Answer: Breastfeeding No need to wait to start breastfeeding. As soon as your precious bundle of joy is born, you can start breastfeeding. Believe it or not, breastfeeding can actually help flatten your belly. Not only does breastfeeding burn about 500 extra calories per day according to Women’s Health, but it also releases a hormone called oxytocin that stimulates uterine contractions, speeding up your uterus’s return journey to its pelvic home. So how does breastfeeding burn so many calories? Well, the American Pregnancy Association says a breastfeeding mom will secrete 425 and 700 calories into breast milk per day. Because the body does not generally produce this highly specialized milk that includes tons of nutrition for baby, it has to work super hard to do it. To burn roughly the same number of calories through exercise, a 140-pound woman would have to run a 10-minute mile pace for 45 to 60 minutes every day. 2. Use a Postpartum Support Belt Generally, within 12 hours of surgery, doctors encourage new moms to get up and move around. Some women find that not having any pressure on the site of the incision is uncomfortable. Others find their abs feel loose and unsupported. To combat this discomfort, some OBs actually recommend wearing a postpartum support belt or girdle. The jury is out in the medical community. While some OBs swear they help with postpartum discomfort and to compress the uterus, thereby helping it shrink, others think these waist trainers are nothing more than a gimmick. Whether or not it helps shrink your waistline, doctors have been recommending similar belts for a long time to people with back pain due to weakened abdominal muscles. (3) Since your muscles have recently undergone trauma, it’s worthwhile to give yourself the extra support. In the process, you may even help your uterus shrink and find it’s normal spot, speeding up the process of reducing your tummy. 3. Eat Right While dieting isn’t recommended during the initial postpartum recovery period, it is always a good idea for your health and for your belly to eat a healthy diet. Fill your plate up with nutritious fare and avoid empty calories. Snack sensibly and don’t pick junk when you could have a handful of nuts, veggies with hummus or some whole milk dairy to get a healthy bite between meals. Don’t drastically cut your calories, especially if you are breastfeeding. Remember your body needs an extra 300 to 500 calories per day to sustain your milk supply. To calculate your new caloric needs, check out this calculator for nursing moms. For a sensible diet plan, check out the 1700 calorie diet, but remember your body may need a few extra calories. When you hit the grocery store, remember to stock up on healthy, nutritious snacks rather than fatty and sugary items. Go for baby carrots, apples, almonds, hummus and whole grain crackers. That way, when the hunger bug bites you, you’ll have healthy options to choose from rather than temptations that will make your struggle to reduce the tummy even harder. 4. Get Some Exercise Though you won’t be cleared for heavier exercise until 8 weeks after your c section, you can start by doing some light walking each day as soon as you feel up to it. Don’t push yourself too hard, especially in the beginning. After the initial recovery period, you can begin to do some other exercises. Even after you’ve been given the all clear, brisk walking is still an excellent choice for exercise. Burn through that lingering belly fat by going on at least 3 brisk walks per week. Art Weltman, PhD, director of exercise physiology at the University of Virginia tells Health, “Fast-paced walking, when combined with healthy eating, is hugely effective for weight loss.” New moms can take advantage of extra calorie burn. Baby wearing while briskly walking or pushing your little bundle of joy in a stroller will up the resistance and burn more calories. Remember to go easy on yourself and follow these tips for postpartum exercise: Easy does it. Even after the initial waiting time, you will likely not be back to your pre-pregnancy self. Take it slow and work up to your pre-pregnancy fitness level as you can. Check yourself for diastasis recti. If you do have the abdominal separation, doing traditional ab exercises can actually make the separation worse and exacerbate the post baby pooch. To check yourself for diastasis recti, lie on your back and gently lift your shoulders off the floor, bringing your rib cage closer to your pelvis. If you feel a gap in your midline that is wider than 2 finger widths wide when your abs are contracted, you likely have diastasis recti. If you find that you have abdominal separation, avoid certain exercises that stretch your abdominal wall like the cobra yoga pose. Additionally, avoid lifting heavy objects or any exercise that flexes the upper spine off the floor or causes the abdominal wall to bulge like a traditional crunch, bicycle crunch, or oblique sit up. Instead, try these exercises to heal your diastasis recti and gently close the gap in your abdominal wall: – Pelvic Tilts: For this exercise, lie on your back, with your