By Leslie Goldman
Updated September 04, 2001

Just lifting your wee one can help you get in shape—gently.

Baby fat is so cute—when its on a baby. But new moms often yearn to shed their own post-pregnancy dimpled bottoms faster than they can scream, “Get me the epidural!” They shouldnt. Carrying extra weight for several weeks after delivery is normal, and probably healthier than shedding that fat.

Six weeks after delivering their babies, fully two-thirds of women weigh 6 to 15 pounds more than they did before getting pregnant, according to a 2005 review by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing. And thats OK because new mothers may be breast-feeding and need as many as 500 extra calories a day, says review author Lorraine O. Walker, RN, EdD, a nursing professor. Others may be struggling to reestablish healthy habits, while some may be less active because theyre healing from a C-section. Consider also the strain of staying up overnight with an infant. “Do we want to add the stress of dieting on top of that?” Walker asks.

Of course not, says pediatrician Jay Gordon, MD, a Santa Monica, California, expert on parenting newborns. Weight loss should be gradual, he says, as moms body adjusts to its new roles.

New moms shouldnt blow off eating right and exercising, though. Gordon suggests wearing your baby in a sling to burn off extra calories as you go about your usual routine. But remember: Your bodys been through a marathon, so take baby steps.