Struggling with body image after baby (photo behind text shows woman with hands in shape of a heart over her postpartum belly)

Struggling with Body Image After Baby? Then You NEED to Hear This.

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Struggling with body image after baby is much more common than many think. It’s easy to feel like you’re the only one stuck in this rut, but I promise you, there are tons of women feeling the pressure to bounce back after birth and “get their body back”. Here’s the good news: You do not need to keep feeling bad about your body image. In this article, I will break down why poor body image is such a common occurrence for new moms and how you can break that cycle today.

After my first child was born, it wasn’t long before the unrealistic expectations set in and I began to struggle with my postpartum body image. I had stretch marks all over my belly and legs, I had gained more baby weight than anticipated, I was dealing with physical changes due to childbirth, and so much more.

Then, I got pregnant with my 2nd child. This time the recovery was different. I experienced new postpartum changes such as tons of hair loss, pelvic floor dysfunction, diastasis recti, lots of loose skin — and let me tell you, these things ate away at any ounce of having a healthy body image.

Between hating my body and struggling through postpartum anxiety (again), I knew I needed to do some work on the inside to finally make some positive changes.

In order to help you find your journey to ditch wanting a perfect body and instead love your new life and embrace the postpartum body changes with grace — you’ll need to read through this post.

What is Body Image?

Your body image is made up of the thoughts and feelings you have about yourself, typically associated directly with your body and its appearance.

A healthy body image allows space for improvements (for example: you feel better when you work out because it helps your cardiovascular health) but doesn’t dwell on aesthetic displeasures (for example: gaining 30 lbs and hating yourself for not bouncing back fast enough).

Reasons Postpartum Moms have a Negative Body Image

One of the biggest reasons so many postpartum moms experience body dissatisfaction is because we literally live in a society that promotes so many false expectations on women (praising “thin” bodies, large breasts, large butts, expecting women to work and be caretakers, expecting them to give birth and bounce back). It’s absolutely crazy.

Think about it. Back when I was a little girl, I remember seeing magazines in the grocery checkout lines. Magazines with headlines like “How This Celebrity Got Her Pre-Baby Body Back in Just 1 Week” or “Unflattering Photo of This Woman and Her Rolls — Yikes“. I mean, really?

These are the messages slowly ingrained in us as children that you may not notice have an impact until some type of life event, such as becoming a new mother.

Another reason new mothers might struggle with their physical appearance is that they weren’t expecting this many changes. It’s true, women’s bodies go through a lot between their pregnant body and their postpartum body. That’s why taking the time to learn about those changes can be really helpful.

How a Poor Body Image Effects Mothers

You’re probably reading this article because you are at the point of feeling miserable with hating how your body looks. You know you should “love your body”, but you just can’t.

It’s affecting your sleep, it’s affecting your mood, it’s causing you to feel more irritable and out of sorts — all amongst just trying to survive throughout new motherhood.

Sometimes these feelings extend deeper into the root core of who we are. What I mean is, your poor body image might also be a reflection of some of the emotional shifts you might be dealing with (postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, having an identity shift, etc…).

Other consequences from poor body image can include:

  • Lack of confidence
  • Insomnia
  • Social anxiety
  • Disordered eating

What I want you to know is that all of these negative feelings can compound and prevent you from showing up your best self for you, for your baby, for your family, and for anyone else. This is why you owe it to yourself to end the days of poor body image issues and work towards acceptance and inner peace.

Recommended For You >>> The Best Postpartum Swimsuits that Flatter Your Body After Baby

10 Ways to Love Your Body When You’re Struggling With Body Image After Baby

We’ve talked about finding acceptance and peace, but we haven’t talked about how. Keep on reading for 10 of the best ways to stop putting too much pressure on yourself and your body.

1. Deconstruct Your Negative Feelings

The truth is, your negative thoughts about your body didn’t just start because of your new body after birth. These feelings have been tucked away in a dark hole somewhere.

