This post is not coming from Dr. Kellie, but from mama Kellie.
I interact with a lot of women every day of my life, and it has come to my realization that our expectations, as well as others’, are completely unrealistic when it comes to postpartum recovery.
I recently had a patient in tears because she was unable to find the time to exercise at 6 weeks post-delivery. She was already back to her pre-pregnancy weight, but uncomfortable with her squishy tummy.
I had another mom tell me that, at 18 weeks pregnant (her third pregnancy), people were asking her if she was due soon because she was “so huge”. Of course, when she responded that she was due 5 months into the future, these offenders had a snarky comment about whether she was carrying twins.
I get it. Here is 20 weeks pregnant with my first and second for comparison.
And most recently, I had a mom tell me that, at 8 weeks postpartum, people were asking when she was due.
First of all, to all of you non-pregnant people out there: stop commenting on pregnant and postpartum bodies. It isn’t yours to talk about.
And while we are on that subject, don’t comment on someone’s body at all! There are women who are self-conscious with their thin frames just as much as those who are uncomfortable with their voluptuous curves.
Now, moving on to my (more important) point. Ladies: our bodies change through the years, especially with pregnancy, breastfeeding and raising children. Changing hormones, stretched skin, loosened ab muscles, saggy breasts – it’s all part of the remarkable job you have done sustaining a human life.
No, you likely aren’t going to “bounce back” quickly. More than likely, you should be waiting until at least 12 weeks post-delivery to exercise, and at that point, it should be low impact activities only like walking, yoga and maybe some light weights. Mamas who do crossfit at 2 weeks postpartum – I admire your gusto, but it simply isn’t nurturing to your body or supportive of your recovery to jump back into intense exercise. Too much, too quickly can do major harm to your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles, cause injury to your back, or have a detrimental effect on your milk supply.
And, if you have had more than one child, or if you had that baby a little later in life, or if you had babies close together, it’s going to take even longer. Breastfeeding does help some women lose weight quickly, but for most women the opposite is true – breastfeeding makes them hold onto weight longer.
It wasn’t until the one year mark that I had lost all of the weight I had gained during pregnancy (and actually, now that I think of it, I lost some early on and then GAINED – breastfeeding hunger is REAL!). I still hadn’t made it back into my pre-pregnancy jeans by the time I got pregnant again. My stomach wasn’t flat. I had made it back to exercising, but nothing like before. Prior to my first pregnancy, I was doing yoga six days a week at 5 am, running 3-4 days for a total of 10-15 miles and doing plenty of core and high intensity exercise after work – but that changed. I was now sleeping in as late as I could in the mornings because I was sleep deprived, doing 30 minutes of sculpt or barre exercises over my lunch and spending every free moment in the evenings with my daughter. These things were simply more important to me than having a rockin bod.
Now, this is NOT an excuse for you to avoid exercise and eat whatever is in sight. We need to nourish and support our bodies, and respect the work they have done for us and our babies. If you are nursing, you do need to be taking in extra calories, but in a healthy form. Focus on protein, veggies and lots of water. After the 12 week mark, get outside (if it’s warm enough) and take baby for walks. If you’re working, walk with a co-worker over lunch. Get into the habit of doing 10 minutes of yoga before bed. Move your body – you will feel better about yourself. But mostly, be kind and loving to yourself when you look in the mirror – your body is amazing.