We all talk about the joy and beauty of motherhood. Of course, we also speak about the more difficult moments, when we’re feeling exhausted and stressed because we haven’t slept properly in weeks or the baby isn’t feeding properly. And if you’ve had to go through all this during a global pandemic, it’s even harder.
But there’s a bit of motherhood that we frequently don’t talk about: our postpartum bodies.
With motherhood, our body changes — and embracing your new image and your new figure can be tough. Perhaps you’ve put on weight, or you can’t get rid of your tum, or stretch marks suddenly appeared overnight. Whatever it is, it’s difficult adjusting to the fact that this is your body now — but it is possible to see the beauty in your body again.
Here is some of our own advice for new mothers who are trying to get used to their postpartum body and want to embrace their new image.
Recognise the pressure
One of the first steps we can take to embrace our new postpartum bodies is to recognise the pressure that new mothers face to ‘beat that mum bod’ and get back to the weight they were before they become pregnant.
The number of celebrity mums in the news or on social channels who lose two stone in the month after birth, or are papped doing a daily gym sesh or jog right after they’ve had their baby is scary.
It’s also not normal. Yes, it’s great if you can gently exercise or walk normally — and want to do this. But many people do not have the financial capabilities of time to get a personal trainer and nutritionist (and a nanny to watch the baby while you’re getting fit!).
Stop comparing yourself to celebrity mums — and to other people. We are all different, and we all have wonderful unique bodies, in the same way that we all have wonderful unique babies.
Be kind to yourself
Being kind to yourself is so underrated. Some of the best advice we’ve received about self-love and being kind to yourself is to ‘treat yourself like you would treat a friend’.
You would never say the things you say to yourself in the mirror to a friend — those words and thoughts would never even enter your head, let alone come out of your mouth. So why are we so cruel to ourselves?
Be kind to yourself and your postpartum body. Yes, it might not look how you want it to at the moment — or like the images of other women with flat stomachs and petite frames — but you still have many amazing features.
Think about it from your baby’s point of view too: do you think that your baby cares about your stretch marks or your scars? No, of course not! They’re just happy to feel the warmth of your skin, the comfort of your mum tum, and the nutrient-rich milk that you feed them.
Take pride in your body — it made your baby!
Okay, so it’s harder to hit that high-intensity workout or go to your spin class these days, but think about what else your body has achieved recently. You’ve created human life!
In around nine (ish) months, you have managed to grow, feed and protect a tiny baby inside you, and then deliver them into the world. It’s one of the most magnificent, beautiful miracles in the world and your body did that. It’s incredible, really — so be proud of your postpartum body and admire it for its strength.
Embrace the changes in your postpartum body. Those stretch marks, that extra weight or wobble on your tum — it’s all the result of the hard work you’ve done bringing a baby into the world (and keeping your baby happy and fed!).
If you’re struggling to find this beauty in yourself and you need to be inspired, check out the Life After Birth Project — a powerful project celebrating the strength and beauty of postpartum bodies. By showing photos of new moms and their experiences with their post-baby bodies — whether it’s stretch marks or loose stomach skin, or C-section scars — this awesome project is encouraging new moms to be proud of their bodies and everything they have achieved and gone through.
In an ideal world, we would all love our bodies and be proud of them — but we get that that isn’t always the case. Sometimes, it’s hard. Things don’t go right, or you’re having an ‘ugly day’ or you’re having trouble breastfeeding, or you miss how you looked before with your flat stomach. Whatever it is, it’s okay.
Loving your body isn’t an instant thing; it’s not going to happen overnight. Be realistic about your journey towards self-love — and also be realistic about what your body can do. You’ve only recently had a baby; whether you’ve had a natural birth or a cesarean, it’s going to be a while before your body is functioning in the same way that it was before.
Don’t push yourself when it comes to achieving the same stuff you did before, either — whether that is mobility, fitness levels, weight or how you look. As we’ve said before, the pressure to ‘bounce back’ from your mum bod can be overwhelming, but be realistic and gentle with yourself, and you’ll get to where you want to be.
Get support from people you love
Making sure you have support from people around you when it comes to loving and embracing your postpartum body is so important.
Yes, you’ll need support when it comes to your new little one, especially if it’s your first one (it takes a village, and all).
But it’s not just about them; it’s about you fitting into your new role as a mother as naturally and comfortably as you can. And being happy and grounded with your new postpartum body is part of that.
Hopefully, your partner will be understanding and supportive, but it is often our female friends that we look to for compassion and empathy when it comes to our bodies. Unless you are a mother, you tend to forget that you sacrifice a lot for your babies — including your body.
Hang out with women who build you up and keep you confident; friends that let you talk openly about your feelings and don’t place importance on your appearance. If you are friends with women who do this, now is the time to gently step away from that friendship — even if just for a short time — for the benefit of your own wellbeing.
Embracing your postpartum body and new image after your baby is born can be hard, but it is possible. Follow our tips above to be kind, respectful and proud of your postpartum figure — and remember to love your body, as well as your baby.