Have you ever eaten a donut and thought, “ugh, I shouldn’t have eaten that because it’ll make me fat”? Have you ever struggled to fit into a pair of jeans and thought “of course, it won’t fit on my body — why would I ever think I’d look good in these”?

If those thoughts sound familiar, it’s time to deconstruct them.

This work is best done through therapy or with a professional who can help you understand where they stem from so that you can heal from them and move on.

For now, make a list of the negative feelings that come to mind when you think of your body. Then, I want you to practice giving thanks and practicing some gratitude.

Here is an example:

  • Negative Feeling: I hate how my stretch marks look; Gratitude: I’m thankful for this visual reminder of a body that brought life into the world.
  • Negative Feeling: My loose skin is ugly; Gratitude: My loose skin is a reminder that my body was once a home that kept my baby safe and nurtured.

Try doing this exercise at least once a week. See if you can come up with new reasons for gratitude for each negative feeling.

2. Accept Normal Changes

It is much more normal to expect our postpartum bodies to experience lots of changes rather than expect them to just go back to “normal”.

Mama, you just made and birthed out a baby — it is so OK if your body isn’t as you once remembered. Now, is it normal to get stretch marks? Yes. Is it normal to have a weak pelvic floor after birth? Yes. Is it normal to have some loose skin? Yes.

Do you have to live with ALL of these changes forever? Nope.

As much as it is important to accept that there will be some inevitable changes that occur postpartum, it’s also important to learn about them so you can see what options are available for you to take the necessary steps to find solutions for the changes imposing the most significant impact.

Here is a better example:

  • Normal Change: Stretch Marks (ask yourself, how does this impact the way you mother? How does it affect your ability to complete certain tasks?) — not entirely worth losing sleep over, but worth holding space to learn how to accept this change.
  • Normal Change: Weak Pelvic Floor (is it causing you to leak urine when you sneeze? Is intercourse painful? Do you feel like there’s a lot of pressure down there?) — this warrants some rehabilitation to get those muscles functioning properly.

Can you see the difference between normal changes that don’t make much of an impact vs normal changes that can limit your functionality?

3. Focus on Healing vs Changing

Healing should always come before changing. It’s important you take some time to heal from your past experiences and with your new post-baby body so that you can feel more confident and empowered in your day-to-day life.

You’ll see me say this a lot on my Instagram, but I always say “do it for you”. Meaning if you want to lose weight — that’s awesome, I support you, but be sure you’re doing it for you and not to change yourself on behalf of someone else’s expectations.

4. Be Aware of Your Own Self-Talk

It’s time you become really in-tune with your own self-talk. If you’re talking down to yourself constantly and making remarks that tear yourself down instead of up, we need to make some changes.

If that didn’t resonate, think of it this way: would you talk that way to your child? daughter? son? If the answer is no, then you shouldn’t do it to yourself.

One way to help with complimenting our own bodies vs criticizing it is with affirmations! Now, you can buy or download affirmations anywhere, but I believe that when we make our own, they’re just so much more impactful.

Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

  • Grab some card stock or a piece of paper and fold them into small squares.
  • Then, write a positive affirmation on one side.
  • Fold the cards in half and stick them into a jar or bucket.
  • Each morning and night, draw a card and read it aloud to yourself.
  • Here are some affirmation ideas: My postpartum body is beautiful, My body is strong and fierce, I am curvy, sexy, and worthy, The shape of my body is perfect for me.

You might be surprised by how such a little gesture can help your mindset begin to shift.

5. Wear Clothing That Fits

Girl, if you are still trying to fit into your pre pregnancy clothes, it’s time to update your wardrobe. I can’t tell you how much time I wasted trying to wear clothing that fit my old body just to end up disappointed and upset. You deserve to wear clothes that fit well and make you FEEL GOOD!

