Are you feeling frustrated and defeated in your efforts to lose the baby weight?
Or maybe you are worried the weight isn’t coming off as quickly as you expected it to?
After the birth of my first baby, I had this expectation that the weight I gained from pregnancy would quickly melt away after she was born.
Wishful thinking, right?
And with each baby, the weight seemed to get a little harder to lose each time.
Postpartum weight retention can be a very frustrating journey but with the right tools, reaching your weight loss goals won’t be as challenging as you think.
Getting back to a healthy weight range for you and your body is also very beneficial for any future pregnancies.
In this post, you will learn the average time it takes to lose weight postpartum and some common factors that may be preventing the weight from coming off as quickly as you want!
What Is The Average Time It Takes To Lose Baby Weight After Pregnancy?
Postpartum weight retention is different for everyone and also with each pregnancy.
It took 8-12 months to reach my pre-pregnancy weight after each of my three pregnancies.
And it took several months after that to feel as strong as I did prior to pregnancy.
Keep in mind that reaching your pre-pregnancy weight and fitting into your pre-pregnancy clothes is likely to be two different ball games.
Having the expectation that your clothes will fit once you reach your pre pregnancy weight is likely setting yourself up for failure.
During pregnancy, not only do we put on extra body fat but we lose some muscle mass which causes our body composition to be different and your hips may remain a little wider.
Instead of focusing strictly on the scale, judge your progress based on how your clothes fit rather than what the scale says.
11 Reasons You Struggle To Lose Baby Weight
Let’s look at why you may be struggling with your postpartum weight retention.
1. You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep
Many people significantly underestimate the importance of sleep for weight loss, myself included.
And as a mom, getting adequate rest can feel pretty impossible, especially with a newborn.
However, sleep deprivation disrupts the hormones that balance appetite which can lead to consuming more food despite adequate caloric intake.
The disruption of these hormones can also make it harder to lose body fat, especially around the midsection.
In one study, participants who were sleep deprived gained almost two pounds more than those who got adequate sleep.
In my experience, I have noticed that those last few stubborn pounds come off around 6-8 months postpartum when my babies started sleeping better.
Getting more sleep is such a simple concept yet it requires both behavioral and conceptual changes.
What You Can Do
- Prioritize sleep– When sleep deprivation is impacting your health and weight, you must try to make it a priority.
- Consider gentle sleep training– Many moms have mixed emotions about sleep training however being rested will make you a happier, healthier mom. Gentle sleep training was one the BEST things I did for all three of my newborns.
- Ask for help- Don’t be afraid to split the night time feedings with your significant other. Teamwork when raising babies is one the best things you can learn early on. You deserve sleep too!
2. You’re Eating The Wrong Foods
Sleep deprivation, breastfeeding and the stress of motherhood in general often lead us to making poor food choices.
Poor eating habits also contribute to fatigue which puts you in a vicious cycle of over eating and constant exhaustion.
It is tempting to eat more comfort type foods when you are feeling exhausted and stressed but making healthier food choices not only helps regulate energy levels but it will also help you lose weight.
Highly processed foods such as chips, candy, crackers and soda’s only provide empty calories and are easy to overindulge in.
In order to lose weight, your body needs to burn more calories than it consumes. Skipping foods that only provide empty calories will help you reach your weight loss goals much faster.
What You Can Do
- Focus on proteins, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables- These foods will help keep you feeling more satisfied, longer. They also help regulate blood sugar levels which will help improve your energy and mood.
- Meal Prep- Meal planning can feel time consuming and challenging but it is the best thing you can do to keep yourself on track. Having healthy foods on hand when hunger strikes will keep you from reaching for those empty calories. Need some recipe ideas? This book is one of my favorites!
- Skip buying snacks- Out of sight, out of mind! In our house, the best way to prevent eating snacks or processed meals is to avoid buying them all together. Even personal trainers struggle with resisting snacks at times. So we just avoid buying them. Saves money and saves calories.
3. You Weighed Too Much Prior To Pregnancy
Evidence shows that there is a direct association between weight gain during pregnancy, increased birth weight and postpartum weight retention.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) more than 50 percent of women who get pregnant are either overweight of obese at the time of conception and only about one third of these women gain the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy.
