Postpartum Weight Loss

Ten pounds is the average amount of weight lost following the birth of a child. The weight of the baby, the placenta, and amniotic fluid accounted for this weight loss. For up to two weeks after giving birth, the mother will continue to lose weight due to loss of body fluids; however she will retain 7 lbs of body fat.

A new mother is exercising with her baby nearby. (Image: monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images)


Postpartum is the term used to define the six month to year time period following the birth of a child. After giving birth a mother will experience emotional and physical changes. These physical changes may include: contraction of the uterus, fuller breasts, loss of menstruation, soft abdomen, stretch marks and lactation. Due to the increase in hormones, a mother may experience mild emotional changes three to ten days following birth. These feelings include sadness, irritability, and tearfulness. One in eight mothers experience extreme sadness known as "postpartum depression" which may last three months or longer. If a mother is experiencing loss of interest in activities, difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping and or suicidal thoughts she will need to consult with her practitioner.


The amount of weight lost and how quickly it will be lost will depend on how much weight was gained during pregnancy, how much the mother exercises, her metabolism, and whether or not she is breastfeeding. Recommended safe weight loss for new or nursing mothers is a pound and a half per week, which can be achieved by decreasing calorie consumption by 500 or through an increase in exercise. It can take a minimum of six months to return to pre-pregnancy weight.

Benefits of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding burns an extra 500 to 600 calories per day. According to La Leche League International, studies found that women who breastfeed lost more weight and had slimmer hips than women who used formula. Significant weight loss can diminish the supply of milk, thus health care providers recommend that new mothers wait six weeks postpartum to significantly cut back on portion sizes.

Implications of Exercise

Women who deliver vaginally may typically start exercising after their first postnatal doctor appointment or three to four weeks postpartum. Cesarean births may begin exercising six to eight weeks postpartum. Practitioners recommend beginning with gentle exercises such as walking, yoga, and or wearing the baby around the house. However, they warn against lifting heavy weights and over-excursion because it may increase bleeding and prevent natural healing from occurring.

Kegel exercises are recommended to tighten the muscles of the abdomen, pelvic floor and vagina. Precautions should be taken with abdominal crunches since separation of the abdomen; known as "diastis recti" is common after having a baby. If the mother's abdomen has a separation of two or more finger- widths she will need to consult with her practitioner.

Expert Insight

Eating Expectantly by Bridget Sweeney MS, RD recommends that new mothers consume high fiber foods such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains and water to lose weight. These high fiber foods will keep nursing moms satiated longer and provide the nourishment she and her baby needs. BabyCenter's Medical Advisory Board suggests cutting back on saturated fats found in processed baked foods while increasing consumption of polyunsaturated fats found in olive oil, avocado and nuts. The Medical Advisory Board also recommends eating five to six small meals per day to keep energy levels up and the metabolism going to increase weight loss.

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