Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Body After Birth

So aside from being curious about what my body would be like during pregnancy, my next biggest question was, "What will my body be like after birth?"  Here's a visual look at the changes that took  place from the day before I gave birth to 6 weeks after Avery was born.

As you can see my body (and baby girl) went through many changes, let me tell you about them!

Weight Gain During Pregnancy: While I was pregnant, I weighed myself two times during the first few months and I hated it! I found myself wanting to workout extra hard and skimp a little on food so I'd have a lower number on the scale...ummm not helpful to Baby or I! I only weighed myself because I thought my midwife needed that info, but as it turned out she didn't.  She said she had other ways of checking the baby and I's growth other than this.  She also said she'd seen the weekly/monthly weight checks cause pregnant moms unnecessary stress. 

After learning this, I did not weigh myself until the day I went into labor.  I figured I'd be so preoccupied with the fact that my baby was about to be born that I wouldn't care one bit about how much weight I'd gained...and I was right.  I didn't care at all!  Overall, I gained 25 lbs. and I'm happy with that since the average weight gain is 25-35 lbs.(for someone of average weight pre-pregnancy).  More importantly, I'm happy I didn't have to worry about this number at all during my pregnancy...the peace of mind I was able to have was priceless.  I didn't have to rationalize: "Okay I've gained this much weight and I have ___ months to go...is that too much or too little?" Ahhhh! Those thoughts would have driven me crazy!

Even worse, during pregnancy you often can't control your appetite and hunger, thus compounding the situation (and weight gain).  So I suppose one of the reasons I am at peace with my weight gain is that although I couldn't always control when I ate or even sometimes how much I ate, I could control what I ate.  And by eating whole, delicious, organic, gluten-free, vegan foods my entire pregnancy, I don't have one bit of guilt.  On top of this, exercising up until the day I went into labor also seemed to help. 

Weight Loss After Birth: One week after Avery was born, I weighed myself again and I had lost 20 lbs.  Despite this drastic loss, I didn't feel like my old self because I'd lost a lot of muscle.  Given that I'm not a number-crunching, calorie-counting, scale-obsessed girl, I decided it'd be best for me to wait a while before weighing myself again.  So here I am, 6 weeks after birth, and I've lost an additional 5 lbs, getting me back to my pre-pregnancy weight.  Although I still have some more muscle and endurance to build back up, I am happy with my progress so far. 

Let me tell you some things I've been doing to guide my body back into it's pre-pregnancy shape:

1.  Breastfeeding:  This is the easiest thing I've been able to do to help me lose my "baby weight" because it serves a dual purpose...it feeds my growing baby girl and it burns calories for me (possibly 500-1,000 a day!).  On top of this, it helps shrink my uterus back to it's pre-pregnancy size. I will be posting more about breastfeeding in the upcoming weeks.

2.  Exercising:  I started exercising again one week after I gave birth to Avery.  That first week of no exercise about drove me crazy, I think I even had exercise withdrawal! I probably sound crazy, but when you work out every day, I think your muscles get used to it, not to mention the endorphin rush you get during and after exercise.  On top of this, exercise was part of my daily routine, so to not have that in combination with all the other big changes that were occurring (taking care of a newborn, breastfeeding, becoming a "mom") it kind of threw me for a loop!  I found myself pacing around my upstairs, doing light aerobics while holding Avery, and doing gentle stretches (that were kind to my stitches) just to stay sane.  I know my body wasn't ready to workout yet, but boy do I wish I could have. 

Finally after 1 week, I was ready to get back into it, so I started with an easy, slow 1 hour walk on the treadmill...it felt so good! I did this same workout for several days just to get my body back into the swing of things, then I added the prenatal pilates DVD (that I mentioned in this post) back in so I could get some strengthening exercises to start building my muscles back up.  Around week 3, I added yoga back in...no more prenatal yoga, I was back to my favorite Namaste Yoga.  Then around week 4, I added some running intervals to my treadmill workouts.  It felt great to run again, but it did increase the "lochia" or normal postpartum flow which had stopped around the 3 week mark.  I've read that if the flow starts back up after it's stopped, it could be a sign that I was pushing myself too hard, so I scaled it back. 