Developing healthy eating and exercise habits that favor weight loss may be more challenging in the postpartum period if you also struggled before pregnancy which can make losing postpartum baby weight more challenging.
What You Can Do
- Focus on developing healthy eating habits– Despite things like morning sickness, chronic fatigue and just overall discomfort, I strongly believe that pregnancy is the absolute best time to develop healthier eating habits because it directly affects the health of your baby.
- Just Move!- Finding time to exercise as a new mom can feel almost impossible. However, remember that exercise doesn’t have to be perfect to be effective. Finding 10 minute pockets of time to move your body during the day can help you shed those last couple pounds of baby weight.
4. You Aren’t Organized
Having time, energy and even motivation to lose weight requires organization.
Not just with your schedule but with your house in general.
Wasting 20 minutes looking for your kids lunch box or your car keys is 20 minutes that could be spent exercising.
Or if your house is covered in toys, the chances of you having motivation are much more slim.
Getting organized, decluttering and living a more simple life has a direct impact on your weight loss success.
What You Can Do
- Declutter– Getting rid of clutter can actually help you lose weight.
- Get Organized- Organization does not have to be perfect but you will save a lot of time when you aren’t spending half you day looking for things. Clutter and disorganization also causes us to feel more stressed. Simplify your surroundings and you will be surprised how much time and energy you have to exercise!
5. You Lack Time and Energy
Speaking of lack of time, most people think that weight loss requires much too strict time requirements in order to reach their goals.
However, with proper time management and method of exercise, you can still reach your goals without strict time requirements.
Finding energy is also tough but exercises actually will help boost your energy levels.
What You Can Do
- Choose High Intensity Interval Training– When time is your limiting factor to weight loss, the method of exercise you choose matters most. The more intense your workout, the more calories your body burns AFTER your workout is over. This afterburn effect is much more powerful for weight loss then trekking away doing long, slow and often boring cardio.
- Break up your workouts– If weight loss is your goal, your body needs to burn an extra 500-1000 calories per day or 3500 calories per week. This means you need to engage in fairly vigorous exercise for about 3 hours a week. BUT! This three hour requirement can be broken up into much smaller, more attainable time slots. Even just several 10 minute HIIT workouts spread out throughout the day will help you meet your extra caloric burn for the day.
- Time Blocking- In most cases, I find that we lack proper time management skills more than we lack actual time. Using time blocking is one of the best things I have done to find those little pockets of time to exercise.
6. Your Body Functions Differently
Most moms are not aware of how pregnancy and childbirth have affected their body’s only to be left with embarrassing and frustrating side effects such as urinary incontinence, chronic back pain and a lingering belly pooch that won’t go away.
However, it is impossible to work toward your postpartum weight loss and fitness goals if you can’t exercise without peeing your pants or experience chronic pain in your pelvis or back.
I personally remember being unable to walk or even squat properly for months after I was cleared to exercise. As an athlete, this was incredibly frustrating and I wish I knew then, what I know now.
What you can do
- Resume postpartum exercise the right way- Before jumping into your first workout, please take the time to learn and understand how to navigate exercise and your postpartum body so you don’t set yourself back by creating more problems by doing incorrect exercises.
- Focus on healing your core and pelvic floor- If you have a lingering belly pooch that you just can’t get rid of, you could have something called “Diastasis Recti” and many traditional “ab” exercises can actually make it worse. If getting a flat tummy after having a baby is your goal, then you will need to heal your core and pelvic floor correctly.
7. You Aren’t Doing The Right Workouts
When time is your limiting factor to weight loss, the type of exercise you chose, matters.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is by far the best choice of exercise if you lack time and even equipment to exercise.
Most of us don’t have time or even desire for long, boring and heavily cardio based workouts.
And if you dread these long workouts, sustainability will be impossible.
What you can do
- Choose Workouts that Work: Choosing HIIT style workouts are much more realistic for time restricted moms and the best part about HIIT is that it is perfect for any fitness level.
- Heal Your Postpartum Body– While HIIT is my favorite workout method for quickly losing weight and reshaping your body, you must make sure your body is healed to withstand the high demands of this type of exercise. Make sure your core and pelvic floor are strong enough to do HIIT workouts or you could set yourself back in reaching your goals.
