by Lea Ramapuram
Three simple steps to losing “baby weight” without losing your milk supply:
Step 1: Birth your baby
Step 2: Breastfeed on demand
Step 3: Refer to Step 1
If you’re like me, and have had a baby recently, I’m sure you’re no stranger to the feeling of standing in front of the mirror with critical eyes, surveying the new stretch marks and pinching the new “rolls” and “flabs” that the pregnancy left on your body, wondering when you’ll “get your body back” (it never left, darling).
Family, friends and strangers alike seem to think it’s okay to comment on your weight - “Wow, look how much weight you've gained!” “None of your old clothes fit anymore, huh?”; “How long did it take for you to get back to your old weight the last time?” - only amplifying that incessant voice in your head that tells you to “lose the baby weight” and “get back in shape”.
Focus On What Your Body Just Did - You Created Life!
Amethyst Joy, a popular writer on social media who deals with healing childhood trauma, describes this injustice well - “What a cruel scheme to keep a woman from knowing her power. To put the focus on what pregnancy did to her body rather than focus on what her perfect body just did. Here we sit, creating and nourishing the future and we are diminished to ‘baby weight’. I will not succumb to your demeaning ideal.”
In a world that profits from our insecurities, a world where targeted ads show new mothers slimming teas, or weight loss pills or shapewear, we need to keep our focus not on what having a baby did to our bodies, but rather, what our wonderful bodies just did.
Do you realize that your body created a whole human being from scratch? That it housed a gorgeous little child for nine months, expanding, stretching and making room while simultaneously keeping you nourished and functioning? That your body has the power to sustain life for six months after you birth your baby, on breastmilk alone? That your body will continue to do this, even when you don’t feel your best, and when your mental health is taking a hit because that is how amazing a woman’s body is?
Do you realize that regardless of the number on the weighing scale, you are an extraordinary force to be reckoned with?
Politely Fend Off Uninvited Comments - Educate Those Who Don’t Know Better
When you are faced with an insensitive comment, and you’ve had enough of trying polite silences, forced smiles or irritated shrugs, do not be afraid to tell people that you aren’t interested in discussing your body or your weight.
Respond to those comments with “That isn’t something I’m focusing on at the moment” or “I don’t believe I need to work on making my body look a certain way - it’s been through enough recently” or even “I only do what’s healthy for my baby, and reducing the amount of food I eat will really mess with her nutritional needs” - say whatever you are comfortable with saying at that moment to get the point across that you will not be bullied into feeling ashamed of the way you look.
Because there is nothing to be ashamed of, and everything to be proud of
When you fend off an uninvited, insensitive comment with a graceful one that educates the culprit, you’re not only empowering yourself, but also shed light on how certain accepted ways of talking to a new mother are unjust and painful.
You’re Doing Your Best - And That Is Enough.
There’s already so much vulnerability at the start of motherhood. Not only do we have the birth of a baby, but the birth of a mother as well. Everything is new. Everything is frightening. Everything smells like sweat and spit-up. To expect a woman to behave as if none of that is happening is extremely unrealistic and frankly harmful. There is already so much room for failure - in breastfeeding, sleep routines, maintaining a career, tiny baby colds.
Adding “and look good, too” to the list makes the environment ripe for shame. - Kate J Baer
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It’s difficult to do, but important to remember, that you don’t owe it to anybody to “get back in shape” or “lose the baby weight” a few months into having a baby (or ever, to be honest). If you are staying hydrated, doing your best to have a well-balanced meal or putting in any effort at all to do a bit of moderate exercise, you are rocking your postpartum phase!
Becoming a mother comes with innumerable little worries that add up to create a fair amount of mental stress, and on this difficult journey of navigating your new identity as a mother and coming to terms with how much life has changed for you, the very last thing you need is pressure to look a certain way.
The necessary and essential things to focus on are the health and wellbeing of your precious baby that you worked so hard to bring into this world, and your mental health - without which you cannot do your best as a mother.
You Do You, Mama.
Breastfed or bottle-fed, 20 kgs down or 15 kgs up, vegetarian, nonvegetarian or vegan - none of this matters in your journey as a mother. What matters is that you trust your gut, love your babies hard and rest assured knowing that you did everything you knew how to ensure they had the healthiest, happiest childhood possible.
Everything and everyone else is insignificant.
Lea is a mom to two under two, and advocate for pressure-free motherhood, she believes you lose the "baby weight" the second you birth your baby, and encourages new moms everywhere to throw out their weighing scales.