Tips for Loving Your Postpartum Body
Your body is changing, and that’s ok!
Your postpartum body is not what you expected–I get it. Take it from this chubby grandma body–it is totally going to be ok. Your body is changing, has changed, but it is not something to beat yourself up over.
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Why is it hard for us to accept our body’s changes?
Television gives us false images
The over-sexualization of the female body makes it very difficult for new moms to positively see their body in its new and changed form. We compare ourselves to the images we see on television of happy, smiling, and thin moms, with their hair styled perfectly, their make-up flawless, and running in the park with a runner’s stroller. “Get your body back!” the advertisements all shout at us offering diet pills, gym memberships, and weight loss supplements.
We don’t see positive images on the television regarding our post partum bodies. Our bodies are used as the example of what it looks like to let yourself go, while we are compared to all of the hyper-sexualization images of younger and more fit women.
You have to remind yourself that this is not real. It is the advertising world’s messaging meant to sell you a product or service. The old adage “sex sells” can be a painful reminder to us of what our bodies “used to be” but it does not have to define us.
And I said to my body, softly, “I want to be your friend.
It took a long breath and replied, “I’ve been waiting my whole life for this.”
~ Nayyirah Waheed ~
Similarly, our postpartum bodies are used as examples of “ageing” which is also considered to be a negative.
Change, in general, is difficult
In general, we struggle with our changing bodies because change, in and of itself, is difficult for us to accept. We miss our pre-pregnancy body in a way that makes us feel like a portion of our life is lost in some way. We feel disconnected with our current postpartum body as if it is not our own.
It takes some time getting used to the idea of these physical changes, but it is important to remember that although some of these changes are inevitable, we can adjust to our new bodies and learn to feel comfortable in our new form.
Loss of control
Pre-pregnancy, it is easier to have control over the shape of our bodies with diet and exercise, but this becomes more difficult after we have a baby. The struggle we feel while fighting against our new physical shape is frustrating and can make us feel a loss of control.
Fighting against something that is completely natural will only lead to more frustration.
Social Media false images
We see other moms in social media with a sense of comparison. It is important to remember that what we see through filters and careful camera angling is merely a perception of reality. Comparing yourself with what you see in the mirror every day to what you see on social media is simply a forced comparison.
Anyone can create an online persona or an online image that is far manipulated and “prettied up” for the camera. Remember that these social media accounts are merely a fraction of the reality. Try not to assume that you must look or present yourself in this fashion to be “okay” with how you feel about your postpartum body.
There have been some recent gains in popularity of a more realistic approach to social media for new moms thanks to the unfiltered mom-blog approach of several celebrity moms like actress Chrissy Teigen and comedian Amy Schumer.
“I started being a doula before Facebook existed, so I’ve seen the rise of ‘mommy blogs’ and social media, women being in charge of their own narratives,” Mayer (Jennifer Mayer, a doula and the founder of the New York–based birth- and postpartum-care team Baby Caravan) says. “They can share anything they want to share, and that’s really powerful.” And perhaps, she adds, the same culture of radical public honesty about the unglamorous, unpleasant aspects of new motherhood has given rise to the graphic, unfiltered mothering humor that Wong, Teigen, and Schumer have helped popularize.–The Atlantic
The postpartum body, what you need to know
What kind of changes you may see in your post-childbirth body
For generations, the grisly bodily details of new motherhood—the messy postpartum bleeding, the frustrating and sometimes painful process of figuring out breastfeeding, the wound care necessary for the vagina and cervix or the C-section incision, not to mention the waddling around the house wearing whatever undergarment can contain both an absorbent maxi pad and an ice pack—have been something of a secret kept among women.–The Atlantic
There are many changes the body will go through after childbirth that are in and of themselves, well kinda gross. It is difficult to Google hemorrhoids with one hand, feed your baby with the other arm and breast, and not have a sense of “I feel so UGH” about it all. Relax–a lot of these things are temporary and your body will heal itself given time.
- Sore perineum
- Sore nipples, engorged breasts
- Softened tummy area
- Vaginal discharge
- Constipation or urinary problems
- Mood swings
- More sweating
- Dental deterioration (Be sure to see your dentist after your pregnancy.)
As issues such as these arise, you can deal with them, but some changes to the body post-baby can linger beyond a few weeks or may be lifelong changes.
- Weight gain
- Widened hips
- Bigger feet
- Stretch marks
- Loss of “tone” in abdominal muscles
- Vaginal changes
- Changes in frequency or urgency to urinate
Tips for Loving your postpartum body
It isn’t always easy loving this new body. It doesn’t seem to measure up to the memory we have of our pre-pregnancy body. But the irony of that is–our new body shouldn’t measure up because it surpasses our pre-pregnancy body.
