Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on October 05, 2020
You Don’t Need to “Diet”
You gave birth to a darling baby but still have all those extra pounds. So you need to find the best diet to go on, right? Not exactly. Using a popular or fad diet may make it harder to lose weight and keep it off. One of the best ways to lose weight is to cut empty calories. Foods with empty calories have a lot of solid fats and sugars but not many nutrients that are good for you. Start by cutting out cake, cookies, and other sweets; soda and alcohol; and fast food like pizza and hot dogs.
Eat Lots of Superfoods
It's tempting to eat whatever's handy, but you need serious nutrition -- especially if you're nursing. Choose high-protein foods like lean meat, chicken, and beans. And you need calcium, which you can get from low or non-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese. Fish like salmon and trout are great "superfoods,” too -- they’re packed with DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid that’s good for your baby.
Snacking is OK, as long as you eat healthy snacks and cut back on ones that are high in fat and sugar. Choose snacks like fresh or canned fruit or unsweetened cereal over sugary soft drinks, candy, and chips. They're full of extra calories without much nutrition. Have your healthy snacks on hand when you breastfeed.
Nurse Your Baby
You know breastfeeding is healthy for your baby, but it also may be good for your waistline. Many women say nursing helped them get to their pre-baby weight faster. Breastfeeding burns several hundred calories a day.
Make sure you drink lots of water. It can be hard to tell the difference between being thirsty and being hungry. If you drink first, you might feel full and won't want to snack later. Plus, if you’re dehydrated, your body won’t burn as many calories. Have a glass of water at least every time you nurse.
The good news: You don't have to hit the gym! Put the baby in the stroller and take a brisk walk in the fresh air. Seeing other people and having a change of scenery can help ease stress, too. Exercise helps firm up your body and gives you energy for your day. Start slowly, working your way up to 30 minutes five times a week. Check with your doctor to see how soon after giving birth you can start exercising.
Go to Bed
Try to find a way to get at least 7 hours of sleep every day (even if it’s not all at once). When you don't get enough sleep, there's a chance you'll gain weight. In one study, new moms who slept 5 hours or less a night were less likely to lose weight than moms who got at least 7 hours. Set up your baby’s bedtime routine with activities like a bath, reading, and singing. Stick to the routine every night, and they’ll soon learn that bedtime means sleep.
Eat Small, Regular Meals
Eat small, healthy portions throughout the day so you'll feel full and have the energy you need. Don't skip meals -- especially breakfast. When you skip, you might get so hungry that you overeat or choose high-fat foods out of convenience. And going without food can teach your body to burn calories slower.
Losing about 1 pound a week is a realistic goal. Remember, it took you 9 months to get that baby body. Don't feel like you have to get back in shape right away.
Ask for a Little Help
Your doctor or a dietitian can help you find support if you’re having a hard time losing the extra pounds. Some weight loss programs have special plans for new and nursing moms. And if you're having trouble thinking about or making healthy meals, ask eager friends to pitch in. You don't have to do it alone.