Postpartum

Postpartum Body Image and Why New Mom Bodies are Complicated

Forming a Healthy Postpartum Body Image

You look in the mirror and everything about your postpartum body looks different.

Boobs.

Butt.

Belly.

You walk and sit and lie in bed and it feels different. Things aren’t put together the way they were before.

Maybe you laugh about this or cry about this. Maybe you feel peace or you feel shame. You’re not sure how you’re “supposed to” feel and what your body is “supposed to” be like after having your child.

The is no RIGHT Postpartum Body

The truth is, there’s no “right” way but there are so many things to consider when we are forming and growing our body image after having a baby. If you identify as a woman, chances are your body has held a lot of meaning for you throughout your life. Our bodies are tied to our perceived worth.

We have been told to measure our value based on how much our body does (or does not) align with women in magazines, in movies and now even on social media. We have measured our social acceptance by how easily we can fit into a group based on the way we look. It is taught to us from a young age that our desirability as a woman, our sexuality and attraction, are dependent on if we look like “that woman.” Without a doubt this impacts our confidence as we form beliefs about ourselves and who we are and what we can do.

Related: Where do we learn about postpartum?

how to address body image after you have a baby

Should You “Bounce Back” Right After Baby?

Now, after having a baby, so much is different. Unfortunately, it’s easier to access messages that tell us “how to bounce back” or “how to lose the baby weight fast” than it is to learn about the changes that have happened in our bodies and the ways to nurture and heal them with intention and grace.

When it comes to our body image after giving birth, we are responsible for what we let in and out of our body and minds. 

Related: Committing to Authenticity

Inside Thoughts About Postpartum Body Image

Ask yourself the following questions
What self-criticizing thoughts do I have?
When do I have them?
How are they trigged?
What happens because of that thought?

It’s not realistic to expect ourselves to never have self-critical thoughts. Sure, it would be nice, but realistically we have to remember we are conditioned to criticize ourselves.

The goal here is to figure out when and where these thoughts are triggered and then to have a plan of action to shut them down so the thought does not have a domino effect.

Example: When I undress to get into the shower, I see my saggy breasts. Then I look all over my body and feel worthless because I should have lost the baby weight by now. I continue to look at all the areas of my body that I feel insecure about and that makes me feel like my partner shouldn’t be attracted to me. It makes me feel like other women are doing it better and I don’t want to go out in public because I’m ashamed.

The Domino Effect of Body Image

Maybe this isn’t your exact situation, but take time to identify what yours is. Now, how do we interrupt this thought pattern? In the example above we can stop at the breasts. When I undress to get into the shower, I see my saggy breasts. Sure, I wish they were perkier, but I remember that they changed because my body grew my baby. Remember that the body changes very naturally in response to pregnancy, birth, and postpartum and that it takes time for all of that to heal. I am thankful for what my body has done and I recognize that every mom heals differently- it looks different for each of us. I would never want a friend to criticize her own body and I won’t criticize mine.

Related: 5 tips for communicating with your partner

Outside Input Impacting Postpartum Body Image

Ask yourself the following questions:

What influences my understanding of my postpartum body?
Did I ever learn about all the changes that have happened inside of me?
What social messages are making me feel insecure about myself?

In Postpartum Together small groups I’ve learned that many women gain a healthier body image after understanding what happens to the body to prepare for birth, give birth, and recover from birth. There are many layers of changes and yet not many places to learn about them.

On top of that, our social media and other spaces are filled with invitations and messages centered around losing the baby weight- often led by those who don’t have a clear understanding of how to safely do that after baby. (Accountability or workout groups led by someone who is not trained in pre and postnatal care are not your friends after giving birth.) The ball is in your court to learn about the changes and to be selective about what messages you allow as input. It’s more than okay to unfollow an account, to stop watching a show, to throw away a magazine, etc.

taking control of your postpartum body image

Postpartum Body Image Goes Deeper: The Past

Postpartum is a wonderful time to heal your body image. It’s a time when it is doing so for ourselves, but also because our children will learn from us. When we start to heal body image, we must start by looking back.

Ask yourself:
How were you raised to think about your body?
How did your mother or other women talk about their bodies in front of you?
What was your experience in adolescence with a changing body?
What insecurities and thought patterns do you remember?

Many women identify patterns from their upbringing. Perhaps your mother was always dieting or talking about how her clothes looked. It could be that puberty was uncomfortable and you never found a safe space to talk about it. Maybe you grew up seeing a certain type of woman on TV and it led you to be self-critical. To more forward, we have to look back enough to see where our thoughts and beliefs were formed so that we can rewrite them. If this feels like a lot to do on your own, that is very understandable. A space like Postpartum Together may be beneficial for you, or it may be a topic to discuss with a therapist.

