BabiesFeminismHealthPregnancy & ChildbirthSex and Sexuality

Four Foolproof steps to a Post Baby Bikini Body

It’s that time of year.  Articles are everywhere on how to lose weight in the new year.  Add to that the issue of baby weight, and it’s almost impossible to escape the pressure to lose weight instantly and appear healthy and perfect after pregnancy

It’s not enough to have built a tiny human (or two) for the duration of your pregnancy, to birth them, or to raise them responsibly and lovingly. You must do so while looking fantastic as quickly as possible. Websites like New York Daily News, Parade Magazine, and all have articles promising to deliver the secrets of how celebrities successfully “bounce back” to their pre-baby weight.

But, you don’t need to troll through endless websites to learn the secrets of a great post baby beach body. Here are my four foolproof steps to getting a great bikini body post pregnancy:

  1. Buy a bikini in your size (because you and your size are fucking amazing).
  2. Put on the bikini.
  3. Slather sunscreen on you and your baby (or use a baby rash guard and hat).
  4. Take your happy ass to the beach, and go for a swim with your beautiful baby.
    • (*if you have a chance to go skinny dipping, skip steps 1 and 2.  If you have a chance to go skinny dipping at night, preferably under the stars, also skip step 3)

Having a problem with step one?

Is it because you don’t think you’ll find a bikini or suit your size?  Nowadays, there are great  bikinis in ALL sizes.  Don’t believe me? Google “plus size bikini” and the search will return pages of designers and companies looking to sell you something awesome to put on your amazing post baby body. Real women rock equally kick ass bikinis at the militant baker‘s beach bikini photo shoot and at the nearsighted owl.

Is it because you are ashamed to wear a bikini in your new size? I dwell on this.  I look in the mirror and see the body I have now: dark rings under my eyes from sleeplessness, permanent bedhead, soft rolling tummy flab, and post-breastfeeding boobs. Add to that weighing my highest pregnancy weight, and it’s a little jarring.

(Photo credit Emilian Robert Vicol)
(Photo credit Emilian Robert Vicol)

But here’s the thing:  my body may not be the little cuteness it was in college, but my body is fucking amazing. I can pick up two 18 lb kids without effort and carry them along with their bottles and blankets. I have strength of character and reserves I never knew were there.  I survive on little bites of sleep caught here and there, and can discern my kid’s cry over another’s through walls. I created life, and when that life popped out of me I nurtured it to greater independence and my body leapt into its new role as provider of nourishment, comfort and love.

I say again. My body is fucking amazing. So is every parent’s, whether their kids joined their family weeks or years ago. No amount of will or desire is going to make me look the way I did in a bikini in college–and that’s ok because I don’t want to be the person who was in that body. Even though I loved college, and I love the woman I was then, I am different now, so of course my body is different, and it’s important that I love this body too.

Let’s be honest, given the sheer number of articles and well-meaning people encouraging me to “bounce back” or to “get back to my old self.” it’s no wonder that getting over my skewed sense of self is a challenge.

Those two phrases imply that your pregnancy was sort of a nine month detour on the trip of your life, and as soon as the kid popped out, the detour ends and you make your way back to your original route.

As any parent can attest, that’s just not true. Having a child is transformative. It is the equivalent of yanking the steering wheel of a car as you hurtle down the road. It pulls you quickly and instantly onto a different road heading in a different direction. That change in direction has a ripple effect on everything: your career, your home life, your sleep, your sex life, your priorities, and your finances.  So, why do we act like it shouldn’t have an effect on your body?

Equally unrealistic are the assertions that parents are “making excuses” (as in “stop making excuses! Lose weight now!”). I’m not making excuses; I’m making priorities and right now my tiny humans are my first priority. This is not because I subscribe to a 1950’s idea of womanhood and parenting, but because I have a basic understanding of evolution and child development. Why do we as a culture assume that parents operating within this reality are somehow giving up on themselves?

Further, why is it that “getting back to your old self” has to be all about appearance?  It reflects poorly on us as a society that we judge women so much by their appearance that a major change in that appearance is synonymous with losing their identity. The implication that appearance/weight is the entirety of a woman’s being is offensive and dismissive of us as a gender. The fact that women are among the ones doing this is insane. In buying into the idea that we must be thin and beautiful to be wholly ourselves and happy, we are holding ourselves back.

The idea that I should’ve lost my baby weight by now in order to be myself is one I reject entirely. During the first 6 months of my twins’ lives I was exhausted and preoccupied with them and their needs.  During the next 6 months, I  slowly emerged from that focus as they grew more independent, slept longer stretches, and got healthier. As a result, I have had more time to widen my focus to include things that I value.

See? Naked baby gets it. (pic credit Paul Crimfants)
See? Naked baby gets it.
(pic credit Paul Crimfants)

While I am not “returning to my old self,” I am doing more of the things that help me be the version of my current self that I enjoy most.  It turns out that losing weight and looking a certain way is not a top priority in my efforts to gain a sense of self.

