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Baby, take it off! How to Lose Weight After Pregnancy
If you're like most new moms, you're wondering how you'll ever lose the extra weight you gained in pregnancy. It can be discouraging to discover that the delivery itself didn't magically melt away all of the extra weight you'd hoped would vanish after your baby was born.

There's usually a rapid phase of weight loss during the first six weeks postpartum. Much of this weight loss results from changes in your body's fluid balance. After six weeks, you'll have the harder task of losing the extra padding your body added during pregnancy. Remember, it took time – nine months – to gain all the weight needed to grow a healthy baby. Similarly, it takes time to achieve your weight loss goals.

Fortunately, the fact is that you can lose weight and get back into shape. It will take determination, persistence and patience. Weight change results from the balance between the energy you consume (food) and the energy you burn (physical activity). Simply put, to lose weight you have to burn off more calories than you take in. Burning an extra 500 calories a day will result in one pound of weight loss a week. The healthiest way to take care of your body is to eat a healthy diet, drink plenty of liquids, limit your total caloric intake and exercise in moderation. Trying to lose weight too quickly is not a good idea and isn't likely to help you achieve long-term success.

Breastfeeding can make it easier to lose weight in the first few months following delivery. One study now shows that breastfeeding for at least six months is linked to lower maternal weight gain several years later. Breastfeeding burns about 500 calories a day. But be aware, weight loss will only occur if you don't eat excessively. Though breastfeeding may stimulate your appetite, you need to make wise choices about what you eat. Choose plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy products. Avoid high-fat or high-calorie items that are low in nutrition, such as chips, soda, cookies and candy.

Physical activity is another essential ingredient of any weight loss plan, so find activities that give you pleasure. Many new mothers enjoy postpartum exercise classes – most encourage you to bring your newborn or provide childcare! Being more active will allow you to burn off more calories and will enhance your mood and energy. The following chart shows an estimate of calories burned per hour by a 150-pound person. Notice the increase in calories burned by engaging in vigorous activities.

Sedentary Activities
  • Lying down or sleeping 90
  • Sitting quietly 84
  • Sitting and writing, card playing, etc. 114


  • Moderate Activities
  • Bicycling (5 mph) 174
  • Ballroom dancing 210
  • Light housework, cleaning, etc. 246
  • Swimming (crawl, 20 yards/min) 288
  • Walking (2 mph) 198


  • Vigorous Activities
  • Aerobic Dancing 546
  • Bicycling (13 mph) 612
  • Circuit weight training 756
  • Jogging (10-minute mile, 6 mph) 654
  • Scrubbing Floors 440


  • Researchers have shown that being active will not impair your milk supply if you are breastfeeding. Remember to eat a nutritious diet and drink plenty of water and other liquids.

    If you've recently had a baby, your first priority is recovering from the delivery. Keep in mind that your body is recovering from a fairly strenuous event. Avoid the temptation to engage in any drastic weight loss programs or exercise regimes. Your health and vitality are the most important goals and will be maintained by a sensible diet and moderate physical activity. Set realistic goals and aim for no more than two to four pounds of weight loss a month. You went through an enormous number of physical and emotional changes during pregnancy and childbirth, and it may take at least a full year for you to feel like you've reclaimed your old self.

Laura E. Stachel M.D. Obstetrician & Gynecologist