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Expert Q&A: Losing the Baby Weight

An interview with Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD.
Reviewed by Amita Shroff, MD

Gaining weight is essential during pregnancy, but once the baby arrives, most moms can’t wait to lose the extra weight. But losing weight after giving birth is different from losing weight at other times, especially if you are breastfeeding your baby. 

To get professional advice on how to lose baby weight the healthy way, WebMD turned to Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, an expert in pregnancy, lactation, and kids' nutrition, and author of Expect the Best. Here’s what she had to say.

How much weight is OK to gain during pregnancy?

It takes lots of calories and good nutrition to support the growth and development of a new life, so it is very important that you eat a healthy diet. But you also need to be careful not to gain too much or too little weight. 

Most doctors base their recommendation of weight gain on the weight of the mom before pregnancy.  Women with a normal BMI (body mass index) should gain anywhere between 25 and 35 pounds, and up to 45 for twinsOverweight women may be able to safely gain between 15 and 25 pounds, but should not use pregnancy as a time to diet or lose weight.

Check with your doctor to determine if it is safe for you to gain less or more than the recommended range.  Pregnancy is a very personal journey, and what is most important is to take care of yourself, eat a healthy diet, and make sure you take your prenatal vitamins to ensure you get all the nutrients you need for you and the baby.

What’s wrong with gaining too much weight during pregnancy?

There will be more to lose after the baby is born, and studies show that if you don’t get it off within a year, the extra weight is more likely to become permanent. And if you are thinking about getting pregnant again, it is best to return to your healthy weight before conception.

Does gaining too much weight result in a bigger baby?

That is a myth. Gaining too much weight will not necessarily cause the baby to be larger. Just because you are "eating for two" doesn’t mean you should eat twice as much. Gaining beyond 25-35 pounds for a single birth just makes it harder to lose after the baby is born.

How long should it take to lose the baby weight?

Forget about dieting for at least six weeks postpartum and focus on eating a healthy diet.  Most women are sleep-deprived, tired, and lack the energy to exercise, prepare healthy meals, and do what it takes to lose weight.  

Losing the baby weight can take upwards of a year. Ideally, you should take the weight off gradually, aiming for 1-2 pounds per week.

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