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After both of my deliveries, I used to check my stomach in the mirror every morning to see if it’s getting any flatter. Deep inside I knew it won’t happen overnight and by itself, but I just kind of hoped it could 🙂
Have you heard or seen stories of mums who got their postpartum tummies back into the previous shape just weeks after delivery? Yeah. I am not saying it isn’t possible, but it’s very rare.
I mean, I understand why celebrities and super-models try so hard to lose the baby belly pouch as soon as possible. But for the rest of us – let’s give our bodies some time to cope with the changes.
How long does it take?
Here’s the truth:
The stomach is often the toughest part of the body to return into pre-pregnancy shape. It takes some time and effort to fully recover from pregnancy. I know you are not dreaming about the six-pack. You just don’t want to look five months pregnant, with a belly that is mushy and rounder than you expected.
It takes nine months to stretch stomach muscles to grow your baby. Expect the same amount of time for your tummy to tighten up again.
I know you read this sentence everywhere, but honestly, that’s the real deal. Awaiting your belly to shrink back into pre-pregnancy shape anytime before 6 to 9 months postpartum is just not realistic.
Here is a glimpse of my personal belly journey after 5 months postpartum:
There are various factors that affect the speed of tightening up your mommy tummy.
First and foremost, it depends on your pre-pregnancy shape and size and also partially on your genes. If you gained too much weight (more than 13,5kg /2st 2lb) during your pregnancy or it wasn’t your first pregnancy, you have to give your postpartum belly more time to recover.
Move and nourish
I’ve gained and lost baby weight twice already. Gosh, it was hard.
I’ve struggled a lot and tried many tricks. Still, I am not even close to my “perfect” shape and size, but I can definitely tell what has worked for me on my postpartum weight loss journey so far.
First of all, it all comes down to two essential things:
Nutrition and physical activity
These two are very closely linked. You need to get a good grasp of both to see the results.
As they say: great abs are made in the kitchen.
Forget about dieting – it is not a sustainable lifestyle. Focus on a healthy, balanced diet with a lot of veggies, good filling carbs, and lean protein. Try to keep your daily caloric intake under 1500 calories. If breastfeeding, your meals should not exceed 1800 calories.
When it comes to exercise, overall fat loss and a strong core are what you should aim for. Your core muscles have been stretching a lot during pregnancy, so they need to regain strength to create a nice, flat stomach.
Strong core muscles fill in the looseness in the skin, creating a visibly tighter appearance.
Try to squeeze in some extra core exercises whenever you can. Even just 30 crunches or 40-second plank a day is a great start!
Here’s how I did it
Here are my four fav tips that helped me to get my post-baby belly into shape.
Tip 1: Working the core
I would say strengthening your core together with light cardio is essential to losing the baby belly pouch. Getting rid of your extra belly fat and toning the core changes the appearance of your tummy dramatically.
The core is the most important part of our bodies. Core muscles support the whole body and help us to stay upright. Strengthening your core means far more than just getting a six-pack (although to have one would be nice:) )
The whole core involves all the muscles that surround your midsection, including your back and pelvic floor. These are the two muscle groups we tend to forget about when trying to get rid of that mommy tummy. But they are so important and should be an inseparable part of your core training.
As a matter of fact, pelvic floor exercises should be a part of your very first postpartum workouts.
Healing and strengthening your pelvic floor muscles before you start any other core workout is absolutely crucial!
Check out my favorite pelvic workout routine that helped me to heal my injured pelvic floor.
Both the lower back and pelvic floor have a great impact on maintaining good body posture. Not only correct body alignment helps you to keep your pelvic muscles in good condition – perfect posture makes your tummy look flatter and whole body appearance slimmer and taller!
And that is what we want, right? 🙂
Careful with the Ab Separation
There is one condition causing your baby belly pooch that requires a bit different approach than the “usual” mommy tummy. Abdominal Separation or Diastasis Recti means your belly sticks out because the space between your front left and right abdominal muscles has widened. This is caused by much pressure on the belly during pregnancy.
This simple test can show if you suffer from ab separation:
Lie on your back, bend your knees and put your feet on the floor. Place your fingers about an inch above your belly button with your fingertips pointing towards your feet. Lift your head as you were starting a crunch and see how many fingers fit in the space between your left and right ab muscles. If the gap is more than two fingers wide, you most probably have ab separation.
