Many new mothers want to know how to lose baby weight.

That is, they want to know how to lose the weight they gained during pregnancy and return to their pre-pregnancy body soon after giving birth.

However, motherhood offers unique challenges that can make postpartum weight loss difficult.

That’s why it pays to follow a postpartum weight-loss plan that gears your diet, training, and lifestyle toward losing baby weight

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to lose weight after pregnancy, including what baby weight is and why losing it is important, an evidence-based postpartum weight-loss plan, the best workouts and exercises to lose baby weight, and more.  

What Is “Baby Weight?”

“Baby weight” is the common name for gestational weight gain and refers to the weight you gain during pregnancy.

The main components of baby weight are your growing baby, placenta, amniotic fluid, uterus, blood volume, and breast tissue.

Body fat also makes up a significant portion of baby weight.

Gaining body fat during pregnancy is essential for your child’s healthy development. Gaining too much, however, increases your risk of experiencing pregnancy- and labor-related complications.

Research also shows that women who gain excessive weight during pregnancy often struggle to shake the extra weight even years after giving birth.

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Why Is Losing Baby Weight Important?

Many mothers are motivated to lose their baby weight because they want to return to how they looked before they were pregnant.

While this is a perfectly reasonable reason to shed the extra weight you gain during pregnancy, there are also health advantages that come with losing baby weight

For example, research shows that women who fail to lose their baby weight in the first 6-to-12 months postpartum (after giving birth) are more likely to retain it up to 15 years later. 

In other words, losing your baby weight within a year of giving birth decreases your risk of obesity in later life, and thus puts you at a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and some cancers.

How to Lose Weight After Pregnancy

The healthiest and quickest way to lose weight after having a baby is to follow a postpartum weight-loss plan that encourages you to eat a healthy, calorie-controlled diet, exercise regularly, get sufficient rest, and incorporate habits that maximize weight loss.  

With that in mind, here’s what I recommend.

1. Set realistic goals.

Most women want to bounce back to their pre-baby body as quickly as possible after giving birth.

And since social media influencers and celebrities seem to lose their baby weight within days of delivery, many new mothers think that’s what they should aim to do, too.

Don’t be fooled by the stylized pictures you see online and in magazines—the women who appear to lose their baby weight immediately are taking misleading photos, using unhealthy methods to lose weight rapidly, or both, and you shouldn’t try to emulate them.

While scientists are yet to pinpoint the perfect postpartum weight-loss timeline, here are some reasonable goals that’ll work for most mothers:

  • Take the first 6 weeks after giving birth to recover. During this time, don’t cut your calories to below your TDEE, as doing so may slow your recovery. If you’re breastfeeding, extend this recovery period to ~8 weeks or until your milk supply has normalized. (You may also benefit from doing pelvic floor exercises at this time.)
  • At 6-to-8 weeks postpartum, aim to lose 1-to-2 pounds weekly by decreasing your calorie intake and increasing your physical activity (more on the specifics soon). This should get you back to your pre-baby weight or lighter within 4-to-12 months, provided you didn’t gain more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy (20-to-40 pounds).

2. Clean up your diet.

Research shows that many expectant and new mothers eat a less healthy diet (fewer fruits and vegetables and more calorie-dense, processed food) than before they were pregnant. 

This is likely because the demands of pregnancy and childcare force healthy eating to take a back seat.

Studies also show that the unhealthy eating habits that many new mothers adopt increase the odds of retaining baby weight. 

The solution is straightforward: control your calorie intake, eat the right balance of protein, carbs, and fat, and prioritize nutritious foods

Specifically, here’s everything you need to do with your diet to lose weight after your baby arrives:

1. Eat in a calorie deficit: To lose weight, you must eat fewer calories than you burn (known as eating in a “calorie deficit”). When dieting to lose weight, eating between 8-to-12 calories per pound of body weight per day creates a 20-to-25% calorie deficit for most people, which is a good target to aim for to lose fat quickly and healthily

(In case you’re concerned, research shows that eating in a moderate calorie deficit, such as 20-to-25%, is perfectly healthy for new mothers, even those who breastfeed.)

2. Eat the right balance of macronutrients: To lose weight as effortlessly and healthily as possible, aim to get 30-to-40% of your daily calories from protein, 20-to-30% of daily calories from fat, and the remainder of your daily calories from carbohydrates.

3. Prioritize nutritious foods: Get most of your calories from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish, dairy, pulses, nuts, seeds, legumes, and plant oils, and avoid processed foods, trans-fats, and high-sugar drinks.

If you’d like even more specific advice about how many calories, how much of each macronutrient, and which foods you should eat to reach your post-pregnancy weight-loss goals, take the Legion Diet Quiz, and in less than a minute, you’ll know exactly what diet is right for you. Click here to check it out.

3. Exercise regularly.

Because of the pressures of motherhood, many new mothers exercise less after their child arrives than they did before they were pregnant. 

However, exercising after childbirth is an excellent way to increase the calories you burn and thus boost weight loss, especially when combined with proper dieting.

Furthermore, studies show regularly exercising after childbirth improves insulin sensitivity and psychological well-being, which may help you maintain a healthier body composition over time. 

We’ll cover the specifics soon, but as a general guideline, aim for 3 strength training workouts and 1-to-3 moderate-intensity cardio workouts weekly.

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4. Breastfeed (if you can).

