Nearly every mother has some degree of post-pregnancy belly whether they delivered naturally or had a c-section, or whether it was a first, second, or third baby.
Mummy Tummy or the Mum Pouch is caused by the combination of your hormones, separation of your abdominal muscles, and from carrying the extra weight of your baby. For a lot of women, the excess disappears over time as their body returns to its pre-pregnancy state. But for many women, their “mummy tummy” remains long after their baby was born.
There are several methods to get rid of your mummy tummy, but some are more effective than others. We’ll discuss four of them: diet, exercise, natural remedies, and briefly, surgery. We’ll explore the pros and cons of each method so you can decide which one is right for you.
We are going to take a look at the Mummy Tummy in two parts:
Part One | What it is, why it’s there, and what you can do
Part Two | Steps you can take in your daily life to get your body back
Part One | What it is, Why it’s there, and What you can do
What is Mummy Tummy?
The mummy tummy or mum pouch is the excess fat or weight many women carry around their midsection after giving birth. This is also called the “mummy tummy” or “postpartum belly.” Nearly every woman experiences some degree of post-pregnancy belly, regardless of age, physical health, or diet.
What is the difference between a stomach overhang and a mum pouch?
A stomach overhang is excess fat hanging down over your pants’ waistband. A mum pouch is excess weight, skin, or muscle separation that many women carry around their midsection after giving birth. The mum pouch often differs in that it is often caused by diastasis recti.
What is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis recti is a separation of the abdominal muscles that can occur during or after pregnancy. It is caused the by stretching of the muscles and ligaments that support the abdomen. This can lead to a protrusion of the belly button, lower back pain, and difficulty breathing. By week 35 – 39 almost 100% of mothers develop diastasis recti, so don’t be alarmed – it’s very normal. What matters is how your abdominal muscles recover after you have given birth.
It is important to know if you have diastasis recti because certain exercises can weaken the connective tissue and worsen the problem. This is where it is important to have high quality advice from an experienced and well-trained fitness Coach before getting starting on addressing the issue. It can save your both time and injury.
How do I know if I have diastasis recti?
Diastasis recti is diagnosed by checking the distance between the two sides of your rectus abdominis muscle. To do this, lie on your back on the floor and place your fingers above your belly button. Next, curl up your head and shoulders to tighten your tummy muscles and use your fingers to feel your tummy muscles on either side of the your belly-button.
You likely have diastasis recti if you feel a gap or separation between the muscles. You can also measure the width of the gap with a ruler. If it’s wider than 2 finger-widths, or about two centimetres wide, you probably have diastasis recti that needs help to recover.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to addressing continuing diastasis recti. The priority is to create optimal functioning of your abdominal wall – your tummy muscles – to support and protect your internal organs and to assist your breathing. The objective is to create good tension between the abdominal muscles so that they work well together, rather than trying to actually “close the gap”.
Still, there are some methods that are often recommended. These include:
- Rest: This is probably the most important thing you can do for your healing muscles. Give your body time to heal, and don’t push yourself too hard.
- Natural remedies: Several natural remedies are effective in assisting the repair of diastasis recti, including fish oil supplements and castor oil packs. Unfortunately, there isn’t a single solution that will magically make it disappear. Still, these supplements may help in conjunction with other options.
- Exercise: Many exercises can help strengthen your abdominal muscles and help them return to their original strength and position. With the addition of a balanced fitness program to reduce body fat and increase strength, you will be well on your way to beating the bulge.
- Diet: One of the best ways to get rid of the mum pouch is through taking a well- planned nutritional approach. If you get advice on a nutritional plan that includes a well-designed balance of macronutrients to suit your body and objectives, and combine that with a well-designed exercise program, you will be in the best position to make real progress safely and sustainably.
- Surgery: Surgery may be an option if other methods don’t work. This invasive procedure involves a general anaesthetic and should only be considered after the other options have been exhausted. Surgery is invasive, expensive, recovery from surgery can take months and the benefits may be limited.
Can I do simple exercises to get rid of the Mummy Tummy?
