No matter what size a woman is before she becomes pregnant, her body must to change to accommodate the baby. Weight gain is a natural part of the pregnancy process, and one that is surrounded by stigmas and cultural pressures. These false beliefs and body image myths don't end once the baby is born. The pressures and commentary about what a mother's body should look like carry over into postpartum fat shaming, albeit sometimes quite subtle.
Although they exist, it is hard to find books and articles about postpartum life that do not focus on loosing the baby weight. What typically comes to the top of every news feed is how to rock a bikini just two months after giving birth to a child. Where is the literature that is encouraging you to bond with your baby, not your free weights? The article about how your body may never, ever be the same and that is just fine? Yes, those stories are out there, but they don't have enough public opinion to support their wisdom.
I'm not saying I'm unmarred here. I have done my fair share of post-baby body fat shaming, mainly to myself. It's not something I'm proud of or was even 100 percent conscious of, which goes to show how the images and messages we intake can morph into unintentional truths without our consent. If there is going to be a positive shift in how we treat the bodies of post-baby mothers, we need to consider these five subtle ways postpartum bodies are being fat shamed, and why it needs to stop.
1Praising Postpartum Celebrity Bodies
Many magazine photo shoots have been dedicated to a celebrity flashing a six-pack a few months post-birth. Although there is nothing wrong with their sculpted bodies, there is nothing right about making this a standard for new mothers. Plenty of articles praise the way celebrities "got their body back," and create a false belief that this is the only body type the everymom should aim for.
2Using The Phrase "Getting Your Body Back"
Pregnancy changes your body in many ways, and sometimes weight is one of them. Every woman is going to respond differently to the experience, and for some women that means keeping on the weight they gained during pregnancy.
Using language such as, "getting your body back," is dangerous because it implies something has been taken from you, something you need to retrieve to be you again. But really so much has been given to you from the experience. Your body has performed the incredible task of growing, producing, and giving birth to a child who would have never existed without the hard work of your body.
There is nothing to "get back,"because you're not incomplete. In fact, you are more whole than ever.
3Calling Postpartum Moms Lazy
It's hard enough to feel like your post-baby body is being judged by people you know, but if you are in the public eye, there are more people who you don't know that are making judgements. Not long after having her baby girl, television star, Tamera Mowry-Housley was labeled as "lazy" for not dropping the baby weight. The more messages like this we have permeating the media, the harder it is for postpartum bodies to have a positive reputation.
4Focusing Too Much On Pregnancy Weight Gain
This starts when a pregnant woman is warned not to gain too much weight during pregnancy. Yes, there are the legitimate health concerns associated with excessive weight gain throughout pregnancy. But there is also the marginal "reason," whether said out loud or implied that the more you gain now, the harder it will be to loose that weight once you have the baby.
5Not Validating Their Feelings
What a mother chooses to do with her body after she has her baby is her choice. Sometimes, she may really want to loose the weight she gained, which is perfectly fine. So if a postpartum woman confides in you during this sensitive time, don't try to be a fixer. Just simply validate what she is feeling.
If she is venting about the difficulties she is having loosing the weight, don't suggest that she try hot yoga or boot camp or going paleo. Just nod sincerely and say, "that sounds really frustrating."
If this subtle postpartum fat shaming is going to change, it's going to start with each of us refusing to believe there is only one acceptable body type for moms. And meaning it when we tell a new mom just how beautiful she is, exactly as she is.