It's only natural to want to jump straight back to your pre-pregnancy body. But give yourself a break! Your body just made a baby, and it will need time to recover and get back in shape.
The fastest way to a flat stomach after pregnancy is through healthy nutrition, getting adequate sleep, breastfeeding, exercise and decreasing stress. Giving your body a little time along with understanding more about how these health habits can play a role in getting that flat belly back.
1. Get Adequate Sleep
Easier said than done, right? It’s challenging to get adequate sleep with a newborn, but as your little one allows you to sleep more it is extremely important for your long-term heath, plus, has a positive affect on maintaining healthy weight and weight loss.
A 2005 study in the journal SLEEP found that those who slept at least seven hours every night are less likely to be obese. Many of those reasons being that sleep affects many hormones in our body, one big one being cortisol. Take advantage of nights you can get more sleep, because your body needs it!
2. Breastfeed Your Baby
If it works for both you and your baby, breastfeeding is a great way to burn extra calories and bond with your baby. Especially in those first months after giving birth, breastfeeding can greatly improve weight loss.
A 2013 study in Clinical and Experimental Obstetrics and Gynocology found that women who breastfed exclusively were able to lose the baby weight more easily during those first six months postpartum.
3. Eat Healthy and Nourish Your Body
Limit your intake of sugary/starchy foods (sweets, grains, breads and fake sugars). Sugar causes inflammation in the body, and gluten and possibly dairy for many can cause bloating, slowing down the return of your flat belly.
Inflammation can affect your metabolism and hormones so decreasing those inflammatory foods can help speed up your progress. In addition, follow these other healthy eating tips:
- Hydrate (aim for at least eight eight-ounce glasses of water, much more if breastfeeding)
- Eat healthy, real food, including a diet full of:
- A variety of vegetables (aim to include veggies at every meal)
- Good-quality proteins (nuts, legumes, chicken, turkey, red meat, and others)
- Good-quality fats (avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, raw nuts and real butter)
- Foods for improved gut health and digestion (probiotics, green, leafy vegetables and fiber)
4. Move Your Body
Get out and move your body! Exercise is great for decreasing stress, and decreasing stress can also make losing weight easier. The key is choosing exercises that makes you feel more energized afterwards, while avoiding workouts that zap your energy.
- Focus on good form and posture throughout your day.
- Strive for doing some activity every day. Walking counts!
- Split your workouts up throughout your day (10 minutes here, 10 minutes there).
- Find a friend to help keep you both accountable.
- Choose workouts that leave you feeling energized!
Re-strengthening your deep core is crutial to flattening your stomach and crunches aren’t the answer. Australian researchers found that you recruit your transverse abdominals and internal obliques when activating your pelvic floor muscles (think kegels).
All of these muscles need to work together for optimal function of your core. Focusing on re-strengthening your core postpartum, even before starting “abdominal” exercises, is something you can practice throughout your day while sitting, standing and exercising. Follow these tips:
- Inhale to relax your pelvic floor muscles, exhale to gently "zip up" your pelvic floor and transverse abdominals.
- Stand, sit and move with your core. Engage you abs during everyday activities.
- Lengthen tall through the top of your head (ie. maintain good posture) to strengthen your core and help flatten your belly postpartum.
Before you start exercising again, make sure you get the go-ahead from your doctor to resume physical activity. This usually occurs around your six-week postpartum check-up, though it can take longer if you had any complications during delivery.
5. Decrease Stress
Your sleep, nutrition, exercise and hormones all play have a role in your stress. This is why all these components are very important in health. Keeping stress levels low can drastically improve ease of weight loss after pregnancy. Just think how much better you'll feel, too!
- In moments of stress, stop, close your eyes, and take in five or more slow deep breaths.
- Breathe into your ribcage and back slowly for six to eight counts.
- Exhale all your air out slowly for six to eight counts to instantly decrease some stress.
Always listen to your body, if something feels off it probably is. Take a look over your sleep, nutrition and exercise habits and see where you can start implementing small changes to see big improvements and be on your way back to that flat stomach after pregnancy.
- Role of exclusive breastfeeding in energy balance and weight loss during the first six months postpartum.
- Inadequate sleep as a risk factor for obesity: Analysis of the NHANES I.
- Effects of breastfeeding on postpartum weight loss among U.S. women.
- The Associations of Maternal Weight Change with Breastfeeding, Diet and Physical Activity During the Postpartum Period.
- Pelvic Floor and Abdominal Muscle Interaction: EMG Activity and Intra-Abdominal Pressure.
- Cortisol metabolism, postnatal depression and weight changes in the first 12 months postpartum.