Just think of the miracle our bodies have performed (sometimes to our complete amazement)–our bodies have shown us that we can nurture another human being both inside and outside of our womb, with the biological capabilities of our own bodies. We can carry a child, birth a child, nurse a child and nurture a child’s needs with this body of ours and that is nothing short of miraculous.
Darcy Reeder, a Medium blogger and writer, writes in her honest and inspiring article “Getting Your Body Back” Post-Pregnancy: “I told my body, “I am going to keep you healthy and strong, because I love myself, and because I want to be a role model for my daughter.” We have a ritual: I hold my kid — almost 4 years old — and she rests her head on my shoulder, while we sing along to Kesha’s Rainbow: ‘Darling, our scars make us who we are.’ I want self-love to come easier for her, and I want to remember that I deserve it too.”
I think that is an important element to loving our postpartum bodies. We are teaching our value to our children, one that is consistent with how they feel about us. If we demonstrate that we appreciate our bodies and all of the beautiful things we can accomplish because we have this vessel, then they can also celebrate the skin that they are in as well. Loving our bodies, by example, is a gift we give our children.
Psychology Today gives us some wonderful pointers to loving our postpartum bodies:
- Treat exercise as a way to nourish your body, not punish it. It’s meant to keep you healthy and fit, both physically and mentally. It’s not meant to be something you do because you feel you’re not good enough. Find a type of exercise that works for your body and mind.
- Recharge your body (and mind). Treat it like the temple it is.
- Because a smile really is the most beautiful thing you can wear. It’s also the best thing to wear if you want to feel good.
Furthermore, here are some tips for loving your postpartum body and all of its “imperfections”:
- If your pre-pregnancy clothes no longer fit your body–get clothes that fit and flatter (who cares what size they are as long as you feel good in them!)
- Change your inner talk–telling yourself you are fat, or sloppy, or any other self depreciating language is a terrible way to treat yourself. Would you tolerate anyone else speaking to you that way? Change your language. Say to yourself about yourself the things you want to hear.
- Make the conscious decision to love your body in your words and your actions.
- Treat your body kindly–give it nourishment, keep it active, and let it get the nourishing sleep it needs. Taking care of your body will help to ensure that it will take care of you and serve you well.
- Pamper yourself with lotion or a sweet-smelling soap, a new shampoo, or nail polish. Pampering your body is a great way to feel good inside and out.
- Do not compare your body to your pre-pregnancy body or to other people’s bodies–remember, your body is exactly what your children need it to be and what you need it to be.
- Focus on fun. Staying active and fun with your children will help to keep your body healthy and you will feel better.
- Julie Burton, author of The Self-Care Solution: A Modern Mother’s Must-Have Guide to Health and Well-Being, offers this sound advice: “And love yourself, your whole self—body, mind and soul—fully and completely. Right now. Not once you lose five pounds or can fit into a pair of jeans,” and I second this wholeheartedly.
- Practice Mantras for new Mamas.
- Cuddles! Your partner and / or your baby are sure to be up for some cuddles to make you feel loved, appreciated, and wholly beautiful.
- Practice gratitude.
- Consider this a new start–a chance to redefine yourself in many ways, for the better.
Here’s why your postpartum body is perfectly beautiful
The female body is incredibly adaptable. From the pregnancy full of body changes to the miracle of birth, to the wondrous power our bodies show us in healing themselves after it all, we can be assured, our bodies have what it takes to be a superhero. Of course, you will always be a superhero to your child–but why not be your own best superhero?
Your body is perfectly beautiful now, right now. Not next week after you’ve lost another pound, or only when you have on your skinny jeans and false eyelashes–you are sporting a new look, a new you, and a stronger, wiser, more capable you. Isn’t this what you need to be a mother? Strength, wisdom, capability? Your body changes to adapt you to motherhood. These body changes are genetic and biological–neither of those things were your doing or your choice, so give yourself a break. Hips widen as a natural response to childbirth (most likely due to the deposit of fat cells rather than actual widening of the bones)–but oddly, seems to be a perfect place to carry a giggling toddler. How convenient.
It makes zero sense for us women to attempt to fight our own biological growth.
Beauty is a concept that matters most only if you prioritize it that way. I challenge you to change your internal concept of beauty. What can your body do for you? What does it do every day to support you and your family, your career, and all of the other things that matter to you?
Your body is beautiful.
Your scars are beautiful
–they are the evidence of miracles.
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Resources / for Further Reading:
Christina M. Ward,
Babienet blog contributor
Proud mother of 3 and grandmother of 2
Tips for Loving Your Postpartum Body offers encouragement to new moms who are struggling to adapt to their postpartum body, information about what to expect postpartum, and tips to love the postpartum changes.