If you’re on this blog then you can probably already guess that I’m not a fan of the pressure on new mums to lose weight. Or ‘old’ mums for that matter (you can read my post on why the pressure to lose the baby weight makes me so mad). Some of this is my personal belief about the importance of body positivity. Some of it is as a result of having been anorexic and being in a position where dieting is a no go for me so having to find another way to love my body that didn’t involve dieting. And some of it, to me anyway, is just common sense.
But if you’re not convinced that it’s a bad idea for new mums to worry about their weight here are 5 reasons why the pressure is so damaging and needs to stop.
#1 – It can get in the way of recovery
Pregnancy and giving birth are HARD. They take a toll on the body and the body needs time to recover. It seems to be acceptable to give new mums 6 weeks to bounce back before they are allowed to exercise but the impact of pregnancy and birth can last well beyond this. You’ll have relaxin in your system for up to 5-6 months which can affect your joints and make you more prone to injury. If you had a c-section then you’ve got to wait much longer than you think you do before you are recovered enough to start worrying about fitness.
But recovery isn’t just physical. Emotional recovery also needs to be prioritised and becoming a new mother is about as overwhelming and intense as anything you could ever go through. So making new mums feel like they need to worry about how they look is just plain shitty. Let’s let mums focus on recovering from their incredible journey without putting pressure on them to get back to a body that looks like it never happened.
#2 – It distracts new mums from what’s important – getting to know their baby
Your baby is only a baby once. And take it from someone who’s done this three times – it will fly by! The best advice I ever got was to spend the first 6 weeks in my dressing gown doing nothing other than being with my baby. Ok, so I took this with a pinch of salt but the message was clear. Everything else can wait. Those weeks are about you and your baby. Nothing else.
So let’s stop telling mums they can get straight on with dieting even when they are breastfeeding. Don’t make them feel like they should be jumping around their lounge whilst their baby naps. Let’s make it clear that it’s OK to just be a mum for those early weeks. No mum ever looks back on that time and says “I’ve got such fond memories of exercising…”. So nap whenever you can. Don’t stress about food or exercise. And just enjoy getting to know your baby.
#3 – It fuels toxic messages about how we ‘should’ look
The pressure on women to look a certain way is bad enough but putting pressure on new mums to lose their baby weight within weeks is disgraceful. What is it about a post-baby body that we, as a society, seem to find so offensive? Why do we make mums feel like they must get back to ‘normal’ as soon as possible? Seriously, what does it matter if a new mum is still bigger at 6 months postpartum than she was before a baby?
Telling new mums they can (which implies should) lose the baby weight quickly is just fuelling the toxic message that women need to be thin to be acceptable. We’re not letting them enjoy their new body because we’re telling them they need to change it. That’s not just unfair. It’s irresponsible too.
#4 – It might not be possible
Some women might just snap back and look like they were never pregnant but most of us don’t. But the messages we receive about how easy it is to lose the baby weight if you just eat x/y/z or do jumping jacks over your baby everyday imply that it’s easy. So when the weight doesn’t fall off you can start feeling guilty that you aren’t trying hard enough when in fact your body is simply different to how it was before.
Even if you do manage to lose weight that doesn’t guarantee that you won’t look like you’ve had a baby. You’ll probably still have loose skin or stretch marks. Your body is not going to go back to the way it was. So pressuring mums to get a pre-baby body back is telling them to work towards a goal they have little chance of reaching.
#5 – It sets a poor example
I have two daughters and have been painfully aware of the messages I send them since having their brother a year ago. If I’d focused on losing the weight and exercising in those early months I’d have been telling them that a post-baby body isn’t OK. Something that would be in their subconscious when they potentially have their own children. I don’t want them to feel like they aren’t good enough because they’ve had children. So I need to show them that I believe I am good enough post-baby. Just the way I am.
I have had to learn to embrace my overweight post-baby body because I don’t ever want my daughters to have the unhealthy relationship with food or their body that I’ve had. I want them to be healthy but also confident in their body, regardless of their shape or size. So we need to be mindful that pressuring mums to lose weight also sends a subtle message to their children that they must be thin to be acceptable.
So there you have it. 5 reasons why I think the pressure on new mums to lose the baby weight needs to stop. If you’re a new mum (or just a mum) and you are struggling to love your body sign up for the 5 day Learn to love your post-baby body course and get everything you need to start your body positivity journey today.