Reclaiming Postpartum Body Changes

Feb 3 , 2024
By Eden Sahle

I have consistently maintained a size zero throughout my life. I belonged to the category of individuals who could indulge in a variety of foods without experiencing significant weight gain. Eating freely and without concern about my weight was something I had grown accustomed to. All that had changed six months into my pregnancy.

I gained a significant amount of weight despite maintaining my regular diet and daily exercise routine. My doctor explained that a significant portion of the weight gain could be attributed to the prenatal vitamins I was taking. However, I decided to continue taking them as they were crucial for the healthy development of my baby. Balancing the necessary nutrients for my child's well-being was a priority, even if it meant dealing with unexpected changes in my own body.

I believed the weight gain would be temporary. Despite losing 11Kg immediately following the birth of my baby, I was still carrying excess weight. The realisation that it mainly consisted of baby weight, the placenta, and amniotic fluid, left me in shock and disappointment. I could not help but compare my experience to the women in my life who regained their pre-pregnancy figures within a few weeks, contemplating why the process was not the same in my case.

Given that I am exclusively breastfeeding, my doctor advised me to incorporate an additional 500Cal into my daily intake. I was also advised to engage in light walking, as intense workouts could potentially impact milk production.

I have discovered that the postpartum period resembles puberty. The oscillation of hormones, changes in sleep patterns, shifts in appetite, and the emergence of a new body type all contribute to the sensation of being reintroduced to a transformed version of myself. When I gaze into the mirror, I no longer recognise my former self. Instead, it is a journey of embracing the changes and evolving into a new me.

Carving out time for exercise and self-care with a newborn feels like a luxury I can no longer afford. The postpartum period becomes even more challenging in social settings, where unrealistic expectations from others make it difficult for me to achieve my pre-pregnancy life and body weight swiftly. It is a journey that requires understanding and patience from others.

While I have been self-conscious about my transformed body, many people in my life began comparing my current appearance to my former self. Some have conveyed sadness about witnessing this change, going so far as to present side-by-side pictures to highlight the stark contrast. The one aspect they encourage me to retain as a positive change is my lengthy, thick hair, which has grown to reach my lower back.

Through the process, the one person who seems genuinely content with my new curves is my husband. He has helped me embrace a healthier and more diverse body size than the previous size zero.  Seeking guidance from the women who have served as role models in the past, I inquired about their strategies for regaining shape after childbirth. Surprisingly, they all shared a common but concerning secret.

Their advice was straightforward: stop breastfeeding and engage in crash dieting to swiftly return to the former body weight. While their intentions may have been rooted in the desire to help, balancing personal goals with the needs of my child became a conflicting dilemma. The decision to switch to formula feeding and embark on crash dieting was, according to them, driven by a notion that centred around associating  weight retention after childbirth with a lack of discipline.

Despite my eagerness to shed the extra weight, I made a conscious decision not to let my weight loss journey compromise the well-being of my child. With this commitment in mind, I chose to continue exclusively nursing my child, temporarily putting my weight loss plans on hold.

In the meantime, I learned to appreciate and embrace my new body, which played a vital role in carrying and nurturing a whole new person whom I treasure dearly. Developing a sense of gratitude, I have come to recognise the incredible efforts my body exerted to support the growth of my baby girl.

It is disheartening to observe that societal and, in some cases, spousal pressures are discouraging women from breastfeeding. This trend raises concerns about the impact on both maternal and infant health, as well as the emotional well-being of mothers who may feel compelled to conform to unrealistic standards at the expense of their child's nutrition and bonding.

There is a significant correlation between women's concerns about weight gain during pregnancy and their inclination toward breastfeeding during postpartum. A positive body image directly influences a mother's decision to breastfeed. Those with a lack of spousal support are more likely to prioritise weight loss through dieting that impacts milk production.

Weight gain during pregnancy is a natural and necessary part of the process. It showcases the incredible sacrifice and dedication that mothers invest in bringing a child into the world, not only by carrying the child but also by providing essential nourishment afterwards. It is a testament to the profound sacrifices mothers make to ensure the well-being and growth of their children.

PUBLISHED ON Feb 03,2024 [ VOL 24 , NO 1240]

Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at

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