I assumed the weight I’d put on during pregnancy would magically disappear the moment I gave birth. So when I excitedly tried my pre-pregnancy jeans on a week after I had my daughter, I wasn’t prepared for the fact that I couldn’t even get them over my hips, let alone fasten the zip. It was a shock and knocked my confidence in the way I looked. I did eventually get back into those jeans, but it took three months.
Celebrate your new curves
Don’t beat yourself up about not getting back into your skinny jeans yet. Now is the time to enjoy your feminine curves, focus on taking care of you and your baby and allowing your body time to recover.
What’s happened to my body?
It’s normal to want your body back, but you need to be kind to yourself and remember it took nine months to accommodate your growing baby. “We’re bombarded with ridiculous images of celebrities in bikinis a couple of weeks after giving birth. But remember they have personal trainers and do incredible amounts of exercise just days after giving birth, which definitely isn’t a good idea,” says personal trainer Sarah Maxwell (www.sarahmaxwell.co.uk). “Expect it to take nine to 12 months to lose all your pregnancy weight and feel back to normal again.”
Before starting your exercise routine make sure that you are given all clear by your GP or obstetrician.
Until then, learn to love your new curves, dress to flatter them, eat healthily and do some gentle exercise. And of course enjoy being a new mum.
“The way you need to look at it is to embrace your new shape and use the shapes and styles of clothes in the shops to work with your body as it is now. Don’t put pressure on yourself to lose all the weight in a few weeks,” says fashion stylist Lisa Talbot (www.lisatalbot.co.uk).
Their tummy is the area most women complain about post-birth. “No one warns you how long it can take to flatten out. No one prepared me for the round, squidgy ball that was my tummy after having my first child, even my husband was surprised by it. You need to realise this is perfectly normal,” says Sarah Maxwell.
It takes your uterus four to six weeks to contract to its pre-pregnancy size. Breastfeeding and gentle exercise will help flatten and tone your tummy faster, but it’ll still take a few months.
Hips and thighs are the other areas women find have changed. Taking your baby for walks in the pram, a post-natal exercise class and simple toning exercises at home will help you firm up faster.
Dress to flatter those curves
By investing in a few well-chosen pieces, you can still look fantastic and feel confident while allowing your body time to recover. Lisa Talbot has this advice:
* Empire line or blouson fit tops that fold back on themselves for movement around your tummy area are most flattering. Avoid anything clingy round your middle.
* Fitted clothes can be worn, but need to have lots of gathers at the waist to disguise your tummy.
* Choose a coat that has two or three buttons from the collar then flares out so it doesn’t cling to your tummy. Avoid quilted or belted coats.
* High waisted trousers are perfect as they skim over your tummy and give you a flatter line. Wear with blouson style tops.
* Flat fronted skirts that fasten at the side will flatter your shape. Go for jersey, leather or a kilt-style.
* Tunic style dresses, or dresses with lots of gathers at the waist will look great now.
* Use accessories like statement jewellery and colorful scarves to update your outfit quickly and cheaply.
Finding time for yourself has a low priority when you’re a new mum. But spending just a few minutes each day on yourself will make a difference to how you feel and help rebuild confidence in your appearance.
“I used to spend 10 minutes each day doing some yoga. It made me feel calm as well as helping tone up my tummy,” says Kathryn, 38.
“Once a fortnight I treated myself to a manicure. It made me feel glamorous and cared for,” remembers Anna, 35.
“I used to get my eyelashes tinted every six weeks so I didn’t have to bother with mascara but I still felt stylish and made up,” says Kate, 32.
“I treated myself to some new bras to show off my curvier boobs. It made me feel sexy and less worried that my jeans still didn’t fit,” says Jane, 40.
Boost your self-esteem
If your confidence has taken a knock because your body still doesn’t feel like yours, take some steps to boost your mood:
* Get outside for a short walk each day. Fresh air and exercise stimulate feel-good chemicals.
* Focus on your best points. If you have great hair, get it cut and coloured to show it off.
* Spritz on your favorite perfume every day to lift your mood and make you feel glam.
* Remind yourself every day that your amazing body created your beautiful baby.
* Who’s putting pressure on you to look perfect? Certainly not your baby – to him you are already perfect.
Getting back into shape
Eating a healthy diet and doing some gentle exercise will help you shed those extra kilos gradually – that way they’re more likely to stay off.
* Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
* Always eat breakfast – you’re less likely to snack on junk food mid-morning.
* Include carbohydrates such as bread, rice or pasta with every meal.
* Keep sugary snacks, chips, biscuits and chocolate for occasional treats, not part of your daily diet.
Exercise for now
“Now isn’t the time to start a new high-intensity regime. Pilates is brilliant for new mums as it gives you new awareness of your body, your posture and tones up your abdominal muscles. Walking with your baby in the buggy is free and easy and you don’t need a babysitter either,” says Sarah Maxwell. She also suggests joining a post-natal exercise class and making a playlist of your favorite songs and dancing to them whenever you can. “Don’t wait for your baby to sleep – he’ll love watching you.”