Mom running with baby

If you’ve recently given birth, you may be eager to lose some of that baby weight. The good news is that with good nutrition, exercise, and a little patience, you can drop most of the weight you gained during pregnancy. Read on to learn all about how to safely lose weight after having a baby and how long that might take, as well as how breastfeeding can help shed some pounds.

How Much Weight Might You Need to Lose?

Before you start your weight loss journey, it’s helpful to know where your pregnancy weight gain actually comes from. Yes, your cravings for ice cream may play a role, but you may actually have less weight to lose than you think!

Your baby, for example, contributes about 7 to 8 pounds to your “weight gain” and the rest is associated with

  • larger breasts (1 to 3 pounds)

  • larger uterus (2 pounds)

  • placenta (1.5 pounds)

  • amniotic fluid (2 pounds)

  • increased blood volume (3 to 4 pounds)

  • increased fluid volume (2 to 3 pounds)

  • fat stores (6 to 8 pounds).

Your recommended weight gain during pregnancy involves factors such as your pre-pregnancy body mass index, or BMI, and whether you are pregnant with one baby or two.

How much weight you actually gain during pregnancy can depend on many other factors, such as general health status and lifestyle choices such as doing prenatal exercise and following a healthy pregnancy diet.

Because everyone’s situation is unique, it’s safest to speak to your healthcare provider about how many pounds it’s recommended for you to gain during pregnancy, as well as how many pounds it’s healthy to lose afterwards.

How Long Will It Take to Get Back Into Shape?

The good news is that you might lose as much as 20 pounds (9 kg) in the first few weeks after giving birth. On average, new moms lose around 13 pounds (6 kg) due to the baby’s weight, the amniotic fluid, and the placenta when giving birth. The week after you deliver, you’ll likely shed several more pounds as you lose other retained fluids, like any extra water you’ve retained or the extra blood your body produced during pregnancy.

Although you’ll notice your weight drops very quickly to start with, you may find the scale seems to get stuck. It will take several months to shift the fat you gained during pregnancy.

It might take about 6 to 12 months to get close to your pre-pregnancy weight. Losing one to two pounds a week is what experts recommend as healthy for most women.

Your body needs time to recover and heal after pregnancy and childbirth, so try not to rush the process. It's a tremendous accomplishment to carry and nurture a baby during the weeks and months of pregnancy, so avoid putting pressure on yourself to “bounce back” into shape immediately.

Tips for Losing Weight After Pregnancy

Just like at any other time in life, losing weight after pregnancy means using up more calories than you consume. You can lose the extra pounds gained during pregnancy by combining consistent healthy eating habits with regular postpartum exercise over the course of several months.

Nutrition

First of all, it’s important to avoid crash diets or drastic calorie restrictions as your body needs the energy and nutrients from healthy food to recover after pregnancy and childbirth.

For sustainable weight loss, focus on reducing portion sizes, avoiding sugary and salty meals and snacks, and following a healthy diet that includes

  • lean protein from a variety of sources

  • whole grains

  • fruits

  • vegetables.

If you’re eating pretty well but still struggling to shake those last few pounds, experts recommend cutting back on any of those extra treats that are sneaking into your diet like desserts, fried food, and sodas.

Your healthcare provider can give you a personalized postpartum diet to follow if you need specific guidance on what to eat.

Exercise

Exercise, when coupled with a healthy diet, can help you get back into shape. It also has other benefits, like boosting your energy levels, improving your mood, reducing stress, and helping you become strong and fit.

Talk to your healthcare provider before beginning or resuming exercise after childbirth. Once you get the all-clear you can start exercising whenever you feel ready. Some new moms can start to work out sooner than others, even a few days within vaginal delivery. Just listen to your body.

You may need to wait longer if you had a complicated labor or delivery. For example, if you had a cesarean section, your healthcare provider may recommend waiting about four to six weeks before starting to exercise again.

Once you are ready to get started, follow these tips for postpartum exercise:

  • Get back into exercise slowly. There is no need to rush back into exercise. Just take it slow and easy at first, and at a pace that suits you. Listen to your body and gradually work your way up to more challenging workouts.