knees bent. Slowly engage your deep core muscles to tilt your pelvis slightly up and back. To pull in, you’ll flatten your back against the floor, tightening your abdominals and slightly raising your rear as you pull your pelvis up. Hold for 10 seconds. Then relax again. – Toe Taps and Heel Slides A heel slide is simple. You lie on your back with your knees bent, feet on the floor. Leave about a hand’s length between your butt and the heel of your foot. While pulling your belly button down towards your spine, slowly slide one heel down, so that your leg lies flat and then pull it back in slowly. Then do the other side. Repeat up to 10 times to start. Remember to perform these exercises with proper posture and always keep the belly pulled in. Closing the gap will both build strength in the core and pull your waistline in, beating the baby bulge. You can make a routine out of these exercises by doing them in the morning when you get up, while your baby’s napping or even during TV commercials when you’re taking a bit of a break. To get started with these healing ab exercises, check out this video: Another important consideration is how much fun you’re having. Make sure that the exercise you choose is enjoyable for you. By picking an activity you like, you are more likely to make it a priority and fit it in regularly. Plus choosing an exercise routine you enjoy gives new moms much needed me time while working towards the goal of a flat belly after a c section. Some activities you may consider include yoga, swimming, dancing or dance-inspired exercise classes like Zumba, etc. You can also give your motivation to exercise a boost by working out with a friend. 5. Hydrate Yourself Not only do breastfeeding moms need extra water to make milk, but drinking enough water and eating enough fruits and veggies with a high-water content may help fight belly fat. Water fills up your belly so you are less likely to mindlessly snack when you aren’t hungry. Plus, studies show a correlation between obesity and hydration. The better hydrated you are, the less likely you are to be obese (4).If water isn’t your favorite beverage, try jazzing it up by adding some lemon or lime or some fresh mint. Cucumber water is another delicious option. You can also sip on green tea for a metabolism boosting shot of hydration. You can also nosh on snacks with a high-water content like watermelon, cucumber, celery, and lettuce. 6. Try a Smart Cleanse No this doesn’t mean try a fad diet or a lemon water cleanse. This simply means go for a few days and cut out all junk while filling up on fresh veggies and fruits and drinking lots of water. Eating a diet rich in fiber and nutrients while drinking plenty of water and green tea will get your digestive system moving to promote regularity and flush any toxins out of your system. 7. Do Kegels Kegels are a type of exercise that helps strengthen your pelvic floor. Pregnancy puts a lot of pressure on this muscle due to the added weight you were carrying around. In this exercise, you tighten your pelvic floor for 5-10 seconds as you breath in and release as you breath out. Never done Kegels? Don’t worry. All you have to do is tighten your muscles like you would if you were trying to hold in your pee. 8. Minimize Stretch Marks While stretch marks don’t directly contribute to a loose tummy after a c section, they can make you feel like the problem is magnified. While there is no way to totally get stretch marks to disappear, rubbing cocoa butter on them can lessen the appearance of stretch marks and help speed up the process of fading them. Plus, the act of massaging the lotion onto your belly will help break up any fluid that has accumulated. 9. Get Enough Sleep With a newborn, you won’t be getting 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night, but do try to make sleep a priority. If your baby takes a nap, make your sleep a priority. This is not only good for getting rid of that baby weight, but also helps improve your emotional health, which is closely linked to your physical health. Did you know that new moms who sleep 5 hours or less in a night have a harder time getting rid of excess weight than those who sleep 7 hours a night? This is likely because not getting enough sleep causes cortisol to be released. This hormone, known as the stress hormone, is often associate with weight gain. So, do your best to get those zzzs, even if it means you let some other areas slide such as cleaning or making elaborate meals. 10. Start Early Just because you are supposed to take it easy for a few weeks after delivery and allow yourself ample time to recover, doesn’t mean you should totally ignore your diet and exercise habits. Until the doctor clears you to start working out, go on light walks and make sure to choose healthy food over empty junk food. Making healthy choices from the start will set you up for flat belly success much sooner. 