According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 117,158 tummy tucks were performed in the year 2014 alone. Sometimes referred to as a “mommy tuck,” this common procedure has gained momentum since 2000 and has become popular among young moms hoping to recover their body of yesteryear.
However, it’s important for moms to take note: while pregnancy can result in numerous changes to a woman’s body, a smart diet post-pregnancy can be impactful not only on her health but on her waistline as well.
It’s well-known that throughout pregnancy, a woman’s body undergoes a multitude of physical changes. Not only do internal organs adjust to a growing baby, but changes to the woman’s outside appearance occur as well.
Breasts become larger due to an increase in the hormones estrogen and progesterone, while the hormone relaxin causes ligaments in the pelvis to relax and loosen in preparation for birth. In addition, women gain more than just the weight of the baby and its supporting fluids, carrying additional fluid, blood, protein and fat of her own.
It is recommended that women gain between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy.
After the baby is born, a woman can expect to see certain lasting changes as a result of her pregnancy. While it usually takes about 6 to 8 weeks for a woman’s uterus to shrink to its pre-pregnancy size, some women will notice that their hips are permanently widened as a result of the relaxin’s effect on the ligaments.
Diastasis recti, or a separation of the abdominal muscles, also afflicts approximately two-thirds of pregnant women. This condition can cause a woman’s stomach to remain slightly distended, even with exercise and healthy eating.
The spare weight gained during pregnancy can sometimes be frustrating to get rid of as well. While pregnant, many women find it harder to be mobile, especially during the later months of pregnancy.
This, coupled with a possible higher caloric intake during pregnancy, can lead to a woman’s metabolism being lower after birth. Metabolism is the rate at which a person’s body burns calories and can be very different depending on the individual.
However, if a woman feels her metabolism has been affected by pregnancy, there are steps she can take to improve it and reach her health and weight goals post-pregnancy.
An important impact on a woman’s post-baby weight is breastfeeding. To help support the production of breast milk, a woman’s body burns between 300 and 500 additional calories a day.
Furthermore, breastfeeding releases certain hormones that help shrink a mother’s uterus to its former size. These results are advantageous to women hoping to lose weight after baby.
Some women, however, struggle with their body hanging on to extra pounds while breastfeeding. They can thank their ancestors for this, as some mothers are hard-wired to keep extra padding to sustain their babies in the event of a food shortage.
While a scarcity of nutrition is a rare occurrence in modern day, civilized countries, the body’s instinct can still be to store extra weight while nursing.
Whether a woman loses all her baby weight quickly or can’t shed those last few pounds, breastfeeding mothers should be mindful of providing enough calories for her body to continue producing milk. A mother who tries to crash diet or doesn’t eat enough calories throughout the course of a long period can affect her milk production.
To continue nursing, it’s important she feeds her body as an athlete would. Instead of choosing unhealthy snack options, nursing moms can benefit from a well-rounded diet rich in protein, good fats and carbohydrates. Not only will this keep her milk supply strong, but she’ll be contributing to the good of her overall health as well.
Regardless of if a woman chooses to breastfeed or formula-feed, certain nutrients are important for all mothers after giving birth.
First, iron is a key nutrient to maintain as it can cause low energy levels if depleted. After birth, new moms can endure prolonging bleeding that can lead to postpartum anemia. Eating iron-rich foods such as lean beef, dark leafy vegetables and beans can keep iron levels from dipping, while also rebuilding blood supply, ensuring women retain their stamina.
Protein is another nutrient that is important for new mothers. This nutrient is responsible for building muscle and can aid in the weight loss process as muscle is an important factor in burning calories.
Whole-grain carbohydrates are also useful in keeping moms’ energy levels high. According to WebMD.com, one of the best foods for an energy boost is whole-grain cereal, which is fortified with essential vitamins and nutrients to fulfill a mother’s daily requirements.
Lastly, while seemingly obvious, many moms can easily forget the importance of drinking water while caring for an infant. Dehydration can be an energy sap and lead to headaches, muscle cramps and more, so it’s imperative that moms continue to drink liquids throughout the day.
In addition to attaining nutrients from food, supplements can aid in getting a well-rounded array of the proper vitamins. Not surprisingly, many women also continue to take their prenatal vitamins postpartum due to the high amounts of essential nutrients in them.
So what does all of this information mean for a postpartum mom? It’s important that moms put their health first before focusing on weight loss, but carefully maintaining a healthy diet full of enough nutritious foods can not only kick start future weight loss goals, but it can keep their bodies in top condition while caring for an infant.