  • Involve your baby. It’s not always easy to find the time to exercise with a little one around, so why not include your baby in your new movement routine? A brisk daily walk with your baby in his stroller is a great way to get back into moving again. Or, you could do postnatal yoga with your baby on the floor next to you on a blanket or in a swing or bouncer if you have one.

  • Exercise with others. Why not plan to meet up with friends or a family member and go for a walk together, or join a postpartum fitness class so that you can meet other moms and work out as a group. Exercising with others can be more fun, and it gives you a chance to combine exercise with socializing.

  • Feed your baby before exercising. If you’re breastfeeding, you may want to feed your baby before your workout. This way you won’t have to worry about the discomfort of engorged breasts.

  • Aim for 60 to 90 minutes of moderate exercise daily. Experts recommend getting moving most days of the week. This can include walking, biking, swimming, or even doing physical chores like gardening. It can be super hard to juggle your time while caring for a baby, so it might help to split your exercise up into of 30-minute chunks. For example, do a 30-minute yoga, strength training, or aerobics video at home in the morning, go on a 30-minute walk with your baby during the day between his naps, and then do some housework that gets your body moving later in the day. This is just an example—with some trial and error you’ll figure out what works for you and your family.

  • Add gentle strength training and core exercises. Consider adding pelvic floor exercises to help strengthen your core, and ease into strength training with the help of a video or an app, or working with a personal trainer.

  • Ask for help. When you want to go for a run or take a class at the gym, for example, have your partner, a babysitter, or a family member watch your baby. Beyond the benefits of exercise, you might enjoy the “me time” this gives you. And, if you loved exercising before your pregnancy, you might be really looking forward to getting back to doing these workouts now that your baby is born. It can be tricky to juggle, but with a little help you may be able to incorporate the exercise you love most into your week.

  • Spice it up. It can be hard to stay motivated with exercise if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing. But exercise doesn’t have to be boring! Check out all our postpartum workout ideas and try a few to see what works for you.

Getting Help From Your Healthcare Provider

Diet and exercise are the best ways to lose weight healthily for most women, but in some cases, your healthcare provider may need to step in. The following options might be considered if you have a BMI above 30 or have certain medical conditions along with a high BMI.

  • Medication. If you haven’t been able to get your BMI below 30 with lifestyle changes alone, your healthcare provider may prescribe medication to help with weight loss.

  • Surgery. This may be recommended by your healthcare provider only if medications don’t work, and if you have an exceptionally high BMI.

Your healthcare provider may be able to help you with things like meal plans, safe exercises you can do in the postpartum period, and guidance on how much weight is safe for you to lose in a given time frame.

Can Breastfeeding Help With Postpartum Weight Loss?

The good news is that breastfeeding can help you lose some of that baby weight. When you breastfeed, you are using the fat cells stored in your body along with calories you’re consuming in your diet to create milk for your baby.

Just keep in mind that aggressive weight loss (by cutting too many calories, for example), can reduce your breast milk supply so you definitely want to avoid this.

Breastfeeding is all about keeping your little one nourished, so try to follow a breastfeeding diet that helps both of you stay healthy.

FAQs at a Glance

  • It may take up to 6 to 12 months to lose the baby weight.

  • Most women lose around 13 pounds (6 kg) right after childbirth, which includes the baby’s weight, as well as the weight of the amniotic fluid and placenta. When it comes to fat loss, with a healthy diet and regular exercise, you may lose about 1 pound (0.5 kg) a week. It may take up to a year to get close to your pre-pregnancy weight.

The Bottom Line

Weight gain during pregnancy is necessary and natural, but it's understandable to want to lose weight after having a baby. As long as you have a healthy lifestyle and follow your healthcare provider’s advice, you’ll find that the weight will gradually come off, and slowly you’ll get back to your pre-pregnancy weight.

The key is to be patient with yourself and your body. Eat well and exercise because it makes you feel great, and focus on how amazing your baby is as well as all the good things in your life right now. Your postnatal well-being is as important as the number on the scales, so be kind to yourself and give your body enough time to adjust.

How We Wrote This Article The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.