Since then, I've been gradually increasing my running speed, as I've found that running has been really helpful in getting my pre-pregnancy abs back.  I say this because each time I run, I find myself naturally tightening and pulling my stomach muscles in, thus giving me a nice little ab workout during my run...so thank you running!  Plus running feels like I'm getting the most calorie-burning "bang for my buck" since my time is a bit more limited these days.  As of now, I workout mainly when Avery is napping, which has been interesting because she often seems to wake up 30 minutes into most of my hour-long workouts.  Usually I can just feed her and she's back asleep and then I'm right back on the treadmill.  Other days she wants to be up, so I end up finishing the workout later, which can be frustrating, but I understand it comes with the territory of being a mom.  It makes me wonder how and when I'm going to get my workouts in during the fall when I go back to work (since I can't always bank on her falling asleep at a set time)?  What do you moms out there do with your babies while you workout?  Either way, I'm sure by then I'll figure some type of system out.

Aside from running, I've also been doing an awesome pilates workout (10 Minute Solutions: Pilates) to help build my muscles back.  I have to say, pilates is amazing for abs as well.  Check out a preview of it below. 

3.  Wearing a Belly Bandit: I came across the Belly Bandit during my pregnancy and knew I had to give it a try after Avery was born.  Basically it's a "compression wrap" which goes around your belly and applies constant "medical grade pressure" that can help get your post-pregnancy belly back to it's pre-pregnancy shape.  The wrap is one piece of somewhat thick, stretchy-like fabric that goes once around your belly and attaches with Velcro.  You can begin wearing it right after giving birth (c-section or vaginal birth) and you continue wearing it for up 6-8 weeks post-partum for the best results.  You wear it all day, every day...even when you sleep.  You take it off when you take a shower, and when you get out, you put it right back on.  I also take mine off during some of my workouts because it gets uncomfortable for me, plus I'm usually working my abs during my workout anyways, so I don't necessarily need the added support.

Wearing my Belly Bandit
Some of my favorite reasons for using the Belly Bandit, as described by their website, are: "...it shrinks your belly, waist, and hips which have expanded during pregnancy, it reminds you to utilize your core muscles (I really noticed how much it helped with this!), helps accelerate healing, and most importantly...it helps your uterus shrink faster and once your uterus shrinks, so does your tummy."  Did you know that your uterus grows 25 times its normal size when you are pregnant? Unbelievable! Most research says it takes about 6 weeks for the uterus to return to it's normal size after birth, and surely this naturally decrease in size, in combination with the Belly Bandit, will help ensure a speedy return to your pre-pregnancy belly.  You can read more about the benefits of wearing the Belly Bandit here.
Attaching the two ends of
Velcro to secure the Bandit.
The Belly Bandits come in a variety of styles and fabrics, which you can find here.  Being the green girl that I am, I naturally went with the Bamboo one and I love it! Their website says that the Bamboo Belly Bandit: "...is inherently antibacterial, moisture wicking, and three times as durable as cotton." It also claimed to be the softest and most comfortable of all the styles, and after trying it, I'm definitely sold on the bamboo!  The run about $45-65 depending on the style and material, with the bamboo one at $65. They have 5 sizes (XS all the way up to XL) and as your belly grows smaller, you can adjust the band by placing the two Velcro ends closer together. 

Overall, I have been really satisfied with the results I've seen from wearing the Belly Bandit, most specifically in how it has helped me be aware of my ab muscles.  But, despite this there were a few things that I found a tiny bit annoying:
-it does show through clothing...mainly just where the two Velcro pieces come together.  Rotating this "seam" to the side is helpful in decreasing the visibility of this, as is wearing clothing that is a little looser or dressing in layers.
-it often rides up under my chest, especially when I sit and breastfeed so sometimes I take it off if it becomes too uncomfortable. 
-sometimes it's just downright annoying!  Wearing something all day, every day can definitely become a bit frustrating after a while (in combination with trying to take care of a baby and dealing with other body changes).  I usually hit my breaking point if Avery had been up several times at night and every time I would get up or try to pick her up I'd have to pull the Belly Bandit back down.  After a few times of this I would  lose my cool and just pull the band right off and throw it on the ground! Then after a break from it for a few hours I'd be ready to put it back on.  I guess you could say my Belly Bandit and I had a "love-hate" relationship.  ( ;

All in all, I highly recommend other pregnant mamas out there giving this a try after you have your babies, because not only is it great for getting you back to your pre-pregnancy shape, it's also SO EASY! All you have to do is wear it! You don't have to spend hours in the gym or do some fancy exercises...with this you simply put it on each day.  It doesn't get much easier than that!

