10 Ways to Love Your Post-Baby Body

Nothing changes your life - or your figure - quite like motherhood. Instead of bumming out about how your bod isn't quite like it was pre-baby, discover how to love your new mommy shape - stretch marks and all. By Cari Wira Dineen, REDBOOK.

Beyonce's first post-baby appearance. Don't believe the celeb hype.
"The focus on celebrity moms and post-baby weight-loss has ballooned in the past decade," says Claire Mysko, a body image expert and author of Does This Pregnancy Make Me Look Fat? Even Janice Min, editorial director of The Hollywood Reporter expressed her jealously of so-called "momshells." Don't compare yourself to people whose job includes prancing around in a bikini. "They are paid to look good; that is their livelihood," says Mysko. They have access to things that most of us don't, like trainers and nutritionists, not to mention plastic surgeons. "And many of the images of celebs are photoshopped," adds psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig, Ph.D.

Accept that things are different.
Like really, really different. When you have a baby, your life - from the way you spend your time to how you approach your marriage - will never be the same. "You have less energy and less time when you become a mother," says Ludwig. "Life will never be like it was so you have to learn how to adapt." Your body is part of that huge change. "In reality, it's unlikely that you will ever get your original body back after having a baby. Even if you get back to the exact same weight, things are permanently changed," says Mysko. So forget about who you used to be and start focusing on the perk of who you've become - an awesome mom.

Related: 20 Things Every Mom Should Know

Forget the number.
Come on, admit it: You run into a friend who just had a baby and you give her the once-over. You wonder how much she used to weigh and how much she weighs now. Then you mentally size yourself up. "A lot of the pressure we feel to get back to our pre-baby weight is not only from the media. It's become part of the comparison we moms do to each other," says Mysko. First of all, step away from the scale. "Weight became the central focus with all of my mom friends when I had my baby," says Mysko. But she knew that the number on a scale wasn't a healthy source of self-pride, so she took it out of the equation. "I didn't track my weight," she says. "It was liberating to forget about how much I weighed and let my body just shed the excess weight over time."

Focus on what you've gained.
Yeah, you've gained weight. But you've also gained a cuddly little bundle that is going to grow up fast. So stop fretting over how you look and start enjoying your little one. We know: it's easier said than done. But consider this: Mysko surveyed over 400 women for her book and "a significant number of women had a regret of focusing on weight-loss so soon after the pregnancy," she says. "It took the focus off enjoying the baby and recovering from childbirth." You might not be at your ideal weight, but you've got more important things to do than worry about shedding pounds, like snuggle, cuddle, and relish your new addition.

Take care of yourself.
"If your goal is to feel good, find a realistic way to get there by eating well and having a workout regimen," says Ludwig. Whether it's taking a daily walk with your baby in a stroller, taking a mommy and me yoga class, or fitting in a 20-minute fitness DVD while your baby is entertained by her gym play mat or bouncy seat, it's essential to your body and your mind to stay active and well-nourished.

Related: 10 Tips for Getting the Best Photos of Your Kids

Play up your best features.
Instead of focusing on trying to hide belly fat, call attention to the ample chest your post-baby bod has left with you with. And do things that make you feel beautiful, like getting your nails done, splurging on a massage, and going in for a haircut or blow-out. "When you feel pretty and pampered, it can help cut out that inner self-defeating dialogue," says Ludwig.

Make time for a little romance.
There's nothing like a romantic date night - sharing take-out and a bottle of wine on the couch counts - to make you feel sexy and loved. If you're feeling neglected, speak up. Tell your partner if you need him to show you more affection, even if it's just that you want him to compliment or cuddle you more. "After the arrival of a baby, many men aren't sure if and when they should initiate sex and affection," says Ludwig. Also, work on getting your own sexy back. Step out of the frumpy robe and do whatever you need to do to feel smoking, whether that's slipping on special underwear or indulging in some new perfume or makeup.

Related: The 50 Most Iconic Beauty Looks of All Time

Be patient.
"You've heard this one before: It took you nine months to put the baby weight on, so give yourself at least nine months to get the weight off," reminds Ludwig. So give yourself a break and be as patient with yourself as you are with your child.

Move your look forward.
"Many women have a goal to fit into their pre-baby clothes," says Mysko, but even if you get back to the same number on the scale, your body will likely be different. Clothes don't fit quite the same way they used to. "If clothes feel tight or too loose, you're not going to feel confident in them," says Ludwig. So toss the styles that don't do your new bod justice, and replace them with some - like a wrap-shirt or high-waisted pants - that flatter your new curves.

Get out of your own head.
"We often like to think we're smart and above all the pressure to be perfect mothers," says Mysko. But the truth is we are all affected by celeb mom ideals, and the isolation a new baby brings. It's very possible to stuck in a pattern of self-destructing thoughts. So turn off the self-defeating talk and turn to your new mommy circle. And instead trading weight loss tips, vent about the impossible perfection myth and how it makes you feel. "Connecting with other women who are feeling the same pressure as you can be healing," says Ludwig.

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