If you’re ready for the honest truth, I hate spending a lot of money on clothes. It just isn’t my thing. If you don’t like spending money or don’t have the money to spend, here are a few ways you can update your wardrobe without dishing out a fortune:

  • Shop at a Thrift Store
  • Try before you buy (Amazon has an awesome try before you buy incentive where you can try on all your clothes, send back whatever you don’t want, and pay for what you keep)
  • Wait for coupons or sales
  • Try a local buy/sale/trade group online
  • Ask for hand me downs

These are just a few ways to score some new outfits that should flatter each part of your body and help you regain your confidence.

Looking for comfortable clothing that will flatter your postpartum body? From intimates to loungewear, feel confident and sexy with my favorite brand: KNIX

6. Set Boundaries

If you can clearly identify triggers that set off your negative body image concerns, it’s time to set some boundaries with those things.

Does going to your mom’s house trigger you because she’s always making comments about your body? EXPECT her to make those comments, then set a firm boundary “Hey mom, I’d appreciate it if we didn’t talk about my body, thanks” and then move that conversation along. If she keeps persisting, set the next boundary — “I see it’s hard to reframe talking about my body, I’m going to have to head out early if you make another comment”. Stick to your boundaries.

Does going to the gym trigger you because you feel intimidated? Listen to music or a podcast to set your mind into a good spot that isn’t hyper-focusing on what everyone else is doing, just you.

Setting boundaries with things that were once in our comfort zone (despite how bad they make you feel) can take some work. Be gentle with yourself in these early days as you take this step to feel good about yourself.

7. Practice Appreciation

We talked a little bit about appreciation and gratitude earlier. The more you can practice showing your body appreciation, the more those little bits of gratitude will begin to stick.

When is the last time you said thank you to your body? Try making it a habit once a day to thank your body for the important things it’s done in the past and continues to do for you today.

8. Clean Up Your Social Media

Does social media have you feeling like you’ll never bounce back? Hit that unfollow button on EVERY single account that poses a higher risk of dysregulating your mental health and only follow those that make you feel validated, supported, inspired, and beautiful.

Instead, follow pages that encourage you to accept yourself when where you’re at — not where you expect to be.

Some of my all-time favorite accounts to follow on Instagram for inspiration are:

  • @thebirdspapaya
  • @ashleygraham
  • @khloekuriatnyk
  • @choosingkatiemac_

Hopefully, you find these postpartum women and their motherhood journeys inspiring too!

9. Talk to a Therapist

Learning to have a positive body image isn’t something that happens overnight. Sometimes, having the help of a therapist can bring to light certain areas of your life you didn’t realize were contributing to your poor body image.

Together, you and your therapist can find practical ways to help you heal and move past those issues impacting the way you view your postpartum body. If you need help finding a therapist, you can locate a maternal mental health therapist here.

10. Set Goals that Don’t Revolve Around “Weight Loss” or “Weight Gain”

Another great way to focus on health and wellbeing over “how your body looks” is to start setting goals that do NOT revolve around weight loss or gain.

Of course, in some instances weight loss may be necessary, but that is another story. For now, I want you to focus on setting body goals that aren’t just for looks.

Here are some examples:

  • Id like to get out and walk 3 times a week to improve my cardiovascular health.
  • I’m dedicated to seeing a Pelvic Floor PT to strengthen my pelvic floor muscles.
  • I want to make it out to the gym twice a week to have a break from being a mom and focus on relieving some stress.
  • I’d love to take a yoga class because I enjoy the calm it brings throughout my mind and body.

See how all of these goals aren’t trying to lose weight because the woman down the street did it so you should be able to do it too? These goals all focus on your overall well-being. They don’t focus on unrealistic expectations.

Learning how to love your body after baby isn’t always the bigger picture. Sometimes, it’s just about accepting your body for what it’s done and where it’s at. By implementing the tips above you should find yourself struggling with body image after baby much less. Are there any tips you’d add? Drop them in the comments below!

Read more pregnancy articles here:

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Your Postpartum Body: 10 Ways to Show Appreciation

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