As a mum-of-three I’m no stranger to the pressure there is to get a “pre-baby” body back after you give birth. I’m also well aware that a “pre-baby” body seems to be a size 6, toned and youthful-looking one, regardless of the one you had before you became a mum.
But the pressure hasn’t always been as bad as it seems now. I’ve been a mum for nearly 11 years. I had my first child in 2007 and last just under a year ago. And the difference in the pressure on new mums is shocking.
Ten years ago Facebook was barely getting started. MySpace was still around. No one I knew was on Instagram or Snapchat. Companies were only just getting the hang of being online. We weren’t targeted with adverts in our social media feeds telling us how we could lose weight or tone up. In short, there wasn’t much on the internet that made mums feel terrible.
Fast forward to now and it’s a very different picture. Type “post-baby body” into Pinterest and you will get pages and pages of ways to lose weight, exercise plans and “get thin quick” posts. You won’t find anything about acceptance or body positivity in that particular search because, obviously, new mums only want to be thin. They couldn’t possibly want to know how to love their body just the way it is.
Or scroll through Instagram. Search for #postbabybody and you’ll see photo after photo of women posting up about how much weight they’ve lost or how toned they are after following x, y or z plan. Yes, sometimes you’ll see a picture of a “real” mum but they aren’t as common as they should be given how many women give birth every year.
Even baby sites helpfully send mums articles in those early days telling them how they can lose the baby weight quickly with healthy eating and gentle exercise. Because clearly this is going to be their top priority if they’ve just given birth.
The message is unavoidable. If you have a baby you must want to lose the weight. Fast.
Here’s why that’s so toxic and unfair. New mums have enough to worry about getting to grips with a newborn baby. Let’s not add to their pressures by telling them they should be able to exercise in ’“just 10 mins”. Why should any mum (or woman) be made to feel like she needs to change her body shape or size? It’s just a bit of baby weight people. She hasn’t suddenly become the size of a barge and is no longer able to get out of bed.
We all know that it takes time to lose the weight (if that’s what you want to do) so to tell women they can do it in a matter of weeks is going to make them feel crap when it doesn’t just disappear. Sometimes it just won’t shift and that’s okay. I am the same size I was after baby three was born and he’s nearly a year old. I’ve tried to lose the weight and my body has politely told me to f-off so let’s not pretend that it’s as easy as making a few simple changes and walking briskly every day. I’m older, sleep-deprived and seriously stressed (thanks kids) - all of which can make shifting excess pounds round the stomach notoriously difficult.
But here’s the thing that annoys me the most about this pressure. Fundamentally it shouldn’t be acceptable to tell someone that they aren’t okay as they are. We should never make anyone feel inadequate because they don’t look a certain way. Or judge them because they aren’t trying to lose weight, tone up and get into a size 0. Let’s not assume that everybody aspires to the extremely narrow standard of beauty that we seemed to have developed.
New mums should be applauded. They’ve grown a human. Their body has protected, nourished, housed and then birthed it. It’s done something incredible (and draining) and it really should be put on a pedestal and worshipped. Not criticised and judged because it now has loose skin, stretch marks or boobs that aren’t quite where they were before.
So let’s start a movement. Let’s tell mums that they don’t have to worry about it. That they are beautiful just the way they are. Let’s help them find the inspiration and strength they need against all the pressure they are put under. And let’s support each other by praising how good we are as new mums, not what we look like.