Here’s a horror story based on true events. There was once a woman who had given birth three weeks earlier. She finally had an hour to get some fresh air while her mother-in-law babysat. Leaving her flat, she bumped into a neighbor and her 8-year old son. Passing by the new mum, the boy pointed at her belly. He turned to his mother and loudly asked, “Mama, is she pregnant again?”
Of course, the woman immediately silenced her son, apologized, and walked away embarrassed. But the damage was done. She threw out her dress. Her day was ruined.
The boy didn’t mean to hurt or shame the woman for her baby weight. But, still, his comment made the impression that something was wrong with her body.
Baby Weight Pressure
We usually visit new mums a few days after they give birth. And while we huddle over the freshly-made, squishy baby, we silently judge the changes in the mother’s body. Baby weight is seen as something to be ashamed of. Let’s air out some of these toxic thoughts:
Let’s hope she cuts down on those pastries after she finishes breastfeeding.
You can tell she’s put on weight all over, not just her belly
And maybe someone will throw out unwarranted advice about how to lose the baby weight.
“I started skipping dinner and that did the trick!”
“I went on the lemon juice diet when Omar was old enough.”
Firstly, when someone remarks that the mum should try to lose weight “as soon as they stop breastfeeding,” they imply that a chubby body is only useful while it’s feeding a baby.
People don’t mean any harm when they make these comments about baby weight. They would probably respond by saying that they do this because they care about the mother’s health. But do they worry about other aspects of a new mum’s health? Do they volunteer to take the night-shift so that the new mum can sleep? Do they ask the new mum how she’s feeling, to make sure she’s not suffering from postnatal depression?
We – whether mums or non-mums – are always so aware of weight loss and gain. There’s a microscopic weight margin that’s considered ideal. Even if we’re within the margin, critical eyes always find another fault, whether it be a boyish frame, too-wide hips, swimmer shoulders, or too dark skin tone.
But let’s think about new mothers, who are subjected to this same critical eye so soon after birthing a baby and in the midst of struggling with caring for a new human. Why do we look at a baby bulge with wide-eyed admiration, but consider the leftover baby weight an embarrassment? Why do we idolize women who lose bagy weight in a speed that is unrealistic for most women?
Try to Stop the Inner and Outer Criticism
Let’s start repeating the following mantras to ourselves and to others:
It’s normal to still look pregnant after giving birth.
It’s not realistic or healthy to shed the kilos rapidly.
Our bodies deserve appreciation and gratefulness. They carried, nurtured, and birthed a human.
Baby weight is not ugly. Post-pregnancy bellies, including sag, stretch marks, and stitch marks, are battle scars.
On Jessica Alba
New mums don’t need to be reminded of inadequacy. Especially if they incidentally saw a picture of Jessica Alba with a flat belly just weeks after giving birth.
We’re not so different from Jessica Alba. Jessica Alba is subjected to the same standards that tell her to get back in shape quickly after birth. The difference is that Jessica has the big bucks to spend on making it happen. Most new mums worry about spending on baby cribs, diapers, and formula and saving for their child’s future. Instead of bringing attention to her baby weight, try to lessen a new mum’s internal criticism and external negativity by appreciating what she does.