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Tips for learning to love your baby bump!

Here's some parenting advice to get adjusted to your wonderful changing body

Does this shirt make my belly look big? I often found myself asking my husband this annoying question relentlessly. He’d look at me with confusion and annoyance spattered over his face — “You’re pregnant!”

I’d promptly turn and sulk away feeling bloated, fat and uneasy in my own skin. I never really had a baby bump, instead, my body decided to take a fat-all-over approach to pregnancy, which made me extremely self-conscious about my “new” body.

Liberation in moderation
It’s normal to be concerned about your weight and shape during pregnancy. Who wouldn’t feel self-conscious with random strangers rubbing your belly and quizzing you on due dates? Our bodies go through so many interesting changes during pregnancy — your hormones wreak emotional havoc, little black hairs pop up in odd places and your belly continually grows. It’s a lot to adjust to in such a short amount of time.

Some women feel liberated by pregnancy and think this is their time to pig out on treats, gain weight and skip the workouts; however, the idea of eating for two is not a license to overdo it! You may think a sweet treat here and there is an innocent indulgence, but gaining over 50 pounds during the course of your pregnancy is not safe!

READ MORE: Track your baby bump!

Besides being a blow to your self-esteem, excessive weight gain also increases your risk of gestational diabetes and high blood pressure, especially if you pack on too many pounds in the first trimester.

Resist harsh restriction
Just as some women feel liberated by pregnancy, others see pregnancy as a reason for excessive restriction. It’s true, some foods are simply off limits for expecting mothers, but too much restriction can be harmful to yourself and your growing baby.

If you’re trying to maintain your pre-pregnancy physique through calorie counting and strict exercise routines, take heart — Your body will change, embrace it. It is both natural and healthy for women to gain weight during pregnancy. You are, in fact, eating for two.

Gaining too little weight during pregnancy also has serious side effects. If a mother doesn’t consume enough calories, she’s putting her baby at risk of premature birth and low birth weight. Keep in mind, your baby cannot fully develop without proper nutrition — you are your baby’s only lifeline.

Do your best
Poor body image during pregnancy can lead to the recurrence of eating disorders, anxiety attacks and depression. How you feel about yourself may also affect your life post-partum. Moms with body dissatisfaction are less likely to breastfeed either because they want to regain their pre-baby bodies as soon as possible or because they have a hard time getting their baby to latch on.

READ MORE: So, you're having a baby...now what?

“Women with a poor body image think their bodies can’t possibly do anything right,” says Donna Bruschi, board certified lactation consultant at New Baby New Paltz. “They’ll give breastfeeding a shot, but often give up because they see their learning curve as a failure instead of a natural part of motherhood.” Donna also believes if mothers can get over that initial learning hump, they’ll start to appreciate their bodies. Her biggest bit of advice to new moms suffering from a poor body image is to “do the best you can and understand that no one is perfect.”

Make peace with pregnancy
If you’re unhappy with your body, it’s time for an attitude adjustment. Here are some tips on how to love yourself, even when you can’t zip your “fat pants!”

1. Get perspective. Read books or ask your doctor about common physical changes during pregnancy so you aren’t alarmed by every bump, lump or symptom. It’s normal to feel a lack of control about labor and childbirth. Heightened emotions can cause you to obsess about changes to your appearance. 

2. Focus on function. Boost your spirits by thinking about what your body can do, not how it looks. Living up to social standards might not be healthy for you or your baby. You’re building a person with tiny fingers, toes, eyes and nose. That is beautiful.

3. Manage your energy. Fatigue makes it hard to handle emotional ups and downs. Schedule your most demanding activities during times when you have the most energy. Pregnancy can be exhausting. You won’t be kind to anyone (including yourself) if you’re tired and cranky.

4. Move it. Carrying the extra weight of a baby can be uncomfortable and you may be frustrated if you can’t keep up a fitness routine. Challenge yourself to stay active. Walk as much as possible and do a regular stretching routine. Exercising will decrease bloating and increase your energy.

5. Leverage assets. Surely there is something to love about your pregnant body. Bigger boobs? Lustrous hair? Longer finger nails? Wear a V-neck blouse, get a great blow-out or give your nails a manicure. Playing up positive changes in your appearance can take your focus off less-desirable ones.

READ MORE: 4 common breastfeeding questions answered!

6. Dress up. If you have been skimping on your own wardrobe so you can buy only-the-best for baby, it's time to invest in yourself. Buy a few pieces of clothing that feel fabulous. Choose options that look casual, but well put-together. Resist the urge to buy clothing that is too big, which will make you feel frumpy.

7. Get busy in the bedroom. Intimacy may be the last thing on your mind when you’re feeling not-so-attractive. Hear this: Your partner probably loves the way you look. Men are generally more accepting of the changes than women. Let him show you that you’ve still got it.

8. Take your time. Remember, pregnancy only lasts 40 weeks. Enjoy and revel in the power of your body. You’re creating human life. In the end, you’ll receive the most wonderful gift — a child that loves you unconditionally.


Heidi Smith Luedtke is a personality psychologist and mom of two. She writes about self-improvement, people skills and parenting.