Patience is the key. It took nine months for your tummy muscles to stretch to accommodate a full-term baby. So it makes sense that it can take that long, or longer, to tighten up again.
The speed and degree of this tightening up depends on a few factors, including:
• What shape and size you were before you conceived your baby.
• How much weight you gained during pregnancy
• How active you are.
• Something you can't do anything about: your genes.
You may find it easier to shed the weight if:
• You gained less than 13.6kg and exercised regularly during pregnancy.
• You breastfeed.
• This is your first baby.
NOTE you shouldn't aim to be back to your pre-pregnancy weight until about six months after your baby's birth.
How can you safely lose weight to help your belly look better?
Breastfeeding may help, especially in the early months after giving birth. If you breastfeed, you'll burn extra calories to make milk – about 500 calories a day. You may lose your pregnancy weight more quickly than mums who bottle-feed their babies.
Breastfeeding also triggers contractions that help to shrink your womb, making it a workout for your whole body. However, if you eat more than you burn off, you will put on weight, even if you breastfeed.
It's fine to lose weight while you are breastfeeding. Your body is very efficient at making milk, and losing up to 1kg a week shouldn't affect the amount of milk you make.
However, if you have a newborn to look after, you'll need plenty of energy. Trying to lose weight too soon after giving birth may delay your recovery and make you feel even more tired. It’s especially important not to attempt a very low-calorie diet
. So try to wait until you've had your postnatal
check before start trying to lose weight.
Eating healthily, combined with gentle exercise, will help you to get in shape. The following general guidelines will help you to achieve and maintain a healthy weight:
• Make time for breakfast.
• 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 diet.
• Include a starchy food such as bread, rice, pasta (preferably wholegrain varieties for added fibre) or potatoes in each meal.
• Go easy on high-fat and high-sugar foods, such as biscuits and cakes.
• Watch your portions at mealtimes and the number and type of snacks you eat between meals.
There's no right answer about how many calories a day you should have. The amount you need to eat depends on your weight and how active you are.
What else can you do to help regain your pre-pregnancy belly?
Exercise can help to tone stomach muscles and burn calories. If you exercised right up until the end of your pregnancy, you can do some light exercise and stretching from the start.
If you stopped exercising during your pregnancy or are a newcomer to fitness, it is better to start exercising more slowly.
Fitness aside, all new mums can begin pelvic floor exercises and work on gently toning up lower tummy muscles as soon as they feel ready. This may help you to get back to your pre-pregnancy shape and help to flatten your tummy.
When you feel up to it, take your baby out for walks in his pushchair. Getting out and about will help to lift your mood and exercise your body gently. You may find there are pushchair workouts with other new mums in your local park.