That shrinking feeling
Your uterus (womb) starts shrinking as soon as your baby is born, causing anything from slight discomfort to quite severe pain. However, this should subside within a few days of the birth. If you’re breastfeeding, you might notice the pains become quite a bit more intense as your baby is feeding. This is all down to the hormone oxytocin, which is released during breastfeeding – it makes your womb contract. By the time you go for your six-week check-up, your uterus should have shrunk back to its normal size.
Degrees of separation
Your stomach muscles stretch by around 60cm during pregnancy, and separate down the middle under the pressure of your expanding uterus. After the birth these muscles need to knit back together, which can take anything up to six months, or longer, especially if you’re given birth before. Pelvic floor exercises are the best way to help this process along, as they gently build up core muscle strength. Don’t be tempted to throw yourself into a regime of sit-ups (as if!) until the muscles have healed – a postnatal fitness instructor will be able to check this for you. If you’ve had a Caesarean, you need to wait at least 10 weeks before exercising, to allow your body to heal. There’s no reason why a C-section, once you’re fully recovered, should prevent you getting back your pre-pregnancy stomach, though.
The wobble factor
Pregnant women love stroking their bumps, but directly after the birth, that lovely taut bump will feel more like a bag of jelly. This will subside naturally as your body gets rid of excess fluids, but it’s normal to have a bit of a jelly belly for at least a few months after the birth. Try standing up and pulling your tummy in (as if you’re pulling your belly button towards your spine), and holding this position for five seconds while breathing normally and keeping the rest of your body relaxed. Repeat four times. Over time, increase the time you hold your tummy in to 10 seconds.
Not-so secret support
If all else fails….stock up on control pants! Actress Gwyneth Paltrow blew the cover of all those A-list mums who are papped in their size 8 jeans hours after giving birth, when she admitted to wearing two pairs of control pants after she had her babies. ‘It’s a great trick. That’s how all the Hollywood girls do it,’ she confessed. Try Spanx In-Power Line Super High Power Shaper pants, £33, from figleaves.com
Breastfeeding burns the extra fat laid down in pregnancy, so it can help you shift that baby bulge quicker, but don’t expect to drop the weight instantly. Some breastfeeding mums find that the pounds just fall off effortlessly within two or three months of giving birth, but a more realistic weight loss goal is nine months. Dieting while breastfeeding isn’t advisable as you need to eat enough to keep your energy levels up and to make sure your baby is getting all the nutrients he needs from your milk. You’ll need around 500 extra calories per day while breastfeeding, the equivalent of a bowl of cereal, a low-fat yogurt, an apple and a banana.