Is postpartum weight gain common?

You have given birth to your beautiful baby and now it’s apparently time to lose the baby weight – right? Rachel Leman explains why postpartum weight gain is not that uncommon.

You have given birth to your beautiful baby and now it’s apparently time to lose the baby weight – right?

“I’m breastfeeding and I can’t understand why I’m not losing the baby weight?” is a question we often hear from new mums.

There is a common misconception that after you have given birth the baby weight will just “fall off”. Many of us know someone that seems to have walked out of hospital after giving birth looking just like they did before pregnancy!

Many others on the other hand (myself included) leave the hospital feeling emotional, sore and still looking and feeling about 6 months pregnant. This is the reality of most postpartum women – you are not alone. I’m here to tell you it’s quite common.

Many women even put on some additional weight postpartum as the reality of having a new baby sets in. This can often come as a shock but there are a few reasons why this might happen. Sometimes these things are not in our control:

1) Lack of sleep
Lack of sleep has a lot to answer for! We know that we feel like rubbish when we don’t get enough sleep. A study has shown that women 6 months postpartum that are getting less than 5 hours per night were 3 times more likely to have kept their baby weight, and possibly even gained more. WHAT!!??

2) Stress
Yes, being a new mum can be tough and stressful! The stress hormone cortisol has a lot to answer for when it comes to weight gain. Cortisol stimulates fat and carbohydrate metabolism for fast energy. It also stimulates insulin release and maintenance of blood sugar levels. If you are stressed, high levels of cortisol can cause an increase in appetite and cravings for sweet, high-fat and salty foods.

3) Thyroid
Some women can develop low thyroid function during pregnancy and postpartum. Your thyroid is responsible for producing hormones that regulate the body’s metabolic rate, digestive function, heart rate, mood and brain development. If you suspect this could be an issue, have a chat with your GP.

4) Portion size
Sometimes during pregnancy and postpartum, we can allow our portion sizes to increase a little, possibly unconsciously. If you are breastfeeding it might feel like you need to eat for two (you're always sooooo HUNGRY) but the reality is that breastfeeding exclusively uses about 500 calories a day. Try using an entree size plate and ensure you are getting a balanced diet, including plenty of fruit and veggies.

This is not a time to use crash or fad diets. These types of diets generally aren’t balanced and will likely leave you lacking in the nutrients you need and feeling grumpy and hungry!!!

There is no right time or rush to be losing the baby weight. You might even be happier within yourself at your new size. As long as you and baby are healthy and happy then that’s all that really matters.

However, if you are having issues shaking excess baby weight after trying balanced meals, portion control, reducing refined foods and exercising at a safe level appropriate to your situation, it is best to go and chat with your GP, local dietician or nutritionist.

Is postpartum weight gain common?