When can I start to lose weight?

Your body needs time to recover from having your baby. So your midwife probably won't recommend that you go on a diet straight after you've given birth. 

It's always sensible to eat healthily, though, and this doesn’t change when you've just had a baby. You can also start gentle exercise in the early weeks after your baby's birth.

Your postnatal check will usually happen between six weeks and eight weeks after you've had your baby. It's a good time to talk to your GP or practice nurse about your weight, if it's concerning you. If you need help to lose weight, your GP can refer you to a dietitian.

How can I lose weight safely?

Eat healthily, drink water throughout the day to stay well hydrated, and choose healthy snacks. 

These habits will give you the energy you need now that you have a baby, as well helping you to lose weight at a steady pace: 

    • Make time for breakfast in the morning.

    • Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

    • Include plenty of fibre-rich foods such as oats, beans, lentils, grains and seeds in your meals.

    • Include starchy foods such as bread, rice and pasta (preferably wholegrain varieties for added fibre) in every meal. These are carbohydrates, and should make up about a third of each meal.

    • Go easy on fatty and sugary foods, takeaways, fast food, sweets, cakes, biscuits, pastries and fizzy drinks.

  • Watch your portion sizes at mealtimes, and the number and type of snacks you eat between meals.

Combining healthy eating with exercise works best, because it helps you to lose fat instead of lean tissue. 

You will also get fitter and have more energy if you exercise. Your midwife or health visitor can give you information about what's available in your area to help you get active and lose weight.

What exercise can I do as a new mum?

Finding the time to fit exercise into your daily life, now that you have a newborn, can be tricky. But it is possible. As soon as you feel up to it, you can start gentle exercise, including

  • pelvic floor exercises (Kegels)
  • walking
  • stretching

However, wait six weeks or so, or until you feel that you've recovered from the birth, before doing harder exercise

Take your baby for longer walks in her pushchair, and step up the pace, or try a pram-based exercise class. You may have a Buggyfit class or similar activity running in a park near you. 

Group classes are a great way to meet other mums. Making new friends, and getting some exercise can help to lift your mood.

How many calories do I need each day?

It's hard to say exactly. How many calories you need depends on your current weight, how active you are, and whether or not you're breastfeeding

As a rough guide, an average woman needs about 2,000 calories a day to maintain a healthy weight.

Why is it important to lose excess weight after having a baby?

It's especially important if you know you want more children

Even a small weight gain of one or two BMI units between pregnancies can put you into the overweight range. This increases the risks to you and your baby in your next pregnancy and birth

Complications as a result of being overweight or obese could include: 

  • developing high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia
  • developing gestational diabetes
  • having a longer, harder labour
  • having an emergency caesarean section
  • giving birth to a big baby

Even if you don't plan to have another baby, losing the extra weight you've gained has lots of benefits. It'll help you to stay healthy as your child grows. Keeping your weight under control cuts your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

Will breastfeeding help me lose weight?

There's some evidence to suggest that breastfeeding may help you to get back in shape, though we need more research to be sure. Regardless, the same rules apply as losing weight at any time. That is, don't take in more calories than you need, eat healthily and stay active.

Breastfeeding burns about an extra 330 calories a day. You may be able to get those extra calories from your own fat stores, because your body lays down fat during pregnancy to give you extra energy to make milk. Even so, the number of calories you burn will still depend largely on your diet and lifestyle

If you're successfully losing weight, your body will still be able to make plenty of milk for your baby. A safe loss per week is between 0.5kg and 1kg (1lb to 2lb)

Breastfeeding may help you to keep your weight off in the longer term, too. And it helps your womb (uterus) to shrink down after the birth, helping you to lose your post-baby belly.

When will my body be back to normal?

Your body may not be exactly the same, even after you've lost weight. You have grown a baby, after all! 

Give yourself plenty of time to lose your target amount of weight. It's fine if it takes between six months and nine months

If you're finding it takes longer than this, don't give yourself a hard time. Just set yourself a target of getting to the weight you want by your baby’s first birthday.

While it’s important to focus on your health, it is also important to set yourself achievable goals. If you put on a lot of weight during your pregnancy, it will take longer to come off. 

Once you've reached your target weight, try to stick to it - your efforts will pay off. If you can stay at your target weight for two years, you're much more likely to keep the weight off in the long term.

If you'd like help with losing weight, talk to your GP or health visitor about exercise or weight-management classes in your area. Joining a class can help to motivate you, and you'll meet other people in the same situation as you