by Tiffany Brunhoefer

“My body felt unfamiliar”

The first few months after I gave birth, I focused on enjoying being a new mom and embracing this new phase for my family. For me, the end of pregnancy signaled a turning point in a long road of nausea, pain, swelling, and general discomfort. I embraced the remaining extra pounds and assumed that when I was ready to jump back into the gym and Whole30-inspired eating, my pre-pregnancy body would come right back.

I remember reading articles about how breastfeeding would make those remaining pounds just “fall off.” Some women do have that experience. For me, breastfeeding my baby did not magically reduce my waistline. The person in the mirror did not look like the person I had known before pregnancy. My body felt unfamiliar, and I was scared I would never feel like myself again.

Around 4 months postpartum, I felt overwhelmed with the demands of a newborn and discouraged about my lack of self confidence while balancing breastfeeding and body image. I decided to stop the Google shame spiral and focus on the things I could control: my mindset and my habits. Today I’m going to share some advice that will hopefully help you to reframe your mindset and work toward resetting your healthy habits.

Do give yourself grace

New mama life comes with many challenges, adjustments and sacrifices. Many of us believe that breastfeeding should come naturally, but the reality is that it takes work and is a dynamic relationship between you and your baby. Rarely does anyone mention the amount of time it takes to feed a newborn (40 min, every 2 hours)–not to mention if you’re pumping on top of that! Give yourself grace as navigate all of the changes.

Do nourish yourself

Just as you focused on finding a balanced diet during pregnancy, as much as you are able, work toward following principles to nourish yourself during postpartum. Continue taking supplements with your doctor’s approval, focus on a satiating breakfast each morning, accept help and take shortcuts where you can. The food you eat will keep both you and baby energized and growing.

Learn more about how food can be medicine for you postpartum.

Do move in ways that bring you joy

Get out of the house and breathe fresh air, at a minimum for a few minutes each day. Take baby with you if that’s your only option! The sunshine and the feeling of freedom from being walled up in your home will feel great and give you a sense of accomplishment. If doing a workout at home or at the gym sounds achievable, go for it! Exercise releases endorphins which will elevate your mood and mindset.

Do keep going

It’s no fun working hard and not seeing progress right away, but it will come. Remember my first point? Give yourself grace! I gave myself a goal to breastfeed for 6 months. There were times I wanted to quit within the first month. I remember crying to my husband about wanting to quit, but I stuck with it, and ended up nursing my baby until her 1st birthday. I’ve never been more proud of myself for sticking with something.

Don’t create time frames

Don’t set weight loss deadlines while balancing breastfeeding and body image. In fact, I encourage you to throw away the scale or have your partner hide it. Now is not the time to be focusing on your body composition. If you attempt a Whole30, focus on the NSVs that you experience. Fueling your body with whole foods and engaging in movement will bring you joy, not an arbitrary “magic number” on the scale.

Don’t compare

You can’t control other women’s outcomes. Yes, there are some women who seem to “bounce back” right away. You don’t know what kind of work they put in or the cost that comes with their “success.” You can only control the work YOU put in. Stop comparing yourself to celebrities who have nannies, home gyms and chefs.

Don’t keep negative feelings to yourself

In those dark moments, reach out to someone who loves you. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask a trusted friend, family member, or your partner for help. What you need most in this season is validation, reassurance, and support. You can seek professional help during this time as well. You may find it helpful to share your thoughts and feelings with a neutral person, such as a therapist.

Learning unconditional acceptance

In the end, your body composition can shift over time, and more importantly, your health is not determined by a number on a scale. What matters most is the health and happiness of you and your baby–mind, body, and soul. Balancing breastfeeding and body image, home, work, relationship, baby and self care can feel overwhelming. Pregnancy and postpartum are not often easy, glamorous phases of life. Postpartum is as full of unknowns as pregnancy itself. While this time of life is beautiful, you don’t have to enjoy everything that it brings. It’s okay if you’re not happy with your body in this season. Work toward accepting  your body and honoring the incredible miracle of life that your body brought into the world.

Read about how Karina found a new level of acceptance for her body during breastfeeding and postpartum.

Tiffany is a Whole30 Certified Coach. As someone who has struggled with her sugar dragon for many years, through the Whole30 she has finally learned how to combat it. However the benefits of the program have reached farther than food for her. Tiffany and her husband struggled through 4 years of infertility, and after deciding to stop the injections and pills and focusing on self health and wellness, she was finally able to get pregnant. Now as a new mom, Tiffany is excited to pass on her healthy habits to her little one. Find out more on her website:  Connect with Tiffany on Instagram.