The average newborn weighs approximately 7.5 pounds. But how many pounds will YOU weigh when you walk out of the delivery room? And how long will it take for you to get your pre-baby body back? While the timeline is different for every woman and is based on a number of factors—how much weight you gained while pregnant, whether or not you're breastfeeding, your diet and exercise habits—there are certain weight-loss milestones you can mark on your calendar.
The skin over your belly has been slowly stretching out to accommodate your growing uterus over the last nine months of pregnancy. After delivery of the baby, the uterus shrinks down to the level of the belly button, which helps explain why women lose an average of 12 pounds almost immediately after giving birth. "You have the baby, lose blood, fluids, amniotic fluid," says Sarah B. Krieger, MPH, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics who does home visits with pregnant women and moms who have children up to age three. In this 24-hour period, your postpartum belly is already starting to go down, she adds. In other words, a lot of that baby weight was...baby.
You're still "peeing out" a lot of the fluids, especially if you had an IV/epidural, Krieger says, meaning you're still losing weight. But don't get on a scale just yet, Krieger advises. "Focus on how your clothes fit instead of what the scale says," she suggests.
Breastfeeding may also play a role in weight loss: While women are advised to consume an additional 500 calories a day if they are nursing, they often lose more weight after giving birth. "Women tend to lose more weight after birth if they are breastfeeding because breastfeeding consumes calories," says Ashley Roman, MD, clinical assistant professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Center. But Krieger notes that this isn't true for everyone. "Some women may lose weight quicker than others whether or not they are breastfeeding," she says.
Krieger doesn't think new moms should weigh themselves during the first two weeks, when you still might be establishing breastfeeding and "your hormones are starting to come down." In other words, you're still in that "baby blues" period where seeing an undesired number on the scale might send you straight into tears! Plus, she adds, "the number on the scale is usually not reflective of body fat, so don't discourage yourself." Krieger recommends measuring your waist with a measuring tape once a month to track inches instead of pounds.
It almost sounds too good to be true, but it's common for new moms to lose as many as 20 pounds in the month after delivery, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Since most women are advised to gain 25-35 pounds while pregnant, one month later, you might be almost back to your pre-baby size!
The uterus returns to the pelvis around this time, and it goes back to its original size (the size of a closed fist). This means your postpartum belly is looking flatter and smaller. "It's a big change as far as the belly goes," Krieger says. Maybe you WILL get to wear your bikini again!
According to ACOG, if you keep up the healthy eating habits you began during pregnancy, you'll be close to your normal weight within a few months of giving birth. Getting some exercise when you can will help you get fitter, faster, too. But it’s important to know that, in some women, the skin loses its ability to regain its pre-pregnancy elasticity and does not go back to the way it was.
Krieger says there's some truth to the saying "nine months on, nine months off." But if you gained more than the recommended 25-35 pounds, it could take a bit longer to look like "you" again. Hang in there!
"The bottom line is that each woman loses postpartum weight at her own pace," Krieger says. "ChooseMyPlate.gov has a great section on keeping track of how much and what foods you want to eat the most of (whole grains, lean protein, lots of water, fruits and veggies) so weight loss will come."
Krieger also warns against fad diets, which will not promote long-term weight loss. Even worse: crash dieting can deny your body of nutrients and delay healing after birth, and deprive your baby of critical calories and nutrients if you're breastfeeding, ACOG says.
"As long as the mom is eating enough calories from the above-mentioned food groups to ensure she consumes the vitamins and minerals necessary to promote healthy skin and weight loss/maintenance and includes a little fitness each day, she is not only being the healthiest mom, but she is role-modeling a healthy lifestyle for her children," Krieger says. And she'll look good doing it, too!