A guide to postpartum weight loss

Make sure you’ve gotten the green light from your practitioner before starting back on your exercise routine. / Net photo

After having a baby, many women wonder how long it takes to lose baby weight and bounce back to a pre-baby body. 

‘There are lots of things you can do to get into shape again. But it’s really important to give yourself a break: Your body just birthed another being. Things moved around, stretched and grew to make that happen. Don’t focus on “getting your body back” (it actually didn’t go anywhere!) but on creating a healthy, happy, and — possibly slightly differently shaped — you,’  writes Maria Masters in her article “Losing the Baby Weight: The Truth About Shedding Pounds After Birth”. 


Francis Kazungu, a general practitioner in Kigali, says the most important aspect is maintaining a healthy diet. In fact, this should be before, during, and after the pregnancy.


He says that in many cases, this has been an issue for women after giving birth.


“For many women, maintaining healthy weight after pregnancy is a struggle,” he says. 

He explains that after giving birth, many women tend to concentrate on taking care of their new-borns, adjusting to the new routine and recovering from childbirth.

However, Kazungu says it is important to return to a healthy weight after delivery, whether you plan to have another baby or not.

 How to go about it

Joseph Uwiragiye, the head of the nutrition department at University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK), says while the weight one loses after giving birth varies, the most important thing is to remain within a healthy weight range.

Studies show that many women appear to hold on to at least a couple of pounds postpartum, and a quarter of women retain 11 or more pounds (roughly five or more kilogrammes) a year after giving birth.

One thing that can help shed off some weight, Uwiragiye says, is exclusively breastfeeding, which is important for the mother and the child.

He says that studies have proven that breastfeeding helps reduce the size of the uterus, as it makes it contract and return to its normal size faster after birth.

Additionally, breastfeeding has been shown to support the mother’s weight loss.

Uwiragiye says this is because the body uses fat stores and energy to nourish the baby. 

He says women who breastfed their babies for at least the first few months tend to lose the weight they gained during pregnancy faster than those who don’t.

However, he notes that women should mind what they eat as breastfeeding can make one hungry often.

He suggests eating vegetables and fruits and other nutritious choices.

Uwiragiye adds that drinking plenty of water and staying away from processed foods that are high in fat or sugar is essential as far as losing baby weight is concerned. 


Kazungu says that reaching a healthy weight after a pregnancy reduces one’s risks in future pregnancies, and boosts general health.

“By eating well and exercising gradually, one is capable of losing weight in a short period of time. The most important thing is to take care of yourself, eat good food and exercise,” he says.

He adds that depending on one’s commitment and determination, it might take six months or more for one to get back to their pre-pregnancy weight. 

Meanwhile, Uwiragiye says that gradual weight loss, about half a kilo per week, is enough, especially if one is breastfeeding. 

He points out that one should be careful when trying to lose weight while breastfeeding.

He explains that losing weight rapidly through dieting might mean that one isn’t passing on the nutrients required to the baby, which is risky.

“It’s not ideal to lose a lot of weight or lose it too quickly. One needs the energy to care for themselves and the baby,” Uwiragiye adds.

Eat to lose weight

To be able to lose the weight gradually, Erick Musengimana, a nutritionist at Rwanda Diabetes Association in Kigali, says there are healthy eating tips that mothers should follow.

First and foremost, he says, do not try to skip meals, adding that with the new baby, one can forget to eat at some point. 

This, he says, will lead to less energy, which will not aid weight loss.

He adds that one should aim at eating five to six small meals a day with healthy snacks in between (rather than three larger meals).

According to studies by MedlinePlus, an online health information resource, it’s important not to skip breakfast.

It states that even if one does not normally eat in the mornings, they should get into the habit of doing so. It will give them the energy to start the day and not feel tired later.

The study suggests that when you take your time eating, you will notice that it is easy to tell that you are full. It is tempting to multitask, but if you focus on your meal, it is unlikely to overeat.

Musengimana says that eating a variety of fresh foods, including vegetables, proteins and whole grains is important. 

He adds that trying to incorporate food that is rich in fibre, such as vegetables, legumes, and grains, not only fills you up, it is good for your health.

He says it’s important to always eat smaller portions. He notes that this can be achieved by using a smaller plate.

He notes that choosing healthy options rather than processed snacks helps when it comes to shedding off extra weight.

Musengimana counsels that it’s important for one to consult a dietitian who can give tips on how to lose weight; they can recommend a nutritious eating plan that allows for gradual post-pregnancy weight loss. 


Experts say holding on to pregnancy weight can lead to serious health consequences, putting one at risk of chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

And losing the pregnancy weight is important, not just for new moms, but for babies, too.

“Going into a future pregnancy at a higher weight can put both the mother and the developing baby at risk of medical complications, such as gestational diabetes and hypertension or being overweight,” Musengimana says.


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