Hey, I’m Lyndi Cohen, dietitian and mum of one. I’m on my – at least – fourth postpartum body (and counting) – here’s what to expect.

Incubating another human is a big deal.

So why do we expect our bodies to bounce back like it’s nothing?

No sooner than you birth the placenta echoes the immediate and incessant message of “get your body back”. It’s deafening. It’s also completely tone-deaf.  

A quick Google search of the term “lose baby weight” and “my body is ruined after having a baby” returns more than 100 million results – in scarily sub a second.

But the last thing you need as a new mother is the pressure of a miracle postpartum transformation.

So this International No Diet Day, cut yourself some slack, as I pay forward my BS-free reality of what to expect from each of your post-baby bodies – the day after, the week after, 6 weeks after, 4 months after and counting.

Because sleep deprivation is an initiation into motherhood, but food deprivation shouldn’t be.

Don’t forget to check out this poddy episode: ‘Bouncing back’ after baby, and other BS

Here’s an example of a real postpartum body. Image: Lyndi Cohen

The day after

One day in and motherhood is taking a physical – and emotional toll. One of the most astounding things about the human body is its ability to change and transform – which I remind myself as I sit frozen nappies on my chest, to calm the hot rocks I once called boobs. 

I’m sleeping in 90-minute blocks to feed and pump for my jaundiced baby. My legs are swollen, as is the surfboard-sized maxi pad in my undies filling with blood, even though I had an emergency C-section – the fresh 10cm wound only visible in the reflection of the mirror as my crumply still-pregnant stomach means I can’t see down there. 

Yes, whether you had a vaginal or caesarean delivery, you will look pregnant for at least the first few days, if not weeks as the uterine contractions do their thing to return your uterus to it’s regular size. Hopping on the scales as part of a routine hospital checkup, I lost about 9kg, but of course, that was the baby, placenta and a whole lot of fluid – though I reckon 2kg is still taking up residence in my ankles. 

And here's my "postpartum body" one week after meeting Leo. Image: Lyndi Cohen
And here’s my “postpartum body” one week after meeting Leo. Image: Lyndi Cohen

The week after

When I posted a photo of my postpartum body on Instagram, someone commented saying “Your body is ruined. This is exactly why I don’t want to have children.” Geez, thanks troll.

Last time I checked, my body was the least impressive thing about me. It’s not an ornament. It was built to do powerful things – not look pretty for other people. But lucky I didn’t receive that message on day three after birth, otherwise I’d be a blubbering mess. 

Instead, I’m feeling proud of what my friend calls her panacotta belly and new ‘birthmark’ courtesy of his sunroof delivery. The blood’s still happening, the boobs still massive, the incision giving a weird sensation to touch and moving about feels different from before. Plus, thanks to all the post C-section pain meds, my toilet situation is less than frequent. Joys. 

Here's my "postpartum body" body 6 weeks on. Image: Lyndi Cohen
Here’s my “postpartum body” body 6 weeks on. Image: Lyndi Cohen

6 weeks after

Everyone said I would bounce back after birth. They lied. Everything’s just flopped forward. Let’s be clear: A flat tummy by six weeks postpartum is not normal.

What is normal is once you get the all clear to resume exercise, starting from scratch. Don’t stress to get back in shape after baby is here. Instead of abdominal muscles, you now have a deflated, limp balloon. My fitness plan? Do exercise I enjoy. Listen to my body. Be patient. Oh and my linea negra (that brown line down my stomach) is still there, yet fading slowly. 

Your body after pregnancy will be different to the body you used to know. And that’s okay.

Side note: I love the visitors who compliment my new mum awesomeness, not my postpartum body and fistpump with me over tangible successes, like the shower I took or the fact I actually managed to eat a warm meal today – even if it was peanut butter wholemeal toast. All the new mum anxiety and obsessing over sleep though is exhausting, now the “bubble” is starting to pop. 

Months after and this guy brings me more joy than a bikini ever did - or will. Image: Lyndi Cohen
Months after and this guy brings me more joy than a bikini ever did – or will. Image: Lyndi Cohen

6 months after and counting

Reminder: postpartum bodies are as diverse as they were prior to pregnancy. I’ve got new stretch marks, still pink they’re so fresh. My stomach is soft and squishy. This awesome body grew a baby and there will be no bouncing back. I’m bouncing forward. 

Newsflash: it’s about a year to recover physically and emotionally from birth — at least according to a prominent 2012 study.

For me, there is no timeline for when I want to get back into my pre-baby clothing. All my old clothes are packed up in boxes, ready to be worn again when the time is right. I don’t need a reminder of them in my cupboard every morning, making it harder to get dressed than it needs to be. In the meantime, I’ve bought new postpartum clothes and a few cute postpartum dresses in a larger size so that I can feel good about getting dressed.

The last thing I need right now is any added pressure.  

Treat yourself to comfortable postpartum outfits that make you feel good. Image: Unsplash
Treat yourself to comfortable postpartum outfits that make you feel good. Image: Unsplash

Other things in my body are slowly returning – my old complexion is showing through with my pigmentation starting to fade, I’ve actually thought/had about having sex again and thanks to post-natal Pilates my muscles are getting stronger, but it’ll never be the same body it was before – yet I have more respect for my body than ever.

Respect aside, the lack of sleep though is making me look like I’ve aged more in the past four months than in my whole life. I also reckon my belly will always pop out where my uterus is. I might be a one-piece person now, but I reckon my son Leo will give me a lot more joy than walking around in a swimsuit ever did.

Want a little support to be healthy postpartum? … and accept your bodily changes and maybe even learn how to love your body again? Then check out my app Back to Basics. 

Here are only few of many things you’ll get:

  • Postpartum pelvic floor exercises to rebuild strength safely after birth
  • 500+ deliciously simple recipes
  • Effortless meal planning and shopping directly through the app
  • Expert women’s health advice to support your changing body

Check out Back to Basics