A government-commissioned report calls for maternity wards to display pictures of bigger women and to stop referring to biscuits as 'naughty' to inspire mums to focus on their babies instead of losing weight.
The report said mothers are under pressure to copy celebrities' rapid weight loss, and achieve a 'state of emaciation' within six weeks.
Women and Equalities minister Jenny Willott, who commissioned the report, said: "There is a relentless pressure on all women, celebrities or not, to be thin all the time and research shows mothers who are preoccupied with body image problems are not only damaging their bodies but these negative attitudes can be passed onto their children.
"It's sad that women feel pressured to lose weight so quickly after pregnancy, and it isn't healthy."
The report, which was published by the Government Equalities Office, was written by psychotherapist Susie Orbach and Holli Ruben, a body image specialist.
It says there is an 'epidemic' of eating problems among women, and that mothers can pass on their anxieties and difficulties with food to their children, especially their daughters.
They claim: "If [a mother] feels insecure in her body and relates to it chaotically, bingeing for several days and restricting eating on others, for example, the baby will sense the tension in her body as it unconsciously begins the process of developing his or her own body signature."
They warn of 'pressure' which encourages women to restrict their eating so they have 'less to lose' after the baby is born.
At the same time, mums-to-be are also expected to indulge themselves during their pregnancy.
It states that women end up focusing on themselves rather than the baby 'in a way that is not about health but is about the reclaiming of skinny jeans after delivery'.
The report adds that images which 'laud celebrity mothers who achieve a state of emaciation six weeks after delivery are switching the focus of the post-partum period away from mother and baby getting to know each other and finding a rhythm together'.
They warn against the cultural pressure on a mother to 'present herself physically as though nothing as momentously body-changing as having a baby has occurred'.
The Royal College of Midwives said that the pressure put on new mothers to lose weight after their birth of their babies can result in them feeling 'failure and shame'.
Cathy Warwick, chief executive of Royal College of Midwives, said: "New mothers often feel under great pressure, and this can surface in feelings that their bodies are a source of failure or shame.
"Midwives are there to help, and will want to reflect on the implications of this report for their own clinical practice."
THE NEW ADVICE TO MIDWIVES
Put up pictures of larger women
Try to ensure that your workplace has images of happy, healthy-looking women who are different sizes and shapes.
Don't call biscuits naughty
Be careful about language that unwittingly stigmatises fat people or talks about food or bodies as having intrinsic moral worth (for example, a chocolate biscuit is not a 'naughty' food – though it is a processed sugary food that is best eaten in moderation within a balanced diet).
Discuss pregnant women in soaps
Is there a character in a soap opera that is pregnant/has recently had a baby? What does she look like? Has there been any mention of her body shape/size? This is a really good starting point for a conversation.
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