“I hate the way my body looks since having my baby.” If loathing your post baby body sounds like you, you’re not alone. Over 70% of new mums look in the mirror each day and want to change what they see looking back at them.
We seem to accept that life will never be the same after having a baby, but have trouble accepting that the same goes for our bodies. No matter who you are, your body changes during pregnancy and post birth; it’s all part and parcel of the Herculean effort to become a mother. Pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding all take their toll on our bodies and it takes time to recover. It’s the side of pregnancy and child birth that is rarely talked about, least of all celebrated.
If there is one thing I know for sure it’s that when my drowsy little babies looked at me and gave me a milk drunk smile, they didn’t care how I looked. They cared only that I could change them, feed them, comfort them, and play with them. I signed up to be a mum, not a fitness model.
So, it’s time to shake up the internal dialogue from one of self-loathing to kindness; from shame to pride. That’s not to say you shouldn’t pay attention to nutrition and exercise; a healthier you is undoubtedly a better you. It’s about replacing an unhealthy fixation with a recognition that your body has just performed the most extraordinary job.
Next time you catch yourself getting carried away in a bit of body shaming, here’s some things to keep in mind:
Getting back ‘in shape’ isn’t easy, or quick
That not only goes for new mums but most of the population, too. Waking up throughout the night, running a home, and caring for a family is exhausting and time and energy are in short supply. Beating yourself up about your post baby body isn’t going to help. Doing the best you can is all that you should ask of yourself.
Be kinder to yourself
As women, we often don’t show ourselves the kindness and generosity that we extend to others. Recognise the fact that you have just done an incredible thing by bringing life into the world, and are now doing the hardest and most important job in the world – being a mum. New mums already feel that they are under so much pressure from everyone else; you don’t need to jump on that bandwagon, too.
Save your energy for what really matters
It’s easy to get caught up in pressures and expectations – having a perfect body; being a perfect mum; playing the part of the perfect wife. In the end, there is no competition if you decide not to play the game. Use that energy to instead focus on what really matters; your wonderful family and your beautiful new baby. The muffin top can wait.
Focus on what your body is capable of
Can you rock your baby to sleep? Push them in a swing? Play with them in the bath? When you appreciate what your body can do, fitting into your skinny jeans just doesn’t seem as important anymore. And personally, I think yoga pants are way more practical anyway.
Ignore the celebrity post baby body images
Women’s bodies are held to an idealistic standard of perfection and that doesn’t change post birth. The media loves nothing more than a celebrity mum rocking a bikini, weeks after giving birth. The truth is, it’s actually quite easy to steer clear of these self-esteem missiles if you decide to. Don’t buy the magazines, don’t click on the stories, and don’t follow them on social media. Reject their unrealistic beauty ideal and learn to be comfortable in your own skin.
Think about who might be listening and watching
As a mum to three girls, I am really conscious of the impact my relationship with my body has on them. If my daughters grow up hearing messages of self-loathing, I will be creating an unhealthy legacy they will take with them well into adulthood. I want them to face their adolescence with a healthy mindset and I know I can help shape that for them by flooding them with positive messages. Mums of boys also need to be mindful of how they speak about a woman’s body. Showing respect for yourself teaches them respect for others.
It’s an ongoing struggle but I now choose to focus on what I’m capable of doing, the kind of mum I want to be, and chasing the things that bring me happiness. If I start to recognise my body again one day, great. If not, I can live with that too.
How do you feel about your body as a new mum? Let other mums know how you feel better about yourself.
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