Breastfeeding burns ~500 calories per day, which is why most high-quality research shows it can boost postpartum weight loss

For breastfeeding to have a meaningful impact on weight loss, however, you also have to be cognizant of your calorie intake.

Specifically, you shouldn’t “eat back” the calories you burn through nursing, as doing so will shrink your calorie deficit, slowing your rate of weight loss or counteracting it altogether. 

5. Prioritize sleep.

The sleep deprivation most mothers suffer in the weeks and months following delivery can greatly impact their ability to lose weight. 

For instance, studies show that those who sleep 5 hours or fewer per 24-hour period are significantly more likely to retain their baby weight up to a year following childbirth.

This is likely because sleep deprivation causes hormonal and metabolic disturbances that make you more susceptible to weight gain and diminishes your motivation to exercise, lowering the number of calories you burn each day.

That’s why you should do your utmost to sleep 7-to-9 hours per 24-hour period. 

It’s unlikely you’ll get this in one go, so supplementing your nightly sleep with naps throughout the day (during your baby’s naps, for example) is a good workaround. 

The Best Exercises to Lose Baby Weight

Before we get into the best exercises to lose pregnancy weight, it bears remembering that you should only begin a postpartum training program once you feel comfortable doing so.

Furthermore, if you experienced complications during delivery or had a Cesarean section, consult your healthcare provider before exercising to ensure you’re safe to start. 

With that said, to maximize the fat-burning effects of strength training in the postpartum period, you need to focus on the following:

  • Low-impact exercises: Experts generally recommend new mothers stick to low-impact rather than high-impact exercises. 
  • Compound exercises: A compound exercise is any exercise that targets multiple muscle groups at once. Studies show that compound exercises produce the greatest increases in metabolic rate, muscle mass, and strength, so you should prioritize them while training to lose fat.
  • Heavy weightlifting: Research shows that lifting weights that are 70-to-85% of your one-rep max (weights that you can do 6-to-12 reps with before failing) helps you build more muscle and burn more fat than training with lighter weights. For safety, begin training with weights toward the lighter end of this range and work toward the heavier end as you become stronger.

Here are the 12 best exercises to lose baby weight that meet the above criteria:

  1. Bulgarian Split Squat
  2. Deadlift
  3. Romanian Deadlift
  4. Leg Press
  5. Hip Thrust
  6. Goblet Squat
  7. Glute Bridge
  8. Leg Curl
  9. Shoulder Press
  10. Push-up
  11. Lat Pulldown
  12. One-Arm Dumbbell Row

The Best Workouts to Lose Baby Weight

Strength Training Workouts

Here’s a workout plan that includes all the best exercises to lose baby weight that’ll help you lose fat, build muscle, and gain strength like clockwork.

For best results, leave at least one day between each workout (you could train on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, for example).

If after several months of training you feel strong enough to do so, increase the weight you use for each exercise and work in a lower rep range (e.g. 8-to-10 or 6-to-8 reps per set). 

how to lose baby weight

And if you like the look of these workouts and want even more options specifically designed to help women get in the best shape of their life, check out Mike’s fitness book for women, Thinner Leaner Stronger.

Cardio Workouts

To boost postpartum fat loss, do one-to-three 30-to-60-minute cardio workouts weekly, consisting of low-impact exercise that you enjoy, like walking, swimming, cycling, or rucking.

Ideally, do your cardio workouts on days when you don’t lift weights. If this isn’t possible, try to separate your strength training and cardio workouts by at least a couple of hours. 

If you must combine cardio and strength training in the same workout, do your strength training first.

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FAQ #1: How long does it take to lose baby weight?

It depends on how much weight you gain during pregnancy.

Assuming you gain the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy (20-to-40 pounds), take 6-to-8 weeks after delivery to recover, and then lose 1-to-2 pounds per week, you should be able to lose your baby weight in 16-to-48 weeks.

FAQ #2: I can’t lose baby weight 2 years later. What should I do?

Women commonly retain their baby weight for years following the birth of their child because they tend to make more unhealthy food choices and do less exercise than before they were pregnant.

Thus, the solution is eating fewer calories and doing more exercise. 

To understand how many calories you should eat and the type of exercise you should do to lose your baby weight (even years after you gave birth), follow the advice in this article. 

FAQ #3: Should I take supplements to boost postpartum weight loss?

No weight loss pills and powders are going to automagically help you lose baby weight. 

In fact, most fat loss supplements are completely worthless.

That said, if you know how to eat and train to drive fat loss—following the steps we just covered—certain supplements can speed up the process. (If you’d like to know exactly what supplements to take to reach your fitness goals, take the Legion Supplement Finder Quiz.)  

Here are the best supplements to help you boost postpartum weight loss and improve your body composition:

  • 0.8-to-1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. This provides your body with the “building blocks” it needs to build and repair muscle tissue and help you recover from your workouts. If you want a clean, convenient, and delicious source of protein, try Whey+ or Casein+.
  • 3-to-5 grams of creatine per day. This will boost muscle and strength gain, improve anaerobic endurance, and reduce muscle damage and soreness from your superset workouts. If you want a 100% natural source of creatine that also includes two other ingredients that will help boost muscle growth and improve recovery, try Recharge.
  • One serving of Phoenix per day. Phoenix is a 100% natural fat burner that speeds up your metabolism, enhances fat burning, and reduces hunger and cravings. Bear in mind that Phoenix contains caffeine, so if you’re breastfeeding, you may prefer “stim-free” Phoenix.

+ Scientific References