Many exercises can help eliminate the mummy tummy, including controlled gym workouts, Pilates, and yoga. But it’s important to remember that no one exercise is a miracle treatment. To see real results, you need to combine a healthy nutrition plan with a well-designed exercise program.
How long does it take to get rid of a Mummy Tummy?
It generally takes five to eight months for the mum pouch to disappear. But it’s important to remember that every woman is different; some may take longer than others. Please don’t feel discouraged if you don’t see results immediately – keep up the good work, and you’ll eventually see a difference.
Part 2 | Steps you can take in your daily life to get your body back
Step 1: Increase your mobility and movement
As a new mum, this won’t be challenging. You’re already spending most of your time on your feet looking after the new baby, hosting guests, and trying to keep on top of everything else.
There are many ways for new mums to increase their mobility and movement. The easiest way is to get up and move around as often as possible. Take a walk around the block with the baby in the pram or a carrier, do some stretching exercises, or put an exercise class on YouTube and have a go in the living room. If you prop bub up so they can see you and the screen, all your jumping and bumping will keep them entertained for longer than you’d think.
Another great way to increase your mobility is to foam roll. Foam rolling is a massage that can help loosen up tight muscles and knots. It can be a little uncomfortable at first, but it’s well worth it in the long run, and the best part is it’s 90% relaxing on the floor. A perfect solution for a new and very exhausted mum.
Finally, ensure you’re taking advantage of all the resources available. Talk to your doctor, physiotherapist, or qualified personal trainer about the exercises best for you.
Step 2: Decrease your sedentary time
One of the biggest problems for new mums is that they must spend so much time sitting down with the baby, soothing them, feeding them, and attending to them. With the addition of fatigue, lack of mobility, and simply not having enough time to get up and move around, the odds are against you.
Unfortunately, continued periods of inactivity breed future inactivity. Over time this can lead to weight gain, neck pain, and even heart disease. So new mums need to find ways to decrease their sedentary time.
Here are a few tips:
- Set an alarm to remind you to get up and move. Even if it’s just five minutes, getting up and moving around every hour is better than long periods of inactivity. If you have a smartwatch, you can generally set up activity reminders so you can just let it think for you (you’ve got enough on your plate).
- Find ways to make movement fun. For example, call up other mums and meet for a walk, take the baby to a local pool for a swim/walk, and head out of the house to explore. It will initially feel strange, but you will quickly get used to adventures with the little one in tow.
- Get support. As a new mum, your focus will be on that special new baby, but you must remember yourself too. Ask your partner or anyone supporting you to help you make space to get away.
The initial trips can be short, and you can extend the periods as you become more comfortable. The important part is to take the time.
Once you’re away, take your pick of exercise, activity, or rest. They are all critical for you at this point!
Step 3: Start a healthy eating plan
New mothers are often exhausted, both physically and emotionally. When the body is exhausted, it craves food to get energy. This is especially true for sugary or carbohydrate-rich foods, which the body processes quickly to boost energy.
Unfortunately, these foods can also lead to weight gain if eaten in large quantities or over extended periods. Maintaining a healthy diet and eating habits will help new mums get the nutrients they need without putting on too much weight.
Here is another point: reaching out for help can fast-track your results. Consulting a dietician, nutritionist, or health/fitness professional specialising in postpartum advice will get you the right advice for your specific situation and abilities.
After having a baby, you need to eat a varied and healthy diet to support a new baby and to help your body get back in shape. This is no easy challenge especially given everything else you’ve now got to handle with a new baby. However, a nutritionist, qualified trainer, or dietician specialising in postpartum advice can help you create a plan that works for you.
It can be helpful to talk with someone who knows about food and how it affects the body after you have had a baby. They can help you make sure that you are getting the right kinds of food to stay healthy and not gain too much weight.
Foods to help fix mummy tummy
Protein and fibre are beneficial in resolving mummy tummy because they help keep you feeling full for longer. This means you’re less likely to snack on unhealthy foods between meals, which can lead to weight gain.
Protein and fibre-rich foods also help repair and rebuild muscle tissue, which you need to get rid of the mummy tummy overhang.
