5 Reasons You're Not Losing the Baby Weight

Avoid postnatal weight-loss plateaus with this advice.

Postpartum Weight Loss
Photo: Stanislaw Mikulski/Shutterstock

You followed all the advice for having a healthy pregnancy and focused on bringing a healthy baby into the world. Now that you're settling into postpartum life, you may have tried to shed a few of those pregnancy pounds. For some parents, that extra weight can seem to disappear quickly, but trying to lose can feel like a frustrating mystery for the rest of us.

Some studies show that with combined diet and exercise it can take, at minimum, the length of a full-term pregnancy to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight.

Talk to your doctor about starting any weight loss or exercise program, especially if you're nursing. It is important to ensure that you get proper nutrition to heal your postpartum body.

Read on for tips on nutrition, exercise, sleep, and more.

Nutrition and Portion Control

Postpartum weight loss can feel like a mystery, especially if you're already eating a balanced diet that includes protein, fiber, plenty of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and lots of water. But even if you're eating the perfect mix of nutrition, calories and portion size still play an important role in weight control. Even superfoods can be high in calories, so pay attention to what and how much you eat.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that breastfeeding parents add 330 to 400 calories daily for healthy milk production. But the base number of calories you need to support a healthy body while breastfeeding and losing weight will depend on a few factors such as your current weight, body mass index (BMI), and activity levels.

The CDC recommends a healthy calorie range of 1,600 - 2,400 calories for non-breastfeeding parents and 2,000 to 2,800 calories per day for breastfeeding parents. The CDC suggests using the Dietary Reference Intake Calculator to help determine your healthy caloric range.

Be conscious of healthy portion sizes, learn to read food labels properly, and get support if you're having trouble with emotional eating.

Get Plenty of Quality Sleep

Unsurprisingly, the pattern and duration of restful sleep become instantly compromised when a new baby arrives home. As sleep decreases, cortisol levels increase, which can result in your inability to metabolize calories efficiently. Unfortunately, interrupted sleep is an unavoidable and honest expectation of new parenthood. To keep cortisol at bay, diminish cortisol spikes from other possible sources—for example, caffeine, stress, and overexertion in the gym too soon after giving birth can all lead to boosts in cortisol.

What does this mean? Even if you're eating right and exercising at the right pace, a lack of good sleep could prevent your pounds from coming off.

Create a solid sleep routine

Although it may feel like an insurmountable challenge to get a decent night's sleep, with a little bit of planning it can be done. Here are a few tips to help improve your sleep—even with a baby.

  • Avoid eating heavy meals right before bed.
  • Save workouts and other heavy exertions for morning hours.
  • Don't look at screens for an hour before bed—and don't bring your phone to bed with you.
  • To help relax, try sipping an herbal tea before you go to bed.
  • Ask your partner to trade nights of who will wake up with the baby for nighttime feedings.
  • Limit the amount of caffeine and alcohol you have during the day and evening.

Did You Know?

Sleep plays a huge role in weight loss and weight maintenance. In one study published by the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers found that insufficient sleep can slow down and reduce the amount of weight you can lose.

Postnatal Workouts

Any tired, new parent is lucky enough to have the energy, let alone the time, to make it to a workout. Most postnatal parents who have had vaginal delivery are urged to wait at least 6 to 10 weeks before beginning any postnatal exercise program. Those who had a cesarean section may have longer recovery depending on complications such as diastasis recti.

Doing too much or too little can impact your body's ability to lose weight. Once you're approved for exercise after giving birth, consider consulting with a fitness expert to get educated on what formats and exercises are appropriate during postpartum, and which ones should be avoided.

The Company You Keep

Weight-loss success requires support from those around us—but even well-meaning friends and family could hinder your efforts. Some new parents are showered with homemade meals and desserts from friends and family. It's natural to want to enjoy comfort foods and indulge in treats when you're recovering.

You can always try freezing some of those homemade goodies. That way, you can stay on track with your nutrition goals. If you have the type of friends and family who ask you what you need, make some food-specific requests that are healthy choices for you.

Other new parents, especially those who find luck with losing baby weight fairly quickly, can be faced with envy from friends who aren't seeing the same success. Weight loss can be an emotionally charged topic for many people. You can help protect your well-being by using boundaries to keep anyone from making you feel bad about your body.

Communicate your wish to be the healthiest you can be to those around you, so they can best support your wellness goals. If that fails, eliminate situations or people in your life who bring you down, create undue stress, or cause you to second guess your abilities to succeed in losing baby weight.


Take a moment, breathe, and focus on what you can do today to move toward your end goal. Studies show the most efficient weight-loss plans aim to create a loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week. This is a sane target for new, busy parents as well.

By setting realistic and attainable goals, such as walking for 30 minutes each day, or eliminating fatty and processed foods from meals, many postnatal parents should be able to lose up to a couple of pounds per week safely. Your positive affirmations to live healthier, will, in time, result in a trimmer physique. Meanwhile, keep up the great work, and know that your healthy lifestyle will benefit both you and your beautiful new baby.

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