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So You Want to Lose Weight Fast Postpartum. How Long Does it Take to Lose Baby Weight?

You have finally had the baby after a pregnancy that seemed way too long. You were pretty okay with your pregnancy weight gain--you knew you had to grow a baby. But now you are home from the hospital, baby is a few weeks old, you want to fit into your old clothes, and you want the weight gone already. How long does it take to lose baby weight?



woman holding a baby


Pregnancy Weight Gain


There are a few places where we gain weight during pregnancy. First and most obviously is the weight of the baby. Other places the weight goes is to the placenta, amniotic fluid, increased blood volume, and increased fat stores. The reason our bodies store extra fat during pregnancy is to ensure that there is adequate energy to nourish the baby during pregnancy and afterwards, for breastfeeding. Weight gain during pregnancy typically starts around the beginning of the second trimester--it takes six months to gain your pregnancy weight.


During pregnancy, most women are not consciously trying eating more to gain weight. The weight gain just comes naturally. They are likely eating more due to hormonal changes that increase appetite.


Breastfeeding and Postpartum Weight


It takes about 500 calories per day to produce enough breastmilk for a baby. Many people think that it should be very easy to lose pregnancy weight if they are breastfeeding, because they are losing about 500 calories per day in the breastmilk. Most moms do not find that is the case for them.


Studies that looked at postpartum weight loss in moms who were breastfeeding and moms who were not breastfeeding did not show consistent results. Some showed more weight loss in the the group that breastfed, and others did not show a difference between the groups. With these studies, it is important to understand that moms who choose to breastfeed may be different in characteristics that relate to weight status than moms who do not choose to breastfeed. This may explain why some studies showed improved weight loss in the women who breastfed.


Why do women not lose weight while breastfeeding? During breastfeeding, a hormone called prolactin is produced. This hormone is responsible for milk production. Prolactin causes growth of the mammary alveoli where milk is produced. There are a few other effects of prolactin. It leads to slower fat metabolism and increased appetite. It is possible that for some women, the increased calorie loss of breastfeeding is compensated by this mechanism, ultimately leading to weight maintenance or even weight gain.


Postpartum Life and Weight


Besides for breastfeeding, there are many aspects of life after a baby is born that can affect a mom's weight. Most new parents are not getting enough sleep due to being awake a lot of the night to care for the baby. Inadequate sleep can make it harder to lose weight.


Additionally, life gets busier once the baby is born, and time that was once spent making nutritious foods is now spent caring for the baby. Many new parents rely on takeout food in this period.


Another factor is physical activity and exercise. In the immediate postpartum period, most moms need to focus on healing physically and are limited in strenuous exercise. Even once they can do more than simple walking, they often do not have time or child care for the baby while they exercise.


What is the Secret to Losing Weight Fast Postpartum?


I want you to know that there is no quick answer or hidden secret that some women have. Some people have a natural tendency to have an easier time losing weight postpartum, and some people have a natural tendency to take longer to lose weight postpartum. Additionally, women may have different experiences with weight loss after each subsequent pregnancy.


The best advice I have for women is to take care of their bodies after having a baby. There is nothing novel about what I will tell them. Eat regular meals. Get enough protein. Get enough fiber. Don't skimp on carbohydrates. Eat plenty fruits and vegetables. Drink water. Regardless of how fast you lose your pregnancy weight or if you lose it at all, these healthy choices will keep your body healthy.


Pressure to Lose Weight Postpartum


The pressure to lose weight fast postpartum comes from a many places. Most of us can see how society glorifies thin women and weight loss. In celebrity news, it is a headline when a women loses a noticeable amount of weight or loses weight quickly after having a baby. The rest of us, noncelebrities, see this and the idea that this is normal worms its way into us.


Some women feel a pressure to lose weight for their health. Maybe they had gestational diabetes, they had health concerns related to their weight before pregnancy, or they are having a harder time with physical activity due to their higher weight. Either way, the pressure to lose weight does not make it any easier!


How Long Does It Take to Lose Baby Weight?


There is a wide range of normal for how long it takes most women to lose the weight they gained during pregnancy. Remember, it took many months to gain the weight during pregnancy, and will not be instantaneous to get back to a pre-pregnancy weight. It takes most women six to twelve months to lose the weight they gained during pregnancy. Some women do not ever get back to their pre-pregnancy weight--that is also very common. A higher weight does not mean you can't continue a healthy lifestyle.


Bottom Line of Postpartum Weight Loss


Many factors can affect a mom's weight after having a baby. Stress, sleep deprivation, breastfeeding, and increased responsibilities can play a role in weight trends. At the end of the day, you can take care of your health at the weight your body is now. We do not have perfect control over our weight, but our lifestyle and nutrition can play a big role in our health at any weight.

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