Excess baby weight got you down? It happens to the best of us. Most women gain between 20 and 50 pounds during pregnancy, and then, when the baby comes, are left trying to figure out how to juggle motherhood and our new found exhaustion with returning to our pre-baby weight. Whether you need to drop five pounds or fifty, here are the most effective ways of losing weight and toning your muscles, post-childbirth.
1. Nursing is Your Best Friend
The rumors are true, at least for many moms: Nursing burns up to 500 calories per day, as much as many forms of exercise. Of course, it's important to make sure you get enough calories to produce lots of milk for your infant, but there's something very satisfying about knowing you're burning extra calories, even while at rest. (If nursing doesn't seem to be your silver bullet, read The Skinny on Nursing: Will Breastfeeding Make You Lose Weight?)
2. Ramp Up Your Cardio and Weight Training
Lara J. is on her third pregnancy, and she's hoping to avoid gaining the 60 pounds she gained with each of her previous two. But if that doesn't work out, she has a weight-loss plan that she knows will work for her post-delivery. It's a big commitment — between 12 and 18 months of running and weight training — with, as she says, "no shortcuts." She also restricts her diet to only low-fat items, though she makes sure to get enough calories from healthy sources to allow her to nurse her baby healthily. A low-calorie diet of unhealthy food choices will make the weight come right back, as Christine D. notes.
3. Eat Frequently
The secret of Shannon F.'s success is to eat small meals frequently. This way, even though her overall calorie intake is being reduced, she doesn't ever feel hungry or deprived during the day. And she says, it's helpful to combine protein and carbs even at these small meals, as the right proportions will make the energy you get from them last even longer. A carb-only snack will burn off more quickly, and maybe even cause an energy spike, followed by the inevitable crash. Go for evenness throughout the day. There are many demands on your time, and you need your energy to be consistent.
4. Get Active with Your Baby
Amy V. wisely points out that most of us will not maintain an exercise program if we find it to be drudgery. Her solution? Put on some music and dance with your baby! Since this mom has never been a big fan of exercise, she looks for fun workouts, however brief, and involving her son is fun for both of them. And it's increasingly weight-bearing!
Another popular choice among moms is to seek out a stroller group in their neighborhood. Some speed-walk and some jog — and all are a fun activity that both moms and babies can enjoy outside together.
5. Tone Muscles, Especially Around Your Belly
Lifting your baby will keep your arms and legs toned, but the belly fat most women hang on to post-delivery is harder to address. Heather B.'s husband taught her a simple exercise that worked well for her, and was also convenient to do in short intervals during the day: Lying flat on the floor, legs together, pick up your legs about six inches off the ground, and hold them there for ten seconds. Increase the length of time in that pose, as well as your repetitions, as you get stronger. You can also do simple crunches for upper and lower abdominal muscles, as well as obliques.
Keep in mind that even exercises designed to tone abdominals and obliques won't burn site-specific fat. But an overall exercise plan, combined with a healthy diet, will help you increase your metabolism and burn more calories overall. As Kellie B. reminds us, abs are ultimately made in the kitchen, not the gym!
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.