If you are a new mom there are potentially two things that feel frustrating about postpartum body image. First, understanding your own body after birth. Secondly, how you relate to your husband or partner about your postpartum body. We have a couple of other blog posts on postpartum body changes and how body image impacts sex after having a baby. This post is specifically about how to talk to your partner about your postpartum body, especially if you are struggling with body image after a baby.
Real Postpartum Body Changes
One of the big disconnects that women and couples have is understanding real postpartum body changes. Unfortunately, most medical professionals do not teach women all of the body changes that happen through pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Additionally, traditional sexual education and anatomy skip over key factors. In order for you to have a conversation and get your partner to understand your changes and perspective, you must first be empowered to know your own body. While this is not medical advice and I recommend you expect your medical team to deliver accurate and thorough information, here are some important parts of your postpartum body.
Whether or not you choose to breastfeed, your breasts will go through changes. Early on, they will swell and leak. As your body regulates more, this will become less of a factor. For the majority of women, milk does come in (some women face issues like Insufficient Glandular Tissue). For women who have milk come in, breasts may become smaller, stretched, and saggier after ending the breastfeeding journey. At any stage of postpartum, women can have complicated relationships with the change in breast appearance and function. Of course, I believe it is important to honor and celebrate these changes, but also recognize how much of our femininity is linked to our breasts and that you may mourn this change as well.
You can scour the internet and tabloids for “baby pooch” or “postpartum belly” tips. This is a primary focus in many of the bounce-back narratives. While it is okay to want to feel more like “yourself” and to find strength in your own core, it is important to recognize how natural these changes are. In the early weeks, your uterus is doing the hard work of shrinking back to size. As time goes on, genetics, age, and pregnancy weight gain can impact the rate and overall change in belly shape and size after giving birth. Listen, I know this can be tough. At 3 years after my last baby I still sometimes feel frustrated with how my belly seems to “hang around.” However, when you consider how much growing, housing, and nurturing this part of your body has done, it becomes easier to respect and appreciate that.
Stretch marks are the result of skin expansion. Skin expansion is essential for a woman to carry and nurture a baby. It makes sense that our skin would grow and stretch in many ways. Again things like genetics and age can impact the extent to which these stretch marks stick around. Your skin’s elasticity can shift, which means it falls and holds in different ways. Again, I know this can feel difficult especially with the societal narrative, but we get to appreciate that this skin of our body has literally expanded to hold another human.
The Pelvic Floor
One of the greatest disgraces of Western postpartum care is the lack of education on the pelvic floor. Not only does the pelvic floor impact sex and potential discomfort, but also body function and experience. Your pelvic floor changes might lead to having urine leakage which can make you feel insecure and out of control. It can cause discomfort which leads to tension. Additionally, tearing internally or externally can lead to tenderness that makes you feel out of touch with your body.
If You are Struggling with Postpartum Body Image After Baby
If you find yourself struggling with body image after baby, there are a few ways to intentionally combat this.
- Notice where your inner narrative is coming from.
Are there beliefs or mindsets you’ve held about your body for years? Have you seen your body form and appearance as a primary part of your identity and worth? Do you judget yourself based on the appearance of other women? Do you consume tabloid or magazine artciles on how to “blast the baby weight” or “bounce back”? In order to develop a healthier relationship with your body, it is importnat to know where the unhealthy experience and thoughts are coming from.
- Be the master of your own mindset
Motherhood invites us (maybe forces us?) to get more intentional and in tune with who we are and what we want. This is a season where you get to choose how you want to think. You get to decide what patterns and thoughts you need to shut down. You get to control what you let in and the sources that impact how and what you think.
- Develop an appreciation practice
One of the best ways to combat the inner-critic is to be your own best cheerleader. Try to integrate gratitude and appreciation into your day. Start the day with recognizing what your body can do. When you catch a glimpse in the mirror, be intentional about appreciating a way your body serves you.
- Get to know how real postpartum bodies come in all shapes, sizes, and forms
This roundup of images from Take Back Postparum is a great display to help us understand how bodies after baby vary greatly!
These practices may not feel natural from the beginning, but they get easier and more natural with time. So much of life is the intention and energy we put out.
Conversation Starters to Use with Your Partner about Your Postpartum Body
When you are working through your own body image experience, it might seem easy to keep your partner out of it. With my clients, I find this is usually because it is a tender topic, and you are unsure how to have the conversation. I believe so strongly that these tough topics are exactly the ones we get to master and enjoy with our partner in safety and trust, so I will provide you with some conversation starters to help.
- “I’ve been learning that my body changes include ___ which is different from what I thought.”
- “I appreciate when you say you love my changed body, but I still struggle with the inner voice that tells me____”
- “I’m struggling to love my body right now, and it doesn’t have anything to do with you.”
- “I feel ____ when you ____ and I know that is becuase of my own insecrurity or struggle.”
- “When you ___ it makes me feel safe and secure in my body and our connection.”
- “I know you are joking when you say/do ____ but it hits on a mind struggle I’m having in my changed body. Can you please try to not say/do that?”
- “What was your understanding of a body after baby before we had ours?”
- “A goal I have for my body is ____. Can you help me work towards that in a healthy way?”
Loving Your Body After Baby Quotes
Sometimes it is helpful to have an arsenal of quotes to help us practice appreciation and self-love. Here are a few of my favorite quotes about loving your body after having a baby:
Looking for even more quotes, check out some of these gems on Cosmopolitan (yes, they also publish some Bullshit so keep that in mind!)
Healing Your Postpartum Body Image After a Baby
As you are on your journey of loving your changed body and healing your postpartum body image, I’d love to support you. Grab this free downloadable guide to help you process your mindsets, your changes, and your goals.
Want to go deep into the healing and reframing? Book a free uncovering call with me to see where we can make quick wins, alter mindsets and patterns, and develop a strong healthy mindset around body image and who you are as a woman.