It is no surprise fresh moms are therefore baffled by what to actually expect after shipping with superstar mothers revealing surprisingly svelte systems simply months after having a baby. Below, we separate misinformation and reality.
You’ll Instantly Lose 10 Pounds
True. Take one seven- to eight-pound baby, plus about two pounds of blood and amniotic fluid, and you’re pretty much assured a 10-pound weight loss in the hospital after you deliver. “In the first week you will probably lose another three to five pounds of water weight. However, it will take time until you return to your pre-pregnancy weight,” says Lisa Druxman, a San Diego-based fitness trainer and author of Lean Mommy. “It took nine months for you to put the weight on, so you should give yourself at least that to take it off.”
Your Hair Will Start to Shed
True. Up to 50 percent of women experience an increased shedding period after giving birth. “It’s called telogen effluvium and it occurs anywhere from one to six months after giving birth,” says Francesca Fusco, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. During pregnancy there’s a boost in hormones, which slows the shedding process and thickens the hair. As hormones balance out after delivery, the hair returns to its normal growing and shedding cycle. To maintain healthy hair and reduce some hair loss Fusco suggests eating foods high in protein, iron, zinc, flavenoids, antioxidants, and silica, which are all beneficial nutrients for a healthy scalp and hair.
You Need to Eat More If You’re Nursing
False. The calories for your breast milk are mostly coming from your body reserves. (Think: That extra cushion you put on your hips during pregnancy!) You should aim for one to two pounds of weight loss a week, until you hit your target weight. If you find that you are losing more than two pounds a week, you may need to add an extra snack to your day to slow weight loss down. “It is important that you focus on eating a complete diet, because the vitamins and minerals from the food you eat will get pumped into your breast milk,” says Melinda Johnson, MS, RD, a lecturer at Arizona State University. “Focus on eating regularly with plenty of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, and lean protein, and check with your doctor about continuing your prenatal vitamin while you are breastfeeding.”
Breastfeeding Helps You Lose Weight
True. An exclusively breastfed baby needs around 500 to 800 calories a day for healthy growth and development — if it’s your milk that is providing those calories, guess where that comes from? “Sustaining a baby on breast milk means you are putting out your own calories just by feeding your child,” says Johnson. Don’t get discouraged if the weight doesn’t melt off as fast as you’d like — the longer you breastfeed, the more helpful it is for weight loss.
New Moms Should Wait a Few Months Before Exercising Again
False. There are some exercises, such as kegels and abdominal bracing (contracting the abs, lower back, and buttock muscles at the same time), that you can start to do immediately after you deliver. However, it is true that you should return to your full exercise routine very gradually. “Think baby steps (pun intended!),” says Druxman. “Take a few more steps each day and eventually you will get to where you want to go.”
Stretch Marks Are Here to Stay
False. Up to 90 percent of women will experience stretch marks during pregnancy, says Dr. Fusco. “The tears are the results of rapid weight gain, when the body expands faster than the skin can stretch.” In addition, an increase of hormones called glucocorticoids during pregnancy slow down the formation of collagen and elastin fibers in the dermal skin layer. The key is to begin treatment early when the stretch mark is still new and red, pink, or purple in color.
Here’s what You Can Do to Reduce Stretch Marks:
- Drink lots of water to increase skin’s elasticity.
- Avoid binging on starches, sweets, and salty snacks that can lead to extra weight gain and bloating.
- Stock up on citrus fruits and foods high in vitamin C, which is an essential nutrient in collagen production.
- Apply a topical oil like Bio Oil ($11; drugstores nationwide) in the first trimester, to maximize the skin’s elasticity and keep it hydrated.