Women's Health

Pregnancy & Birth

Postpartum Care

Diet & Exercise

Proper nutrition is vital for post-delivery recovery. While weight loss may seem like a priority, losing too much weight too soon after delivering can prolong the recovery period. The quality and quantity of food you consume will influence how you interact with your baby. Also, for breastfeeding moms, what you eat directly affects the nutrition of your child.

Whether or not you choose to breastfeed, maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is essential for overall health. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers new moms advice on proper postpartum nutrition through ChooseMyPlate.gov. Moms can also download a customizable, daily checklist that shows the foods and amounts that are right for you and your family.

MyPlate is an easy to understand replacement of the USDA food pyramid. There are five main food groups —dairy, fruit, grain, protein, vegetables. Though you may not be able to incorporate every food group in each meal, the plate graphic shows:

  • Half of your plate should be fruits or vegetables.
  • One-quarter of your plate should be a grain — cereals with iron and folic acid, barley, rice. At least half of all the grains eaten should be whole grains.
  • One-quarter of your plate should be protein.
  • Drink fat-free or low-fat milk and water. Avoid Sugar-sweetened beverages like soda and sports drinks.

Weight loss

Many moms are eager to lose the weight they gained during pregnancy. But losing weight after giving birth differs from any other time in your life, particularly if you are planning to breastfeed.

Typically, mothers lose about 10 pounds within the first six weeks after giving birth. Depending on how much weight was gained during the pregnancy, women usually reach their pre-pregnancy weight within a year. Breastfeeding helps with weight loss — bodies burn extra calories when breastfeeding. Many moms lose weight naturally while breastfeeding.

Postpartum weight loss tips

  • Be physically active at least 30 minutes each day. Select activities that you like and fit your lifestyle.
  • Avoid strict diets. Physical activity and smart eating decisions is a recipe for success. However, crash diets, restrictive diets, and fad diets can result in loss of muscle instead of fat and ultimate weight gain when you return to your regular eating habits.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. It’s recommended moms drink 8 or 9 cups of water a day. Water helps flush out fat. By choosing water over sugar-sweetened beverages, you reduce the number of empty calories you consume.
  • Be realistic. You might not return to your pre-pregnancy weight or shape right away.

Exercise

In the first six weeks after giving birth, it is important to avoid strenuous activity. Avoid heavy lifting, substantial housework, and climbing stairs, as these activities can slow down the healing process.

When you’re ready to begin the weight loss process — at least six weeks after delivery — it’s recommended to ease into your workout routine. The USDA, recommends a moderate weight loss plan — losing no more than 2 pounds per week. It’s important to note, losing too much weight while breastfeeding can reduce the amount of milk you’ll produce.

Kegel exercises

Kegel exercises help to heal your episiotomy and tone the stretched vaginal muscles. This strengthens the pelvic floor muscles that support your womb, bladder, and bowels, and increases sexual pleasure.

To perform kegel exercises:

  1. Empty your bladder.
  2. Concentrate on tightening your pelvic floor muscles — the muscles you use to hold in urine or bowel movements.
  3. Count to five as you squeeze and hold the muscles. Do not hold your breath. Do not tighten your buttocks.
  4. Do five sets of 10 repetitions.

Newyork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center

Newyork-Presbyterian Alexandra Cohen Hospital for Women and Newborns