Weight gain during your pregnancy is to be expected, and even celebrated. Healthy weight gain within an acceptable range means that both you and your baby are thriving, and moving closer to the big day.
Before you know it, you’re past all the excitement of baby’s arrival and the exhaustion and confusion of being a brand-new parent. As your baby approaches his/her first birthday, you look down one day and are shocked to discover that your weight has settled in at a much higher number than before your pregnancy.
Wasn’t this all supposed to magically slide off after giving birth? Not necessarily. Let’s take a look at some of the ways in which being a parent causes weight gain.
Of all the sneaky culprits on this list, sleep deprivation is the most easily overlooked, but probably has the most impact on your waistline.
Babies who learn to self-soothe and seem to implicitly understand the value of a good night’s sleep at six weeks old are truly mythical creatures. For the most part, parents can expect their babies to wake up during the night for feeding or diaper changes all through their first year of life.
When the baby is up, you are up. Your sleep cycles are interrupted, and gradually you build up a rest deficit the likes of which you have never experienced in your life. Sleep is absolutely essential for the repair of both your mind and body.
When this is taken away from you, your body tries to compensate by searching for alternate sources of energy – processed foods, sweets, and 3 am snacks all fit that bill perfectly.
Less Time to Prepare (or Shop For) Healthy Meals
So you have one of those adorable shopping cart seat covers, complete with pockets to stash bottles, diapers, and your checkbook. But all the baby gear in the world will not make it easier for you to get to the store with a baby in tow in the middle of a steady downpour, or on the same day that you have to visit the pediatrician, the OB/GYN and your mother-in-law.
And anyway, even if you could get to the store, exactly when and how are you supposed to cook the food you buy? You can’t exactly balance a colicky baby on one arm while spiralizing zucchini noodles with the other.
The truth is, so much of your time is taken up seeing to the baby’s needs, that yours can get pushed out of the way. Yes, even needs as basic as sleeping and eating. Many parents fall back on takeout food, delivery pizza, or a bowl of cereal at 11 pm. That kind of eating will slow your weight loss at best, or cause weight gain at worst.
You’re More Distracted When You Eat
You have probably seen lots of blogs talking about the importance of “mindful eating.” This is the simple practice of listening to your system with every bite where you take time to taste the food, enjoy the texture, and check in to see if you feel full enough to stop.
Truly, it sounds lovely, but there’s absolutely no way you can do this regularly with a baby in the house.
As a result, parents are more likely to wolf down a granola bar while pacing the kitchen, quickly grab a sandwich through a drive-through window, or take giant bites of a pasta dinner while their partner changes a diaper.
Distraction often leads us to eat much more than we need to. We become so focused on simply getting food into our systems (because who knows when we will have the chance to actually sit down for a meal?) that we don’t notice whether we feel full, satisfied, or still hungry.
Here’s What You Can Do About This
There are a few steps you can take to help combat weight gain, or speed up very slow weight loss during the first year of your baby’s life.
First, start with a little self-forgiveness. You are being asked to do more than you have ever done in your entire life, and chances are you are doing a much better job than you credit yourself with.
Second, learn how to delegate and ask for help. Too many moms feel pressure to do everything themselves, and in doing so, they jeopardize their own health. It’s okay to reach out to family, friends, or neighbors for help with babysitting, cooking, cleaning, or even just holding the baby so you can take a shower.
Eventually your baby will settle into a routine, and you’ll then be better able to plan your day around it. And yes, those plans can include exercise, food shopping, and healthy cooking.