Sources of Healthy Protein and Fibre for new mums
Healthy protein sources can be found in many forms, both animal and plant-based. Here are a few examples:
- Animal sources: lean meats such as chicken or turkey, fish, eggs, low-fat dairy products
- Plant sources: legumes such as beans, lentils, and peas, tofu, nuts and seeds, whole grains
Benefits of protein-rich foods for new mums
There are many benefits to eating protein-rich foods, including:
- Protein helps to rebuild strong muscle tissue, which is essential for getting rid of the mummy tummy.
- Protein helps you to feel full for longer, which can help you to avoid snacking on less healthy foods.
- Protein requires high thermogenic activity; your body needs to burn a lot of calories to digest protein. It’s one of the highest thermogenic foods you can consume, so add it to the menu.
Benefits of Fibre-rich diets for new mums
There are many benefits to eating fibre-rich foods, including:
- Fibre helps to keep you feeling full for longer by slowing down the rate of food absorption.
- Fibre provides energy and helps normalise your blood sugar levels
- Fibre helps keep your bowel movements regular. After giving birth, it is normal to have constipation as your system tries to find a new normal. Fibre will help get you there faster.
Step 4: Start a Postpartum Exercise Program (Slowly!)
It is important to start a postpartum exercise program slowly, especially if you have not been active in the weeks or months leading up to giving birth. If you begin too strenuously that could lead to injury and further setbacks. We recommend consulting your doctor before starting any thorough postpartum exercise program.
Once you’re given the all-clear, start with light cardio exercises such as walking or swimming. These are low-impact and will help your body move without putting too much stress on your muscles and joints. As you become more comfortable with these activities, you can add strength training exercises.
When choosing an exercise program, we recommend consulting with a qualified personal trainer or exercise physiologist first to ensure that the program is appropriate for your current fitness level and postpartum situation. Look for someone with qualifications and experience in this space, as the right advice can make all the difference.
At Fenix Fitness, we have a team specialising in women’s health and fitness training. From the transformations we see each week, we know just how much work it takes for a new mum to get the results she deserves.
Our trainers can help you create a safe and effective postpartum diet and exercise program that will help you regain your pre-pregnancy body.
Great Strength Training Exercises for new mums
- Kegel Exercises
Kegel exercises are crucial for new mums as they help to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. These muscles can often be weakened after giving birth, leading to problems such as urinary incontinence. Kegel exercises can help to resolve these issues.
- Resistance Band Exercises
Resistance band exercises are a great way to strengthen the body’s core muscles, as well as the arms, legs, and glutes. They are a low-impact exercise and can be done at home or in the gym with minimal equipment.
- Weight training
Weight training is a great way to gain muscle strength and tone the body. It is an effective form of strength training that can be done at home or in a gym. With the proper guidance, weights can be the perfect way to rebuild your strength, movement, flexibility, and body. Weight training is also a great way to tone your figure while giving you improved strength for daily living and don’t worry, weight training doesn’t mean you’ll get big muscles and look like a competition weightlifter – that takes years and years of special diets and very advanced weightlifting training. Weight training is especially valuable for improving your bone density and protecting you against developing osteoporosis in later life.
Now that you know some of the best ways to get rid of your mummy tummy, it’s time to put them into action! Start by eating plenty of protein and fibre-rich foods, then slowly begin an appropriate postpartum exercise program.
Make sure you consult a personal trainer or exercise physiologist before starting any new program, especially if you’re not used to being active.
And lastly, consider weightlifting to gain muscle strength and tone your body. Many women shy away from weightlifting, feeling that they will “get bulky” but after years of experience, we can assure you; weightlifting is a woman’s secret weapon to recovery and to defending against osteoporosis.
You are a mum and we applaud you for all that your body has been through. Be kind to yourself and love your body, feeling happy with the wonders it has created.
With these tips in mind and the support of a good Coach to guide you through a customised recovery exercise program, you can get working on your mummy tummy and start seeing results in the near future! Well done Mum, and good luck!
If you would like help with your post-baby recovery, our team is here to help. We’ve had years of experience helping new mums get back to feeling themselves again, and we can’t wait to help you.
Feel free to book a FENIX free consultation where you can meet the team and find the right training partner to Coach you on your fitness journey.
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