If you are still unsure whether you have it or not, this short video will help you to understand the condition better:
If you have abdominal separation, don’t panic! It can be fixed. You just really need to be careful with the type of postpartum exercises as some of them could even make the separation worse.
Let’s see what the dos and don’ts are:
Exercises to avoid:
In a nutshell, be careful with all exercises that put too much stress on your abdominal. For instance, if you have problems with postpartum urine leakage, any exercise that causes you to leak indicates that the pressure on your abdominal is too intense.
Exercises to do:
- any pelvic floor strengthening exercises
- standing hip rotational exercises (training oblique muscles)
- maintaining a good posture
Healing ab separation is closely linked to strengthening your pelvic floor muscles. That is why you need to work on both in order to get your core into shape.
Tip 2: Walking a lot
Let’s face it – it is not only sagging skin that makes our tummies look “out of shape”. It’s also the extra fatty tissue underneath the skin.
The best way to burn that extra fat is by doing cardio exercise.
In my case, it is walking.
I don’t like running or jumping of any kind, it’s just pure suffering for me. Walking makes me happy and I don’t have to force myself to do it. On top of that, walking is actually as good as running, when it comes to weight loss.
It’s not that casual window-shopping walk that burns the fat away. You’ll need to add up some speed to your walking routines. Imagine you are running late for a meeting or you are in a hurry because you need to pee really bad 🙂 – that kind of walk. I wrote a whole post about how I lost weight by walking and how you can achieve the same, too! 🙂
Tip 3: Wearing a postpartum girdle
We all wish that it would be this easy but sadly, girdle won’t make you lose weight. BUT, it is a wonderful self-confidence gear for a new mom!
I remember when I put it on about 2 days postpartum and looked in the mirror. After those long months with an enormous belly, it felt SO good having a waist! Of course, after taking it off, it all felt like jello again, but the “huge hug” feeling while wearing girdle was splendid!
For about 6 weeks post-delivery, I wore this super comfy ( AND sexy looking!) MotherTucker wrap by Belly Bandit. After that, I switched to shapewear.
Wearing girdle helps your abdominal muscles to regain strength and return to its normal size faster. It provides a light compression that helps your uterus to shrink. Plus, if you’ve had a C-section, it can take the pressure off your incision. Just make sure you get the all-clear from your doc before putting on a girdle as in some cases, it is not suitable to wear one.
A good girdle provides support to your back and abdomen while doing all the household tasks and hustling around with a baby. Most girdles are safe to wear all-day-long, but as soon as you feel discomfort, better take it off. Remember to take it off for sleeping or exercising!
Tip 4: Tightening the belly skin
Loose skin and stretchmarks are those undeniable signs that you’ve grown a little human inside your belly. Sagged skin is pretty much manageable and with patience and persistence, it can be reverted.
There are multiple ways how you can improve skin elasticity. Keeping your skin hydrated and boosting collagen creation is crucial. I wrote all about postpartum skin treatment that worked for me amazingly.
Hydration – both in and out, is the key here.
Water helps to improve the elasticity of the skin. Only elastic skin is capable of getting back into its previous shape. Try to drink water regularly throughout the day to hydrate your body and skin from the inside.
In addition to water intake, you can improve the appearance of your tummy skin by applying lotion or oil on regular basis, ideally twice a day. I used to do this ” belly slathering” ritual during both my pregnancies to prevent stretchmarks and I just got so used to it! Even now I can’t go to sleep without putting oil all over my belly.
Aim for skin care that contains collagen and vitamin C – this miracle vitamin stimulates your body to produce more collagen. Use pure Aloe Vera in form of a drinking gel or a body moisturizing gel. This amazing plant has a cell-growth stimulating property that can help boost collagen production in your skin (that is why it is widely used for treating cuts and wounds).
The Bottom Line
Right. I know all this above might feel a bit overwhelming. You might be thinking:
Gosh, is this really THAT much work? Do I ever find time to do all this?
But it’s actually easier that it seems, trust me! Start with small tweaks and changes to your daily routine, and you will slowly work your way to flatter tummy and healthier skin.
It took me a long time and lots of meltdowns to realize this:
Taking care of yourself is not some kind of selfish luxury. It is a service to your family. Because when the MOM is happy, the whole family is happy.
How about your mommy tummy? What works for you the best? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!