First up was writing whenever I could because it helped me pin my thoughts and feelings down and put my head in some semblance of order. Writing is not a hobby so much as a sanity-keeping tool. Next came reconnecting with friends and family, and enjoying them for who they were while I worked out how our relationships had changed. After that was work, which was always good for my brain.

Only now, as the twins hit 14 months and I have my writing and friends back, do I have time to remember how much I love running (especially at night or in the rain), and start to think about how to get that back too. My own weight loss and diet have taken a backseat to my mental and psychological health, because I define who I am by those things first.

None of this is to say that parents shouldn’t take care of themselves.  There are a myriad of positive effects of a healthy diet and exercise program. I know I need to exercise and eat right so I can be healthy and happy as I age with my children.

I just don’t understand this need we have as a society to pressure people into looking the way they did before having children–it’s almost impossible to do; impractical if you don’t have a nanny, trainer, or nutritionist; and strikes me as fatshaming those who don’t “bounce back” into svelte figures almost instantly.

I have friends who were physically active soon after their babies were born, but this is because they considered physical activity an essential part of their sense of self in the same way I see writing as an essential part of my sense of self. This is vastly different than focusing on weight loss to meet a timetable presented by advertisers, culture and media.

So, I reject fat-shaming. I reject magazine tips and tricks. And, I reject well-meaning advice that buys into a limiting sense of what/who I am as a person. And come summer, no matter what shape my body is in, I will rock it on the beach with my kids because I am fucking awesome, and so is my body.


Deek lives with her husband, twin sons and two cats in the northwest. She teaches and writes about parenting in the NICU, her experiences as a parent of micro-preemies and skeptical parenting.

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  1. I had a long conversation with my husband after Jo’s post, trying to explain to him why expressions like “letting him/her self go” was really fat shaming, and how when he says that he just wants me to be healthy, he’s undermining his point when he keeps equating healthy with how I *looked* 4 years ago.

    Of course, this is part of a longer conversation on whether you respect your partner by maintaining the physical appearance (weight, tattoos, facial hair, etc) that they desire (his position) or whether you respect your partner by loving them regardless of any changes in their physical appearance, intentional or not (my position) because — you know — bodily autonomy. I feel like I’m chipping away at generations of male privilege and entitlement.

    1. If “letting yourself go” wasn’t so often a code for gaining weight, I’d hate it less. If “keeping yourself up” meant continuing to grow emotionally and mentally, working to keep your relationship running smoothly, truly taking care of yourself, then I’d be all for it. I’m all about “keeping myself up” in the sense of being the best person and wife I can be, but I don’t believe in chasing after the body I had when I was 25. I hate that so much media promotes that as a “healthy” goal.

      1. “I don’t believe in chasing after the body I had when I was 25. I hate that so much media promotes that as a “healthy” goal.”
        …especially since many of the lengths those held up as role models go to in order to capture that body are so unhealthy.

    2. We have similar struggles. Though my husband is generally most concerned about me being healthy so I’m around a while, it’s frustrating how much I bump up against issues of privilege in other areas of my life, especially the idea that being fit is looking thin and young.

  2. I hate, hate, hate the “stop making excuses” thing. I teach yoga and Pilates for a living, so I spend lots of hours a day on physical activity, and I do not look like I did before I had a child. Short of surgery and a time machine I am never going to look like I did in college any more than I will look like I did when I was 6.

    1. EXACTLY! Plus, I think comments like that are unhelpful and demeaning since they are confrontational and imply that the other things one chooses to do are just “excuses.”

  3. Thank you so much for this, LOVE IT! I feel like I am just starting to be able to come back to myself a little after having my daughter ( she’s 20 months) and what you said about different activities contributing to people’s sense of self really resonated. I’ve been feeling kind of bad that I haven’t “bounced back” to pre baby weight, but that’s exactly it… what makes me feel like me isn’t physical activity, it’s reading and art. Why should I prioritize what I’m told I should LOOK like over my mental health?

  4. Letting yourself go and stop making solutions are deliberately insulting because 1.they imply that your weight, body shape and fitness are something entirely within your control AND that you 2. are so lazy you didn’t do anything to avoid the dreaded “fat” (sarcasm). I love that you love yourself and your babies. Very inspiring.

  5. Honestly, I’m a bit of two minds about the “love your body things”.
    I definetly share the attitudes about body image and fat shaming and I’m seriously glad for all of you who genuinly like the body you have whatever size it comes in.
    To me, meh.
    I don’t like this body. I remember how this body felt when it was at 150 lbs. It definetly felt better. It’s also the fact that the second pregnancy simply broke some things, better said triggered an auto-immune disease.
    I like this person, though, whatever size she’s currently in, but also the “love your body” posts have the same, stale “you’re failing at another thing” taste to me as “lose that fat” posts often have.

