Pregnancy and birth changes our bodies so much. While I find it incredibly amazing what our bodies can do and go through to bring life to this world and nurture it, postnatally we can be left feeling a little less body confident than before – Especially when we see a sagging stomach, stretch marks, scars, separated abdominal muscles, and generally find things don’t look or feel like they once did!
I am all about being body confident, but some days that will come easier than others. After having 5 kids, I can tell you that it has certainly been a journey to become both comfortable in myself, as well as my postnatal body. On some days I feel amazing and gorge, on others not so much.
Here are 5 ways you can feel more confident with your postnatal body:
1. Speak kindly to yourself
It does’t matter if or how many of the other steps you do to feel more body confident, the first and most important step is to love yourself – and this comes through speaking kindly to yourself. If you constantly focus on how different your body is, or the things you are not happy with, you will in return be constantly feeding your inner critic and lack in self esteem and confidence.
Negative words, especially about your body, leave you feeling rubbish and unattractive.
I have put a lot in over the years into replacing negative words with kinder and more positive words and, focusing on what I love about myself. And guess what? It leaves you feeling so much more empowered and confident. The first step is to focus less on looks etc and more on what your body is capable of. I often stand in the mirror and tell myself I look good, but also how amazing it is that I have had 5 kids and how I can use it to do so many amazing things in life. It is also important to remind yourself of these things as you go about your day too.
Tell yourself too how amazing you are – you just grew life and delivered a baby and, even without that you are an amazing woman! Can you run? Can you swim? Does your body help you fulfil your goals? Praise it for all of that is, does and more.
Remind yourself you are worthy of love – you are attractive and beautiful yes, but more so you are strong and capable and that is such a beautiful thing to be adored.
Highlight the things you love and grow to accept the things you don’t so much. For example; instead of saying how much you don’t like your arms, work on making your arms stronger or remind yourself how much your hands and arms go through – lifting and carrying a baby/children, laundry, shopping, files at work etc.
And, whatever you do, do not compare. When we compare we tend to compare our bad bits for another’s good bits – a woman’s body is so unique to her and determined by so many factors (not least of all genetics!). Before kids, and in our younger years we also looked completely different to what we will after kids and with age, and there is simply no comparison to that. Just as comparing to other postnatal mums body holds no comparison to you – In fact it will only get you down. Focus on you and your journey, on you and your capabilities and love yourself in each stage of it.
Simply put, the way you talk to yourself is the way you love yourself—your self talk shapes your identity so make sure those words are kind, loving, gentle and empowering. And less about looks and more about capability.
2. Dress in what is comfortable
It’s okay to wear maternity clothes or stretchy/bigger sizes if that is what is comfortable for your postnatal body. There is not time frame on this and there is absolutely no point in squishing into your pre-pregancy jeans if they don’t quite fit yet or because another mum has before you have.
In this last pregnancy I was wearing my jeans within a couple of weeks, but some days I live in hoodies and leggings! I was also diabetic in this last pregnancy and very sick too; the combination of which caused me to lose a lot of weight and then be on quite a strict and healthy diet for the remaining months. As a result I didn’t gain a whole lot of weight, so understandably both illnesses meant my body on the outward appearance didn’t change a huge amount, on the inside however, I have struggled with other physical side effects that have bothered me. Just like with other pregnancies I have gained loads of weight with stress eating or just because I was pregnant… each pregnancy, body and journey is different – swings and roundabouts!
We are all different; so again, this is why you need to do you. If your jeans or dresses from before fit – wear them, if they don’t then find a size and fit that is comfortable now and wear that. Dressing for your postnatal shape, whether it is much the same or far from what it was before is so important, as properly fitting clothes are both comfortable, look good and will enable you to be more body confident.
3. Don’t be embarrassed to wear shape-wear
A good bra can make a massive difference to our shape and look, just as shape wear can. If you have a birthday meal, anniversary night out, wedding, event or are back to work and just feel a little less confident than you hoped, don’t be embarrassed to crack out the shape-wear to hold it all in!
A “mum tum” or diastasis recti (separated abdominal muscles) caused by pregnancy can take time to tone or adjust to. Shape-wear can give us a much needed boost of confidence for the day and can be easily bought from the local high street (M&S etc), online at places like Asos or if you are on a budget, then online wholesale retailers can offer cheap shapewear.
4. Find an exercise routine that works for you
Do not rush back into exercise until you are ready, but do find an exercise routine that works for you. Keeping active boosts endorphins and also leaves us feeling strong and empowered. I love carrying Oscar and having a good long walk in nature – it makes me feel confident, really good and strong. Likewise; dancing round the house, swimming (especially outdoors) or just walking to and from school, all help me to feel better physically and mentally.
You may find weights, joining the gym or wearing something like a neoprene waist trainer whilst going about your day to day errands will boost your body confidence as you see yourself toning up. Either way, whether it is running, pilates, swimming, waist trainers or a good long walk a couple of times a week, being active will help tone you, possibly shed the baby weight you want to, relax you and boost your confidence.
5. Eat well
I choose to eat well for health and nutrition, but also because of the energy good food gives me. I always feel great after a fresh and healthy meal. I am also a believer in balance and rarely deny myself – I love a good treat or takeaway now then too.
Eating well is often hard as a new mum though as your schedule is all over, you are tired and there have been so many days I have skipped meals or eaten at the most random times, and the most random things.
Eating well isn’t just what we put into our bodies, but also ensuring we are taking time for regular meals and snacks – especially if you are breastfeeding. I would add to this drinking plenty of water too – nothing worse than being tired and dehydrated.
When we eat well and drink plenty of water, we glow, have more energy, and we tend to be balanced in our weight and just generally feel good… a sure way to boost your self confidence!
Being postnatal body confident is influenced by so many factors, but can be achieved – especially as you speak kindly to yourself, be more healthy in your thoughts and lifestyle and let go of unrealistic expectations. You are amazing – believe it!