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Book excerpt: New moms, be kind to your body

In this exclusive excerpt from ‘Newborns and New Moms’, Dr Farah Adam Mukadam urges new mothers to not push their bodies into pre-pregnancy shape just yet

Take time out for calming activities like meditation instead of hitting the gym soon after childbirth
Take time out for calming activities like meditation instead of hitting the gym soon after childbirth (Photo: iStock)

When everyone around is being petty and taking joy in ridiculing you for your mom body, please keep calm and eat that extra roti you have been eyeing. The first two–three months after birth you will eat more than a teenage boy having a growth spurt. And it is your right to eat all that food. Starving yourself to lose weight will actually make you pile on more weight and especially in the wrong places such as your belly. Bide your time before you get your revenge body and silence the trolls in your life.

Many husbands sport a cheerful beer belly but have the audacity to tell their wives (who have delivered a baby about four months ago) ‘to get her curves back’. It is body shaming at its peak. This woman altered her entire body, bore his child for nine months, risked her life to give birth to that child and her ungrateful husband tells her to get her curves back!

A guide to help women cope with anxieties of being a new mom
A guide to help women cope with anxieties of being a new mom

I know we are all very sensitive especially after delivery when our hormones are messing with us. Add to it our sleep deprivation and struggles with post-delivery problems. So, it is only our right to treat our bodies well and keep them well-fed. Your body has gone through so much to give birth to the precious baby. Don’t push it into looking sexy just yet.

There is another important reason you should be kind to your body. The more stress you take about your weight, the more your hormones will go into saving mode. Stress from caveman times translated as threat to survival. A stressed body produces more cortisol which is responsible for fat deposition on the belly. Your body and mind need to be on the same team. Train yourself to think of the fat as a temporary guest to help you. You need to give some to get some. Give your body food and kindness when it really needs it and you will be rewarded with those pounds shed, because your body felt secure and did not see the need to store fat. One of my friends, a Marwari, was made to drink ghee daily after her delivery. She was fed by a doting mother-in-law and within five months she was back to her pre-pregnancy weight. Had she stressed over her weight and cut down her food intake, she wouldn’t have been blessed so soon with the regained vigour and lost weight that we all envy.

The first thing to start you off on your journey to reclaiming your body is taking claim to the rest you deserve. Pregnant and delivery are no simple feats. They drain all of the body’s and mind’s resources. Recuperation from delivery needs a long time, so go slow on yourselves. Ample rest with few walks around the house and taking care of your own body on extremely broken sleep is a challenge. Some of the things you can do for yourself to make sure your body is well rested:

a. Social media sabbatical: I can’t stress on this enough, but these days social media is one of the biggest culprits for women not getting rest after delivery. It is true we are all holed up with a strange crying baby and need to find our old selves, but social media is doing more harm than good to your body.

The white light from your phones mimics daylight and asks your body to produce less melatonin because the body believes that it isn’t night yet. This hormone melatonin is responsible for us feeling fresh during the day and groggy as the night sets in. Going online when your baby is keeping you awake at night messes up with your body clock. In addition, such a messed-up body clock produces less of the satiety hormone leptin. This hormone gives you satisfaction on eating your meal and reduces your appetite. Over many days, as your leptin keeps waning because of night time exposure to light, your appetite is also going out of control and so is your waistline.

b. Mastering breastfeeding lying down: In my chapter on breastfeeding I have highlighted the importance of lying down irrespective of sleep to rest your strained back muscles. Learn to breastfeed lying down early on to ensure you get a better rest.

c. Don’t look for a happily ever after: Pregnancy is often viewed as a long wait to the spectacular finish. The only thing is that there is no finish and it isn’t spectacular for sure. It is harsh, hard and tough to swallow. Life isn’t a movie montage where sleeplessness with a new baby is glorious. Keep your expectations low, don’t try to control your day or your baby and take it one hour at a time. Close your eyes even if you aren’t able to fall asleep. Shut eye is more rejuvenating for your brain than you would like to give it credit for.

Excerpted from 'Newborns and New Moms', a book by Dr Farah Adam Mukadam, a Bengaluru-based family physician, with permission from PAN Macmillan India.

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