    1. I think my perspective would be different if I had a long term medical issue that resulted from my pregnancy/birth. I had a difficult recovery from my c-section, but that is a temporary issue and not a permanent one like an auto-immune disease.

      As for the “you’re failing at another thing”/”love your body” part, my point was stepping away from the failure/success model of body image after childbirth/pregnancy, and instead choosing your own priorities. I’m failing at returning to my pre-baby body in the same way I’m failing at speaking fluent Gaelic. Because it isn’t a priority for me right now, I’m not making an effort to learn to speak another language in the same way I’m not working on turning back the clock on my body.

      1. I think it’s more than that. Sure, I have a ceasefire with my body at the moment, because like you I have noticed that the day only lasts for 24 hours. I have told my GP (a woman with the same weight for the last 25 years…) that when I come home after 12 hours I will not steam evgetables and cook rice without salt.
        But that’s completely different from finding this body in any way amazing, the same way I have no time to paint the kitchen but can’t get myself to love the stains on the wall (no blood, don’t worry).
        Again, I’m happy for every woman who does. More power to you. But there is this expectancy of “self-love” that’s often prevalent in progressive circles. We tear down the walls of conventional attractivity, of the cult of slim and so on, but sometimes we don’t realize that not everybody walks the whole mile and that some like me don’t feel like “love yourself”.

        1. Giliell, I kept meaning to reply to your reply, but getting pulled away from the computer. . .But I wanted to say earlier, and am saying now: I think I get it. Thanks for sticking around and re-explaining.
          This: ” We tear down the walls of conventional attractivity, of the cult of slim and so on, but sometimes we don’t realize that not everybody walks the whole mile and that some like me don’t feel like “love yourself” resonated with me, and the stains on the wall analogy helped.

  6. #1 – I love this article.

    #2 – It doesn’t speak to me. I’m currently at 35 weeks and I can’t wait to get my pre-baby body back. It will absolutely be a priority, and one of my top ones. I know that so many people judge me for being vain, and I am, but I also like to be comfortable. I like being able to get off the couch without rolling. I can’t wait to have that back. I can’t wait to feel sexy again. Wait, I don’t feel sexy pregnant? No, I don’t. I could mainline feminism and that wouldn’t change.

    “But what about taking care of your child, which is more important than your body, Katrina? You should be focused on that baby, not on yourself.” Uuuhhh, yeah, I have a whole identity separate from being a mom. Granted, I’m 28 so I would hope to have a decent breadth of identity. I would also grant that this is my first child, and we’ll see how it really goes once he’s here. But I don’t think for one second that my kid will end up the next David Koresh because I “neglected” him to “indulge my vanity and selfishness.” Not that I think this article implies that; those gems are usually delivered in face-to-face conversation because fit-shaming is still ok. It’s still perfectly fine for the stranger at Wal-Mart to tell me that my exactly-on-target pregnancy weight gain is malnourishing that sweet baby, so she won’t be surprised if I don’t make it the full 40 weeks, and if I ever hope to successfully breastfeed I’m going to have to start eating.

    Those “stop making excuses and get your beach body back with 5 moves and a lemon” articles don’t necessarily speak to me, either. They all seem to propagate the same fad cycles in fitness and usually link to a paleo diet guru who’s going to ‘splain you some evolushun ’bout chur guts. But I do very much want to know the science of getting my body back. A couple of weeks ago, I had to know at what point my uterus would be back into my pelvis (thank you so much, Google). I’d love to know how my muscles rearranged and how to get them back where they belong… I can’t wait to get this ship out of the bottle and be able to take a deep breath, sleep on my belly, and plank. Is that so awful?

    1. Klei, I keep meaning to respond to your great reply, and I keep getting bogged down. . .sorry for waring so long. I think that we’re in agreement here with the basic idea of this, and I kept nodding my head as I was reading your comment. I think we’re just opposite sides of the same. You’re the fitness side, and I’m the fat(ness?)–but the basic premise is the same having agency over our own bodies and owning our own priorities after childbirth regarding those bodies.

      A friend of mine who is a distance runner was talking with me about the post and had experienced many of the feelings of getting back into her own skin that you mention. She also said that she was surprised how often people felt comfortable judging her decisions regarding exercise in a contradictory way. In one breath, people would praise her for running again and “bouncing back” so fast (though she didn’t ask for their approval), and then they would find out that she did so by hiring a babysitter so she could run without her child. That apparently overshadowed all of the kudos–apparently running without your baby in a jogging stroller is selfish? She eventually started asking if the commenter would expect her to strap the baby on for an aerobics class or wear the baby at the weigh machines.

      It’s such a weird judgmental world new mothers face when dealing with exercise and public option.

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