When I wrote my post last week, “Learning to Love Your Post Pregnancy Body” (click here for that post) I got a lot of comments from people saying that I must not have extra skin from my stomach getting stretched out.  With all of my posts I have always tried to be as transparent as possible and post things as they really are.  I don’t photoshop my pictures, and I’ve posted a whole bunch of pictures that are kind of embarrassing or scary to share with people (stretch mark photos, post baby belly photos, no makeup photos, etc).  And even though I feel really vulnerable when I post these kinds of pictures, I think it’s important to share because these are things that so many moms struggle with post-pregnancy but I feel like no one ever talks about it!!

The truth is, I carried two big babies in this belly (my first was 10 lbs and my second was 9lb 14oz).  If you remember, here is what my belly looked like the day I went into labor:

41 Weeks with Baby #2

41 Weeks with Baby #2 (March 2013)

41 Weeks with Baby #1

41 Weeks 5 Days with Baby #1 (Sept 2009)

I gained 60 lbs with my first pregnancy and somewhere around 50lb with my second (I stopped weighing myself at the end because it kept messing with my head).  When you carry two babies, especially two very big babies, your stomach goes through a lot!  I got stretch marks on my belly and hips (with this pregnancy I got a ton of stretch marks but they were clear instead of purple like with my first pregnancy so they aren’t as noticeable in pictures).  And, the integrity of your skin changes.  The skin on my stomach is a little softer (if that makes sense) and not so tight.  My little girl is 2.5 months old now, and I still have a lot of saggy skin and extra fat on the bottom of my tummy.

There are a few points I want to make with this post:
1) It is normal for your stomach to looked a little stretched out after you have a baby!  After all, it did get stretched!

2) Even if your stomach is bigger and saggier after you have a baby, it doesn’t mean that it has to stay that way forever.  You can get your stomach back in shape with proper nutrition, it just takes time and dedication.  And I’m not talking any kind of crazy fad diet, or insane amounts of exercise.  I’m talking about eating whole foods, exercising 4-5x a week for 30-60 minutes, and finding a balance with your treat meals.   I know some people leave the hospital looking like they did pre-pregnancy but that is rare and not the norm.  Most women still look pregnant when they leave the hospital.  In this article here, I talk about the top 5 things I work on to lose the baby weight.  I am also exclusively breastfeeding and that helps too – you can burn up to 500 calories a day just by breastfeeding.  I’m working on a post right now with tips and things you can do with your nutrition if you are brand new to eating clean and just starting out.  Keep checking back here, I will have it posted in the next couple days.

3) There are certain clothes you can wear to make your post-baby body look a little better.  Let me give you an example.  These two pictures were taken yesterday about 10 seconds apart!  My baby girl is 2.5 months old.  In the first picture my pants were pulled up over my little tummy pooch I have right now, and I am wearing a pair of pants that doesn’t have a very tight waistband.  In the second picture, the only thing I changed is that I pulled the pants down lower.  In both pictures I am flexing my stomach, but right now when I flex I get that sort of flat-pancake look with the extra skin/fat on my lower tummy.  This will go away over time, but it’s definitely still there right now.  Crazy how just adjusting your pants a few inches can make such a difference!!

Skin stretched after pregnancy www.nataliehodson.com #nataliehodson
Here are some tips I have for dressing your post-baby body while you are getting back in shape:

-Look for pants that have more forgiving waistbands.  I look for things that aren’t really tight in the waist or that have a wider waistband so it doesn’t dig into the extra fluff I have on my tummy and back right now.  I also bought a few pairs of shorts that were two sizes bigger than I usually wear.  It is never fun buying bigger sizes, but it makes me feel more comfortable wearing clothes that actually fit then trying to squeeze into my clothes that don’t fit yet.  I like the Mossimo brand at Target – they have some super cute and bright shorts and bermuda shorts right now. Lululemon pants are also super flattering, but they are pricey (about $100 for a pair) so I have a hard time justifying getting a pair in a bigger size right now.

-Because it is summer I am really into summer dresses.  I love the floor-length empire waist casual dresses/maxi dresses.  They don’t cling to my tummy and keep me cool in the heat.  Most are strapless or have spaghetti straps so if you aren’t comfortable with that you can add a cropped sleeve jean jacket or a cute little shrug.  Of all places, I just found a bunch of cute dresses at Burlington Coat Factory in the $10-20 range that are super cute!

-Keep wearing your belly band.  I am not a huge fan of the post pregnancy girdles because they are so hot and uncomfortable, but I DO like to use my belly band.  If you aren’t sure what a belly band is click here, I got mine at Walmart for $15 and have used them through both pregnancies.  I like using this when I have jeans on because it just looks like a layered tank but I don’t have to stress about my stomach showing if my shirt comes up at all.

-When all else fails, wear a pair of Spanx.  I got a pair of Spanx (I actually think they were Assets brand?) at Target for about $25 and sometimes if I am wearing a dress and I feel like my stomach is sticking out too much I will wear my Spanx.  It just helps to sort of hold everything in and makes me feel more comfortable.  They are hot and kind of a pain to put on though so I don’t wear it very often.

Even though these pictures are kind of scary for me to share with people, I hope that I can be an example that having babies doesn’t mean you are doomed to have a big stomach forever.  I know this because my stomach was really big and stretched after I had my first baby (looked like my stomach does now, probably even a little worse because I gained more last time) and with time, proper nutrition, and exercise I was able to get my abs to show again.  Even when I was really lean I still did have a little bit of extra skin that showed when I bent over, but I noticed that once I cleaned up my diet and cut out a lot of processed foods the skin on my stomach tightened up a lot.  My son had just turned two in this picture and it was about seven months after I took a serious look at my diet, cut out my processed foods, focused on whole foods, 5-6 meals a day, etc.

Arnold Sports Festival www.nataliehodson.com #nataliehodson

Taken at the Arnold Sports Festival 2012 when my son had just turned 2.

My hope is that by sharing these things with you that 1) we can start a dialogue where more people are comfortable talking about the changes that happen after pregnancy and 2) we can work together in getting in shape and losing the baby weight the healthy way.  Maybe you just had a baby and can relate because your stomach looks like mine now (pink sports bra picture).  Maybe you had babies a few years ago and are ready to work on losing the weight now that the kids are older.  Maybe you haven’t had kids yet and are curious what might happen to your stomach after you do have kids.  Regardless, I hope that this site and my social media pages can be a place where women can encourage one another and feel comfortable talking about these kinds of changes.  Thank you for the continued support I get from everyone who visits my website and Facebook page.  It is your support and inspiration that helps to keep me motivated.  I appreciate you!

Your friend,
Natalie