After nine (or so) months of carrying a baby, a new mother’s body has gone through stages of weight gain to keep the baby healthy throughout the term. Women who start out at a normal weight should gain between 25 and 35 pounds by the time they give birth. But what do they do with all that weight after their newborn arrives?

Experts provide tips on what to eat, when to exercise and sleep, and how to breastfeed in the weeks and months following birth. New moms may be eager to resume their pre-pregnancy weight, but that can be difficult with all that her body has gone through over the course of gestation and the physically demanding birthing process. By practicing patience, maintaining a balanced diet, and staying active, new moms can lose baby weight the healthy way.

"All the magazines ask, 'How did she do it?' The more important question is, 'Why did she do it?'" said Melinda Johnson, registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, in an interview. "They do this with very, very strict diets, and a lot of them do it by getting back into activity before their body is really ready for it."

It’s important for a new mom to know how pregnancy weight is distributed once she gives birth. According to Parents magazine, out of the roughly 30 pounds she gained, the baby will make up between 6 and 8 pounds. The increased fluid volume and blood volume each take up 3 to 4 pounds, the placenta weighs a little under 2 pounds, and the amniotic fluid, enlarged uterus, and enlarged breasts all take up about two pounds each. The body will also store some extra fat and protein for later lactation (breastfeeding), which will add on another 6 to 8 pounds.

Adding on 300 to 400 calories a day during your last months of pregnancy is ideal for a growing baby, but after giving birth it may be difficult to pull back on the extra snacks and second helpings. No matter how much weight you want to lose, beware of falling below 1,800 calories a day, especially during breastfeeding. Try to stay between 2,000 and 2,400 calories. Load up on super foods that are packed with nutrients and light in calories and fat.


Salmon provides mothers and their breastfeeding babies with essential omega-3 fatty acids that help the newborn develop a healthy brain and nervous system. Choose foods that are high in calcium, like milk and yogurt, and protein sources that are high in fiber, like chicken, beans, and quinoa. In addition to protein and dairy, try to incorporate at least four servings of whole grains, four servings of veggies, and three servings of fruit a day. Don’t forgot to treat yourself every two or three days to keep in balance and avoid feeling deprived, and always stay hydrated.


Breastfeeding can help moms return to pre-baby weight faster. A study conducted by the Institute of Preventive Medicine found breastfeeding for six months was able to eliminate postpartum weight in new moms. Newborns will suck between 300 and 600 calories a day out of mom, while breastfeeding provides a healthy flow of nutrition.


During the early stages of postpartum life, moms will gradually adjust to a new sleeping pattern. It may be difficult to get a full eight hours of sleep, which can make it harder to lose weight. The sleep-deprived body releases cortisol, a stress hormone that promotes weight gain. Try to sneak in naps that coincide with the baby’s. Sleep deprivation also increases the risk of binge eating, which is why finding time to close your eyes is helpful to avoid opening up the fridge.

“When you're exhausted, you don't feel like taking good care of yourself," Johnson said. "You're less likely to choose healthy food. You're more likely to grab something through a drive-through. You're also less likely to get physical activity."


When it comes to exercise, moms need to tread lightly. Physical activity tends to be a more delicate balance because the mother’s body just underwent an immense amount of change and won’t be ready for strenuous exercise until six weeks after birth. Start by a walk around the block three times a week and then work your way to 20 or 30 minutes each morning. Weight lifting will also help speed up your metabolism and help burn calories. Pick up some dumbbells for bicep curls or practice lunges behind the stroller on your morning walk.

Post-pregnancy yoga is an effective, low-stress option to strengthen hips and regain balance back to the body. Read here.