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How to Love Your Post Baby Belly

Snuggle Bugz | | Comments 0

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Congratulations on your new arrival! You should be proud of yourself after all, your body has accomplished a little miracle.

If you are like many mothers, you may be elated that your pregnancy journey is finished and you're into the next phase of motherhood. Time to savour all those adorable baby coos and sweet funny faces!

A few months down the line, your attention may turn to your postpartum body. While it's easy to get caught up in the bombardment of unhealthy beauty standards on Instagram, give yourself some grace. You and your body are incredible, you need time to recover and embrace the wonders of parenthood.

It's entirely normal to have separation, squishiness, and looseness through your midsection! You had an entire human in there! Don't feel like you have to be on anyone's timeline but your own. Your body is beautiful and functioning exactly as it should.

If/or when you feel ready to tackle your post-baby bump, it's important to have patience and be kind to yourself. You have a little one that really needs you and that is physically demanding.

 Why Do I Have a Pooch?

 Reason #1:

As your baby is developing and getting larger, it puts pressure on your abdominal wall, namely your Rectus Abdominis or “6-pack” muscle. The tendons and tissues that surround and hold both sides of this muscle, namely the Linea Alba, stretches to accommodate your growing baby. Once baby has been born, this tendon may remain stretched and the separation between your “6-pack” is called Diastasis Recti. It takes time for this separation to contract back to normal but left unchecked, it can remain separated and weak, allowing your deeper internal organs to push through and is one common cause of pooch-belly.

Reason #2:

During pregnancy, your body is also stockpiling body weight and mostly in the form of body fat. Fat is a great energy source for the baby as it's developing in a woman's uterus. Unfortunately, for our mental state, we can’t control our baby-building hormones and they pretty much tell your body to store fat all around your growing baby. This is another contributor to pooch-belly

Reason #3:

A lot of women experience an increase in appetite while pregnant or sometimes crave less healthy food options, if you put on some extra weight from this, take it in stride, don’t feel any guilt, and let’s move on.

Reason #4:

One last cause of pooch-belly that’s important to note is lack of sleep (which is pretty much every new mom) and not eating enough or properly through the day. These circumstances can slow your metabolism.

How Do I Get Rid of it?

A lot of women immediately think, “I need to go on a diet” or “I need to do crunches…like 1,000 of them a day” or “I need to sign up for some 30-day challenge”. These are not the answers to getting rid of your post-baby pooch belly.

Here is a few simple things that will help:

Eat Well

Going on a diet is not the answer. In fact, that word should be stricken from our vocabulary. The word diet can often set off feelings of stress (no one needs any more of that). Instead, this is a great time to focus on maintaining the healthy eating habits you had during pregnancy or building new ones.

If you are only eating one or two times a day or just snacking, then you need to get into more of a habit where you're eating more often and probably eating a little bit more in each meal. When we don't eat enough or frequently throughout the day, our bodies go into ‘starvation mode’ so to speak. Your body will hold on to every single bit of extra body fat and calorie it can get its hands on.

Now is a great time to take up someone’s offer of wanting to help you out. Ask someone to make you a meal or two to have available in your freezer. Get a friend to come over and prepare all your vegetables or make you a big batch of rice.

Minimize Stress

Stress is terrible for our bodies and actually prevents us from losing body fat…especially around our waists.  Be aware and identify elements in your life that are causing you stress. Cut out the ones that are in your control. Then find ways in which you can calm yourself when you encounter stress that’s not in your control. For example, closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths, doing some stretches, listening to your favourite music or trying a guided meditation on a podcast.

Drink Water

You need a minimum of 2L of water per day; more if you’re breastfeeding. If you’re trying to lose some weight, you likely need to drink more than this. You’re all crossing your legs reading this now because you have to pee right? Well, this is a good thing. An excellent thing really. Water will always flush toxins and waste from your cells and help to liberate fat stores. Who wants to liberate their body fat (hands up)??? Drink water consistently and you’ll start to see great changes.

Get Some Sleep

Ok, so long solid sleep may not be a possibility for you right now but sleep is imperative to help us rest, recover, purge, and rebuild. Whenever you possibly can, take a nap when baby is napping, and ask your partner to take over one of the midnight feedings. If you don’t have a partner, ask a friend to stay the night and take over one of the feedings.

Breastfeed

While not scientifically proven, many women do report losing weight after pregnancy due to breastfeeding. On the other hand, many women who breastfeed don’t find their weight decreasing because of it. One thing is for certain, breastfeeding stimulates the contraction of the uterus in the first 6-8 weeks of having a baby and this can help to tighten that pooch belly.

However, if you are breastfeeding you need an additional 500 calories per day to maintain and/or build breast milk availability. Keep this in mind when you’re thinking about your nutrition (not diet). If you're having issues with breastfeeding, don't fret. We are firm believers in 'Fed Is Best', and losing your post-baby belly is definitely not dependent on your ability to breastfeed.

Exercise

Most people know that exercise helps you burn calories, and coupled with proper nutrition, can result in losing the “baby weight” quicker than someone who doesn’t exercise. Within the first 6 weeks after having a baby, you should be safe to go for a 5 or 10 min walk and do some light stretching. Do only what is comfortable and don’t push yourself. If you feel any pain, stop!

To maximize results and make you stronger than ever before, you’re going to want to seek out help from a qualified pelvic floor specialist and/or certified postnatal fitness instructor. They will be able to give you a personal assessment and specific exercises that are safe, effective, and staged progressively to tighten up your belly and minimize or eliminate diastasis recti (separation of the front abdominal wall).

A few paragraphs ago, we said crunches aren’t the place to start and here’s why. Your “6-pack” muscle is separated and when you focus on exercises that target these muscles specifically, they will get tight. That’s the point of them. But when they get tight they will tend to push apart more or stay where they are, leaving the surrounding tissues stretched. One of the best exercises you can start with is a Lying Pelvic Tilt which targets your TVA (transverse abdominis)…a deep muscle that helps to stitch your belly back into place, support your core and improve your posture.

Lying Tilt Exercise

Step 1: Lie flat on the floor with your legs stretched out and hands on your hips. Place your fingers 1 or 2 inches in from your hip bones.

Step 2: Take a deep breath in and as you exhale focus on pressing the arch in your lower back to the floor. With your fingers on your hips, you should be able to feel your TVA activate. If you have a lot of belly fat you may need to press into your hips a bit to feel the activation.

Step 3: Relax then repeat Step 2 for 8-10 repetitions. You can start by doing this 3 times a day.

Tip: Be sure you don’t tighten your legs or bend them to help press your back to the floor. The idea here is to activate your deep abs only.

Remember, Be Safe

 You are the most important person to your baby, so before you start getting into your postpartum fitness journey or making extreme changes to your nutrition, you will need to ensure bleeding has ceased and you have received clearance from your doctor to do so. A good time to discuss this will be at your 6-8 week post-labour check-up. 

Be kind to yourself, be patient, and enjoy this phase of motherhood. You got this!