Dieting? Heck no! With my increase in exercise and Avery's on-demand "marathon" breastfeeding sessions, my appetite is definitely back up.  It dropped that first week after birth, and although it's nothing like it was during pregnancy, it still seems like I'm hungry fairly often.  So calorie-counting and skipping meals is not an option for me.  But just as with my pregnancy, this doesn't mean I'm going hog-wild... I'm sticking to my usual gluten-free, vegan foods with an emphasis on green smoothies, fresh fruit, veggies, beans, tofu, and rice.

So that's my reflection of my body after birth, and although all of these things worked for me, everyone is different.  In fact, most pregnancy books don't even recommend working out until 6 weeks postpartum...or longer possibly if you've had a c-section. But for me, I was ready after a week, maybe you'll take longer to be ready, or maybe you'll be hitting the walking trails the next day...who knows? So, listen to your body, do your research, and do what feels right to you.  Any other moms out there have some tips, tricks or advice for getting back to your pre-pregnancy shape? Feel free to share and post below!

Update as of October 2011...6 Months Out:
Now since I kept you all up to date on the changes that took place from day one to week 6, it's only right that I keep you in the loop now that we are on MONTH six! Since I wrote this original post at six weeks postpartum, I have lost an additional 11 lbs. Although I'm sure there are a number of factors that come into play with this additional weight loss, I think it boils down to three things:
1- Breastfeeding
2-Vegan Diet

Here's a recap of the changes my body (and baby) have gone through in the past six months.

I can't believe how small Avery looks in the first picture! What a difference six months makes.

As I said earlier in the post, breastfeeding is one awesome calorie burner...I've read it can burn up to 500 calories or more a day! As of now, Avery is exclusively breastfed and while she has been trying some solid foods (in a baby-led weaning kind of way), I continue to nurse her about the same amount as we did before, which is basically whenever she wants it. Also, as I blogged about in this post, I continue to pump for her even when I'm at school. I think all this breastfeeding sure has given me a bit of an edge when it comes to losing weight.

Now although I think that breastfeeding has helped me burn calories, I think it also makes me consume more calories. Sometimes I seriously feel like I eat just like I did when I was pregnant! Now this kind of contradicts what I just said in the paragraph above, but just follow me with this.  In some of the research I've done about vegan diets, there's some proof that they can help people to lose weight. Who would have thought...cut the milk, cheese, and meat, and then the weight melts off? But what about your protein and calcium? You ask.  Well, what if they were the problem in the first place? 

Some of the science behind it is that by cutting out animal products from your diet, you are consuming much less fat (and less calories) and more fiber (fuller faster and longer).  Both of these are important tools when it comes to losing weight. Want to learn more? Here are the three vegan books I've really enjoyed reading lately:

1.) Veganist: Lose Weight, Get Healthy, Save the World by Kathy Freston

2.)The Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Fire fighter's 28 Day Save-Your-Life Plan that Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds by Rip Esselstyn

3.) 21-Day Weight Loss Kick Start: Boost Metabolism, Lower Cholesterol, and Dramatically Improve Your Health by Neal Barnard.

Now as I mentioned above, I still do not count calories, stick to tiny portion sizes, or diet in any way, shape, or form.  Once I start to restrict myself, I start craving all those things I can't have.  This doesn't mean I go crazy on anything and everything. I just try to find healthy ways to enjoy my favorite foods.  Luckily with my vegan diet, I am able to eat a lot more than a non-vegan diet, since it's lower in fat and higher in fiber.  By doing this I never feel deprived or that I'm lacking something. Feeling hungry sucks...so go vegan instead.

6 months after...
Now last, but not least, is pilates.  I used to do pilates when I was in high school and although I moved to doing more strength training and weight lifting in the past couple of years, I started pilates again while I was pregnant and I really fell in love with it all over again.  You know that feeling when you find an exercise that just seems to just work great for you and you enjoy doing it? Well, that's what pilates is to me.  Put me in a kick boxing class, no thanks.  Ten mile run outside, no thanks.  An hour of pilates in my basement, bring it on!  Maybe it's because it's kind of like the perfect combo of yoga, strength training, and stretching.  Or maybe it's because I workout around 5 AM each morning during the week, and I love that certain sections of pilates involving laying down on the mat...talk about my kind of workout! Don't get me wrong though, pilates can be just as challenging as any other workout too. I know I get sweaty and out of breath from my pilates workouts from time to time. Are there any other pilates fans out there?

