%)

Some of the more creative suggestions we heard were…

“Shop a lot!” Well actually, shopping does burn extra calories - 150-200 calories per hour if you are walking quickly and carrying moderate weight shopping bags. Why not?

One mom suggested “Eat Jello” and another “Eat watermelon”; Low calorie, taste-bud satisfying choices are certainly a good idea- but be sure to include high protein and fiber snacks to keep you full. A whole wheat cracker and ½ Tbsp of natural peanut butter is a more satisfying snack.

One wise mom warned “Don’t let healthy habits fly out the window as soon as you become a mom.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

*IOM (Institute of Medicine). Weight Gain During Pregnancy: Reexamining the Guidelines. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Posted online May 28, 2009.

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Ellen Slotkin is a clinical dietitian in Bethesda, Maryland. She is a graduate of Simmons College Boston and completed her post-graduate education at Yale-New Haven Hospital, affiliate of Yale Medical School. Her areas of expertise include nutrition during pregnancy, weight management, and heart healthy nutrition.