11. Include Baby Many new moms struggle to find the time to work out while tending to their new baby. Instead of trying to cram a workout in while your little one sleeps, check out a workout you can do with baby. Go on a walk with your baby, use your baby as resistance and get in some weight training, or check out your local gym. Many gyms offer programs like Stroller Strides designed to get new moms back in tip top shape while including baby in the workout. You can also check out some at home workouts you can do with baby here. 12. Keep a Food and Exercise Log Write down everything you eat including your portion sizes. Keeping a journal makes you more likely to stay accountable and keep the weight off. Studies show that people that log their meals and workouts are more likely to lose more weight and keep it off than those who do not. (5) 13. Motivate Yourself with Goals In addition to keeping a log, set reasonable goals for yourself complete with rewards. For example, set a goal to lose 5 pounds in 1 month. When you reach your goal, purchase some new clothes or take yourself out for a visit to the salon. Try to stay positive throughout the process. A good attitude will make the difference between reaching your goals and failing to make progress. In the post-partum months, you may feel overwhelmed by your new responsibilities of caring for a little one and fulfilling other obligations. Try to cut yourself some slack and reward yourself for the progress you are making so that you can keep your motivation. 14. Try a Massage Not only is a massage a well-deserved break for a tired new mom, but a massage can help break up belly fat and flatten your tummy post baby. Massage helps stimulate lymph nodes and break up stagnant fluid. When the fluid is dispersed, the body can process it better and help it diminish. This loss in fluid results in a loss of waist circumference and a flatter looking tummy. (6) 15. Start While You’re Pregnant If you start to prepare for your flat belly before your little one is born, you will have a head start to getting your belly flat again. So how can you prepare to get back in shape while you’re still pregnant? Stay active during your pregnancy and continue to exercise if your doctor allows it. When you make freezer meals ahead of the baby’s birth, choose healthy freezer meals, like crock pot chicken and veggies, over unhealthy casseroles. How Long Will It Take to Shrink My Belly After a C Section? Your belly will be doing some heavy duty shrinking in the first few weeks post-delivery. The excess fluid should work through your system within a couple weeks, and your uterus will begin to shrink, contributing to a thinning belly with little extra work on your part in the beginning. Do keep in mind: it took 9 long months to grow your belly to the size it was to house a baby. After birth, whether you deliver vaginally or via c section, it will take your uterus 6 to 8 weeks to shrink down to its pre-pregnancy size. So why does it take so long for your uterus to shrink? According to Baby Center, by the time you actually go into labor or deliver your bundle of joy via c section, your uterus has expanded to be 15 times heavier and hold 500 times more capacity than it did prior to getting pregnant. Unfortunately, your uterus needs time, often referred to as the 4th trimester, to return to its normal size after all that growth. Immediately post birth, a doctor or nurse can feel your uterus near your belly button, which is approximately where it is located at 20 weeks pregnant. It takes an entire 2 weeks for your uterus to return completely to the pelvis and still another several weeks for your uterus to reach pre- baby size. During this time, your belly will continue to have a little bit of a bump. After the initial 6 to 8 weeks is up, your uterus will have returned to normal and you can begin the process of losing any extra baby weight and toning up your belly in earnest. That being said, there’s more than your uterus effecting your belly size. Be patient with yourself, it may take almost as long to flatten your belly as it did to grow your bump in the first place. For healthy weight loss, aim to lose about a pound per week. In terms of calories, that’s a deficit of about 500 calories per day. When you’re calculating calories, don’t forget to include the extra calories you’ll need if you’re breastfeeding. If you get too few calories, you’ll milk production will suffer. Based on the goal of losing one pound per week, it will take you about 15 weeks or nearly 4 months to lose 15 pounds of baby weight. However, the last 5-10 pounds or so may be rather stubborn. Be patient with yourself. After all, you are still adjusting to life with a newborn, so give yourself plenty of time to reach your end goal. When and How Can I Start to Diet and Exercise after my C Section? Most doctors won’t approve a new mom to start doing anything other than very light exercise for 6 weeks after delivery. Post c section, some doctors recommend waiting 8 weeks or more to let yourself fully heal from your surgery. According to What to Expect when You’re Expecting, dieting isn’t recommended for first 6 weeks post birth either. Pregnancy, labor, and delivery tax the body quite heavily. A new mom needs all the nutrition she can get to begin to replenish her vitamin and mineral stores.