Now since I posted this orginal post, I've found another great pilates DVD that I alternate with the pilates DVD I linked above. This one is called:10 Minute Solutions: Rapid Results Pilates.  Check it out:

Now although this next video is not pilates, I've come to really like it and the workout it gives me.  It's part yoga/part light strength training.  Bethenney Frankel cracks me up and it's a nice change from the pilates DVDs. I try to do this DVD at least once a week. It's called, "Body by Bethenny".

Update as of April 2012...1 Year Out
I'm back again, with my body after birth update now that it's been one year since I had Avery! Most of this update was originally posted on Avery's "12 month post."

In case you want the numbers recap, here you go:
Weight gain during pregnancy: 25 lbs.
1 week after: lost 20 lbs
6 weeks after: lost 5 lbs
6 months after: lost 11 lbs
1 year after: lost 4 lbs
Total loss: 40 lbs

So there you have it, my body 12 months after birth. Amazingly, I feel healthier, more toned, and stronger than I did before I was pregnant. I can't believe I weigh 15 lbs less than I did before I got pregnant on top of that. I'm pretty sure I've got Avery to thank for that one...mainly because of all the breastfeeding we've done, and continue to do. On top of that, my vegan diet and love of daily exercise (especially pilates) have definitely come in to play as well.
12 months after birth
After looking back at the whole year, I remember times, especially right after I had Avery when all I wanted was my old body back and I was willing to work out as long as I needed to to get back to that...as a result, I'd wear myself out! Little did I know that by just giving myself some time, trusting what I was doing (breastfeeding, exercising, eating right), the weight would come off.

I'm a big fan of affirmations, and I wrote one while I was still pregnant that read, "Pregnancy and breastfeeding make my body stronger and healthier than ever before." I relied on this quote a lot through this past year and instead of thinking, "My body will never be back to the way it was." "Pregnancy just messed me up." I saw the reverse..."My body was meant to do this." "I can heal, move forward and be stronger than I ever was." It's all in how you think about it...

Have you had a baby recently? What's your "body after birth" journey been like? Share below...

*Update as of 2014: I've had another baby, Mila! Here's what my journey was like to get my body back the second time around...here's a hint: it was not the same as Avery's! Click here to read more

Click here to read about my 2nd postpartum journey!


  1. You look amazing!!

    I'm intrigued by the Belly Bandit and I'm not even pregnant..LOL!

    By the way..I do not grow my own wheatgrass but buy it from the health food store (this brand was recommended by my acupuncturist) and it's Amazing Grass Green Superfood. You can mix it easily with apple juice or make a smoothie with it. When I take it regularly, I rarely get sick or if I do, it's much less severe.

    I am growing my own tomatoes and green peppers! Wish me luck! :-)

  2. Thanks Tina! Yes, the Belly Bandit is pretty awesome, I highly reccomend it! Thanks for telling me about your wheat grass I'd love to give it a try, in fact I've stuck it in my shopping cart on Amazon.com to remind me! I used to make my own "green juice" each morning with my Jack LaLane juicer before I have a smoothie, but now that Avery is here I don't seem to have time to make my juice, clean the juicer, and then make a smoothie. She is usually a bit fussy by then. But this powder looks great and seems like it would be quick to make, drink, and clean up! I was reading some other reviews of it online and it seems to be liked by many. Have you ever tried the other flavors it comes in?
    Anyways...I can't wait to give it a try! ( :

    Good luck with your tomatoes and green peppers! We tried growing those two things last year, but everytime one would start to grow these squirrels would come and eat them ) : Hopefully you will have better luck!

  3. Your body is killer girl! You were literally all baby during your pregnancy.

  4. BlueEyedBarbie,
    Thanks for the compliment! It's kind of crazy to think about how much my body changed in a year. All worth it, but glad to be back to "normal".

  5. Wow! Congrats you look amazing and incredibly comforting to see such a beautiful journey as i am 21wks first baby and vegan. Do you have a email address i can send you info on amazing vegan products i use.


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