Before being hired on as full-time mommy, my job entailed riding around on airplanes five days a week. Most days, I traveled with a rowdy red-head named Allison. Allison had five kids; I had one on the way, so she thought it her duty to educate me on the birthing process (which frightened me at that stage of life but now is one of my favorite topics about which to gab). She told me about the birthing gowns that have holes everywhere, the complete lack of privacy of the process itself, and the afterbirth that would be delivered after the birth. As the due date drew nearer, complete strangers thought it their duty to tell me their personal birthing horror stories. I felt like I had logged enough hours to hold a PhD in the birthing process.
What nobody told me, though, was that when I stood up out of that hospital bed, gravity would take its toll and my tummy would look still at least six-months pregnant. I was shocked! Surely there was another baby in there waiting to come out, I mistakenly thought.
Baby Center, a popular before-, during-, and after-pregnancy informational website, gives a great visual (http://www.babycenter.com/0_your-post-baby-belly-why-its-changed-and-how-to-tone-it_1152349.bc) : If you think of your tummy as a balloon that gradually inflates as your baby grows during pregnancy, giving birth doesn’t cause the balloon to pop. Instead, childbirth starts a slow but steady leak of air from the balloon.
So, how do you get all the air out of the balloon? Mother Nature does a lot of it for you by causing hormonal changes in your body that contract the uterus back to its pre-pregnancy size. If you’re a breastfeeding mother, you’ll feel these contractions, which can be quite painful, as your milk lets down. I didn’t feel the contractions with my first child but felt like I was in labor all over again for about a week after delivering my second child. A lactation consultant verified that many moms feel the contractions more with each child they deliver. These hormonal changes also cause cells that were swollen during pregnancy to shrink down to their normal size, thus causing secretions such as sweat. So, sleep on a towel for a couple of weeks and endure the night sweats because it means your cells are doing their duty.
While Mother Nature aids in shrinking the post-delivery tummy, for most women there’s still a lot of work to do. We tend to look to the scales to tell us how we’re doing, but the scales don’t tell all. You might be at or near your pre-pregnancy weight after a few weeks or months post-partum, but that number doesn’t take into account the muscle mass that was probably lost during pregnancy. Before reducing your caloric intake (dieting) or exercising, talk to your doctor at your six-week post-partum checkup to make sure that your body is ready.
A great place to start in reducing the post-pregnancy pooch is with cardio exercises, such as walking, jogging, treading, stepping, or any other form of exercise that elevates the heart rate and makes you do the five-letter s-word: sweat. If you’re a nursing mom, sweating won’t affect the composition of your milk (I feared that), but just be sure to wipe off under your sports bra before nursing. Do your research and invest in a good jogging stroller. Pediatricians recommend waiting six months before putting your baby in a jogging stroller, and some jogging stroller manufacturers play it safe and recommend waiting eight months, but B.O.B., a popular stroller manufacturer, makes an infant car seat adapter that allows you to use your B.O.B. stroller with a newborn. I invested in the double B.O.B. Ironman and have zero complaints, only praises.
Cardio exercises will help reduce the pooch, but there’s also toning to do underneath the pooch. A great place to start to strengthen your abdominal muscles is with planks (http://exercise.about.com/od/abs/ss/abexercises_10.htm). This pose will strengthen your core without doing crunches. As your abdominal muscles become stronger, begin adding in crunch exercises that target all parts of the abdominals. You can get an anatomy lesson here: http://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/abdominal.html.
In abs classes that I teach, I get the question time and time again of how to reduce the mommy pooch. In my experience and opinion, I tell ladies first is cardio, second is strengthening, and third is toning.
While Mommy Nature takes good care of mommies after delivery, it’s most likely going to take effort to reach your gut goal. It’s easy for a mommy to make the excuse that she wants to have another baby in a couple of years, so she might ask herself what’s the point in losing the pooch, but the stronger the midsection between pregnancies, the easier the next pregnancy, delivery and post-delivery weight loss will be. So, find a routine that works for you, and just do it!