How soon should I lose weight after having a baby?

Pregnant Belly 3 Benjamin Earwicker

Seeing celebrities strutting round in skinny jeans just weeks after they've given birth can make new mothers anxious. But although it's important to lose that extra weight, it's best to do so gradually

There is nothing more annoying than seeing a celebrity mum back in skinny jeans the week after giving birth. Last week, Luisa Zissman (of Celebrity Big Brother) was reported to have criticised Tamara Ecclestone for losing her baby weight too quickly. Celebrities should admit they employ nannies so they can exercise and "starve themselves thin", said Zissman. Meanwhile, Halle Berry's personal trainer, Ramona Braganza, has released a DVD called 321 Baby Bulge Be Gone, based on daily workouts that started a few weeks after Berry gave birth. They include free weights, squats, lunges and jumps. Advice from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists specifically advises against jumping exercises too soon after birth. And a new report warns that losing weight too rapidly is unhealthy for mothers and psychologically damaging for children. So is it better to wait to lose that weight?

The solution

This latest report, from the Government Equalities Office, is written by psychotherapist Susie Orbach and Holli Rubin, a specialist in body image. It reviews the research literature on attachment theory and argues that new mothers who are worried about their baby fat may be less focused on bonding with their babies. Instead of mother and baby getting to know each other, says the report, women are pressurised into presenting themselves "physically as though nothing as momentously life-changing or body-changing as having a baby has occurred". As a call for new mothers to shelve restricting calories until they are less exhausted and emotionally overwrought, it makes sense. A survey by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) of 6,252 women found that six out of 10 felt pressurised by the example of celebrities to lose weight quickly after giving birth. The RCM warns that women can easily feel ashamed of their post-baby bodies.

Research shows that it is best to lose baby fat gradually, starting after three months. Women normally gain up to 20% of their bodyweight during pregnancy. Eating healthily, taking moderate exercise such as brisk walking and aiming to lose a couple of pounds a week is tough, but more achievable than a juice diet and five sessions a week at the gym.

Weight Watchers has some good tips on losing baby fat. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends weight loss over the first year. The problem with not shifting baby fat is that increasing weight in subsequent pregnancies increases the risk of diabetes and pre-eclampsia. Even without future pregnancies, significant weight gain can increase the likelihood of high blood pressure and heart disease. But, as Orbach says, wait until you've got used to having a baby. Skinny jeans can wait.

Powered by article was written by Luisa Dillner, for The Guardian on Sunday 8th June 2014 19.00 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010