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Many women carefully pack a selection of their favorite pre-pregnancy clothes in their hospital bag, along with baby outfits, diapers, and blankets.

They look forward to wearing "their own clothes" again, only to be shocked when they still have a bit of a belly after they give birth.It's true that postpartum weight loss begins with the baby's birth. But most new mothers will find that trying to fit into the clothes they wore before they got pregnant is a little too optimistic. Will that "baby fat", usually all packed onto the abdominal area, ever go away?

It's entirely possible that that flabby belly will stick around forever, but it doesn't need to be that way. Most doctors will tell you that it takes six weeks to recover from pregnancy and childbirth. New mothers will certainly feel less tired, and will have physically healed from their delivery, at that time. But when it comes to weight loss after pregnancy, moms know that it can take nine months the same length as pregnancy itself to return to normal.

Don't despair, though: Losing weight, and toning those abdominal muscles, may take time and work, but you can do it! How? The answer lies in a combination of time, good nutrition, and regular exercise. When new moms say they want to shed those pregnancy pounds, most actually mean that they are hoping to get rid of that saggy belly. Losing fat is one part of that, but not even the most important bit. Fad diets are not the answer after pregnancy, and they could endanger your health. Here are a few tips to get started.

Dieting after pregnancy

Did you know that nursing a baby exclusively can burn around 500 calories a day? In that sense, breastfeeding mothers have the edge! (In other ways too read AAP: Breastfeed exclusively for six months to find out more.) But, it's best to wait until your baby is around two months old at which time your milk supply will be stable before starting a weight loss diet. The quality of the calories you consume is much more important than how many you consume, but cutting down on calories remains a good way to encourage weight loss.

Breastfeeding mothers can drop 1.6 pounds a week without jeopardizing their milk supply, but experts do agree that no nursing mom should get less than less than 1500 calories. Nursing moms should make sure to decrease their calories gradually. A sudden drop may not harm your milk supply, but could deplete minerals in your own body because it prioritizes your milk. Bottle-feeding mothers have less to worry about, but fad diets that send your body into starvation mode remain a bad idea. Losing weight too quickly doesn't just put your health at risk it also almost guarantees the weight will fly back on the second you stop your diet. Therefore, choose a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, and don't skip any major food groups. Trans fats, sugar, and highly processed foods should be cut, and the weight will come off.

When to start exercising?

It's best to allow your body the rest it needs to recover from birth before beginning regular exercise. It's safe to do stretching exercises in the first six weeks after giving birth, but you should probably avoid anything heavier. Your abdominal muscles will need some time to move back together after a pregnancy, and those who force exercise before that happens risk permanent separation (diastasis recti). Many women feel best about starting exercise when their healthcare provider gives them the green light at their postpartum checkup. Walking or jogging, yoga, and weight lifting are all examples of good work-outs that new moms can do without leaving their babies. Consider adding a few dumbbells, an exercise mat, and good exercise videos to your shopping list when you're looking for baby gear! A training bike is another wonderful way to tone the muscles that suffered during pregnancy.