8. Mom Guilt
I have yet to figure out why we feel guilty for taking time to exercise when it is one of the best things we can do for ourselves but mom guilt is a huge barrier to losing baby weight.
Taking the time for yourself to workout and prepare healthy meals can feel selfish.
However, kids learn more by what we do than what we say and if we want them to develop healthy habits, the best way to do that is to show them through our actions.
Practicing self care by staying active and eating healthy is one of the best things your children can see you do.
What you can do
- Include your little ones– Mommy and me workouts are not only fun but they are a great way to bond with your little ones. Babywearing workouts were my go-to for months after all three of my babies were born. In the early days, the movement was soothing for them and they often feel asleep in the baby carrier while I exercised.
- Make your workouts faster– If you haven’t yet noticed, HIIT is my favorite method of exercise as a busy mom. I need workouts that are quick but deliver great results. The harder you exercise, the more you accomplish and the less time you take away from your kids.
9. You Don’t Have Help
Losing weight after having a baby can be extremely challenging if you lack help to give you time to exercise.
My husband works full time and I do not have a nanny or childcare.
This means getting my workouts in takes some creativity and motivation.
What you can do
- Squeeze in a workout before your kids get up
- If they are under one, wear them
- Let them watch a little show
- Take them to the gym with you-this gives them a chance to play too.
- Give them a project while you workout
10. You Are Breastfeeding
There is this assumption that breastfeeding will make all the weight you gained during pregnancy just melt off.
While breastfeeding does burn extra calories, many moms struggle to lose the last 5-8 pounds until after they have weaned their babies.
If you are struggling to lose weight while breastfeeding, you might just have to be patient for those last few pounds to come off once you are done.
11. You Aren’t Moving Enough
And I don’t mean through exercise.
Most people think that the only way to lose weight and burn calories is through exercise.
While exercise is the most ideal way to burn the most calories, there are other ways to burn calories throughout your day without actually working out.
Non-Exercise-Activity-Thermogenesis also referred to as “N.E.A.T” is all the activity and movement you do throughout the day outside of exercising that burns calories.
Standing, walking, fidgeting, cleaning, and playing with your kids are all examples of activities that increase your daily caloric burn without actually exercising.
Research shows that individuals who move more throughout the day outside of exercising are more likely to reach and maintain their weight loss goals.
What you can do
- Move more- Play chase with your kids, go for a walk, clean the house, if you can, stand while you work or answer emails, pick a decluttering project. Just move!
A Few More Tips To Lose Postpartum Weight Retention
1. Don’t Crash Diet
Your body needs proper nutrition to repair and rebuild your body after pregnancy. I know it’s tempting but crash diets will only leave you feeling more tired, moody and frustrated when the diet is impossible to maintain.
2. Count Calories
Calorie counting can seem extremely cumbersome however it is very important at the beginning of any weight loss program. Most people significantly underestimate portion sizes and the total number of calories they have consumed.
Tracking calories will help you learn proper portion sizes as well has help you see where you can make improvements in your diet.
I love the “Lose It” or “My Fitness Pal” apps on my phone.
3. Strength Training is Essential
Muscle burns more calories at rest than fat. It is also what gives us that “lean, toned or firm” look most people want when they are trying to lose weight.
Strength training will help boost your metabolism as well as reshape your body.
4. Stay Hydrated
Oftentimes our bodies have a hard time distinguishing between hunger and thirst. Staying hydrated will help keep some of those cravings at bay.
To wrap it up, losing weight after having a baby can be very frustrating and time consuming but with this list of tips, you can do it!
Final Thoughts On Losing Baby Weight
Being eager and motivated to lose weight after pregnancy is a great thing!
But remember to be patient with yourself. Your body and your life function much differently than before kids.
This means you will need to heal your postpartum body, strengthen your core and pelvic floor and also build good routines and time management skills to give you the time you need for yourself!
You got this mama! and I am always just one email away if you need any motivation, encouragement or support!
Brooke is a certified Prenatal and Postnatal Exercise Specialist with a Bachelors of Science degree in Kinesiology-Exercise Science. She is also a mom of 3 girls with more than 15 years of experience in health and fitness. Brooke’s goal at Struggles of a Fit Mom is to help motivate, educate and inspire other busy mamas who struggle with finding time, energy and motivation to take care of themselves in the chaos of motherhood.