RELATED: How to find a Therapist

How Body Image Impacts Other Things

When thinking about healing your body image, realize it goes beyond the self-talk you experience about your body.
Body image impacts the risks we take with meeting new people and going new places.
It impacts how we feel confident in ourselves which can impact things like work.
Body image has a big impact on our relationships too. We talk about this a lot in the Back in the Sack eCourse, but here are a few things for you to consider when it comes to body image after baby and how it impacts your marriage/relationship.

What role has your body played in your relationship?
Have you held a lot of value in being “sexy”?
Does your partner comment on your changed body?
Have you had an honest conversation about how you’re feeling about your body?

Layers of Postpartum Body Image

There are many layers to body image in all part of our lives, but even moreso after having a baby. It’s okay to have complex feelings about this. Know that taking the time to address and heal your body image right now will have an impact on your life forever. You can set an example for your kids, improve communication with your partner, gain confidence, and take pride in your changing body, but it takes work.

Related: Sex After Baby, Am I Ready?

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Connect with Other Moms and Get Empowering Coaching for a Healthy Postpartum Body Image

We want you to have a season of growth and healing of your body image as a new mom. We invite you to find the next Health Body Image After Baby small group. In this group we address the things that impact our body image, how our postpartum body changes, and how to develop a healthier relationship with our bodies after baby. Find the info on our new mom group page.

motherhood

Mombod Aboard: Have the Fun With Your Kids Without Worry

Because Your Memories Can’t be Measured by the Scale

This post is written in partnership with Goldfish Swim School. Goldfish Swim School has provided us with the experience of lessons for my honest review of our time there. We are thankful for the positive family environment we’ve found at Goldfish Swim School. And we are thankful to have an encouraging place to embrace the mombod and make memories.

goldfish swim school young kids

This post may contain affiliate links which means, at no additional cost to you, I may receive a small commission from any purchases made from links provided).

Hey momma- Can we have a talk? 

Friend to friend.

Woman to woman.

Mom to mom.

Mombod to mombod.

I know you’ve been seeing a lot of messages and pictures lately. The ones that tell you how to drop the baby weight and “bounce back” regardless of whether you are 6 days, 6 weeks, 6 months or 6 years after baby. I know you’ve stopped your scroll and thought to yourself “if I could just look more like her, then I’d be happier.” You have tried to watch what you eat and move your body more and yet these kids take a lot more time than anyone prepared you for and there’s always something that needs to be done. Truly, you want to make all the memories with your little ones, but maybe, you’ve thought, you’ll do more when you hit that goal body. 

Related: What is postpartum?

Memories Can’t be Measured

But what if that goal body isn’t really the important thing here? Even if the number on the scale, the pants size, the belly that may still be lingering… what if those aren’t the things that define you and the moments that are special? What if you can enjoy the day, the week, the month, the year and all of the moments that come just as you are? Suit up, momma, because your memories can’t be measured.

Suit up. That’s right, put the suit on. Sit in the sun. Put your toes in the sand. Splash with your little ones. Go to the party. Attend the lessons. Go to the park. Jump in the deep end. Because what your kids will remember most, what they need most out of their moms, is not fitting some outward society expectation, but connecting in meaningful ways.

Related: Presence Over Performance

Putting a Suit on that Mombod for Swimming Lessons

toddler class goldfish swim school 1 year old

When my family first talked about enrolling in swimming lessons, it was the start of winter. I don’t own a scale, but I knew my weight was beyond that “ideal” I have kept in my mind for most of my adult life. Some of the suits stored away wouldn’t flatter me anymore. It was sobering to realize the room would be filled with other moms and dads who could see me, mombod and all, escorting my little one in the pool.

These things could have easily kept me from going to lessons, but there was a much stronger realization and driver. I knew my days with my kiddos aren’t slowing down. They aren’t going to be this age another day. I knew that when they are grown and we look back on their childhood, I want to share laughter and joy about the experiences we have and not regret over the experiences we skipped due to insecurity.

Suit up, momma. Suit up and do the fun things with your kids. Make memories. Laugh loudly. Suit up and don’t let time pass without embracing the moments- because they will go by fast. \

Looking for the perfect suit or another staple for your postpartum body? Find some of my favorites here!

RELATED: Postpartum Weight Loss Comments. Eck.

Finding a Fun Place for the Family (and your Mombod)

If suiting up leads you to swimming lessons with your kids too, we recommend finding the Goldfish Swim School near you. We chose Goldfish because of their approach that makes swimming fun for our kids with play-based lessons and lots of skill building. We easily found a time that worked for our family because of the many options and knew we would have a chance to make up a class if life came up and we missed a lesson.  It also helps that the colors are bright and the atmosphere is so fun that my kids are excited to enter each week. My friend Megan answered all the frequently asked questions about lessons at Goldfish here! Whether it’s swim lessons or any other family activity, suit up, momma.

PS: You can have fun at home and get a sneak-peek of the Goldfish way on their Youtube Channel. (Hello free at-home activity!)

goldfish swim school at home youtube