Wednesday: Postpartum & Weight Loss

Weight-loss plateau
It's definitely tougher to shed the pounds if you gained more than the recommended amount (but it can be done).
"For my first two babies, I was told to eat whatever I wanted. Big mistake!" said one of our survey moms. "I gained 50 pounds with my first and almost 40 with my second. Then, for my last one, I gained just 25 pounds. Not only did I feel great throughout the pregnancy, I returned to my pre-pregnancy weight in six months instead of two years."

43% of our moms gained more than the recommended limit of 35 pounds

If you put on more than the recommended 35 pounds, join the club. So did 43 percent of our survey takers. And if the extra weight has presented a challenge for you, you've got lots of company there as well. Just 33 percent of our big gainers managed to shed all their pregnancy weight by their baby's first birthday versus 46 percent of moms who gained less. A year or two after the birth, moms who gained more were also more likely to be carrying at least 10 extra pounds (49 percent versus 35 percent).

Still, there's no point in beating yourself up about how much you gained when you were pregnant. Instead, try to focus on getting healthier as you move forward. "My son is 8 months old, and I'm just 7 pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight (and that's after my 52-pound weight gain!), so it can be done," one mom told us. "It just may take a little time and patience."

The mommy metabolism myth
Losing weight is harder after a baby – but not for the reason you might think.

"I feel like my body has a new set point now," one of our survey takers complained. "Before, I never had to watch my weight. I was always the same, no matter what. That hasn't changed – except that I'm 15 pounds heavier."
85% of the moms who were overweight one to two years later blamed pregnancy for their weight problem
The notion that having a baby fundamentally changes a woman's metabolism was common among the new mothers we surveyed. Eighty-five percent of the moms who were overweight one to two years later blamed pregnancy for either triggering or worsening their weight problem. Among moms with two or more kids, 43 percent had a harder time peeling off the pounds after their second pregnancy, versus 18 percent who had a harder time with their first.

But according to Fernstrom, it's not your metabolism that slows down in the postpartum months – it's you. (When was the last time you had an hour to spend at the gym?) Also getting in the way of good intentions are the stress and fatigue that come with caring for a baby, both classic triggers for repeated trips to the cookie jar.

Nor does your body hang on to excess fat more stubbornly with each child, Fernstrom says. Metabolism does gradually slow with age, but the real reason veteran moms are less likely to get back into their old jeans: They retain baby weight from each pregnancy. "If you've got 60 pounds to lose versus 20, it feels harder, and it is," she says. "But there's no biological reason it's harder to lose the weight after your third child than after your first."

New Hampshire survey mom Sheena Harte, who has six kids, is living proof that trimming down doesn't have to get more difficult each time. After struggling to get back in shape after her first two pregnancies, she's lost all her baby weight within a month or so the last four times. "I finally learned to tune in to my body," she says, "and now I eat only when I'm hungry."