After you give birth, all of your time is occupied by feedings, diaper changes, laundry and errands. There’s not much “me-time” but once you get settled into your new routine, make healthy eating and exercise becomes more of a priority. Yet after a few months when your weight loss hits a plateau, you might start wondering why you can’t lose the baby weight.
It turns out that losing the baby weight is a concern for most moms. According to a survey by BabyCenter.com, 61 percent of new moms said they expected to get back to their pre-pregnancy weight by their baby’s first birthday yet almost the same amount of moms with 1 and 2-year-olds still hadn’t lost all the weight.
Although diet and exercise are a key component to weight loss, there might be other reasons why you can’t lose the baby weight.
1. Pre-pregnancy and pregnancy weight gain
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 50 percent of women are overweight or obese when they get pregnant and 47 percent gain too much during pregnancy, one study found.
Both your pre-pregnancy weight and the amount you gained during pregnancy have a lot to do with losing the baby weight. In fact, women who gain more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy are 10 pounds overweight 15 years later, a study in The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition found.
2. Lack of sleep
Ever notice that when you’re sleep deprived, you crave sugar, salt and carbs? That’s because without enough sleep, your body increases its production of ghrelin, a hormone that increases hunger and decreases its production of leptin, a hormone responsible for appetite.
Although there’s not much you can do to avoid those sleepless nights, you can ask your partner to take a feeding or try to nap while your baby naps during the day. Also, eating at the same time every day can help to regulate your hunger hormones.
3. Not eating enough
Intermittent fasting and extreme calorie-cutting diets have received a lot of attention in recent months for their ability to help people lose a lot of weight fast, but when you just had a baby, these diets can impair your ability to lose weight and be downright dangerous.
Not only can skipping meals make you irritable and more likely to eat more at your next meal, but fasting is linked to abdominal weight gain and an increased risk for pre-diabetes, a study out of The Ohio State University suggests.
Of course, if you’re exclusively breastfeeding, you need even more calories—about 300 to 500—and dieting should be out of the question.
4. Thyroid dysfunction
Studies show thyroid dysfunction due to iodine deficiency is on the rise. During pregnancy your baby takes iodine from your body but this could lead to hypothyroidism, which can cause weight gain, among other symptoms.
If you think you have hypothyroidism, ask your doctor to run a comprehensive thyroid panel, which includes TSH, free T3, free T4, and reverse T3 and the thyroid antibodies.
5. Too much time in the gym
Although cardio is important for overall health and a great way to lose weight, overdoing it can actually make you feel overly hungry and cause you to overeat.
When you get the all-clear from your doctor to start working out again, try low impact cardio—like walking with your baby in the stroller—along with some resistance training. Then as you get stronger, gradually transition back into your pre-pregnancy workouts.
6. Midnight snacking
When your baby wakes up at night, you might be tempted to grab a snack for yourself but those extra calories could hinder your ability to lose weight.
Instead, drink a glass of water or try some decaf tea, which can help you fall back asleep.
7. Emotional eating
It’s common to feel anxious and stressed especially when you’re a new mom, and if you also have postpartum depression, everything can feel overwhelming. Although eating can soothe you, it’s always temporary, not to mention it can prevent you from losing the baby weight.
Instead of turning to food to feel better, make a list of healthy activities you can do when your feelings feel like too much to handle: going for a walk with your baby, calling a friend, journaling or meditation, for example.
8. A lack of patience
Log out of Facebook and stop reading stories about celebrities who lost the baby weight in 2 weeks. The reality is that it can take 6 months or more to lose the baby weight.
Remember that your body is unique so don’t beat yourself up if you’re not losing the weight as fast as you would like. Instead, continue to eat healthy and exercise and make small changes each day.