With celebs like Halle Berry, Tori Spelling, Jennifer Lopez and Nicole Richie looking bikini-ready mere weeks after giving birth, regular women are wondering what the secret is to looking fabulous after pregnancy.
Just four weeks ago, 33-year-old actress Nicelle Herrington gave birth to her third son, Mylo, but has already shed 25 of the 29 pounds she gained during her pregnancy. How did she do it?
"Breast feeding - that's my number one secret," she says. Indeed, a woman burns 500 calories every time she nurses, which can add up since most newborns eat every two hours.
Breastfeeding and using a breast pump are a good place to start for new moms who want to lose weight quickly, says Dr. Anthony Griffin, MD, director of the Beverly Hills Cosmetic Surgery Institute.
But that's not always enough for moms who want to bounce back quickly. Dr. Griffin specializes in "mommy makeovers" - a tummy tuck, breast lift and lipo combo for new moms who want their pre-baby body back in a flash.
"Typically we'll wait six months after they've delivered [to do the mommy makeover]. Most women are already working with a nutritionist and a trainer, and they'll usually be losing a pound a week. But around the core people have difficulty losing weight, even if they're exercising and dieting. The problem with pregnancy is that everything grows - but not everything goes back to where it came from."
However, he says, not all yummy mommies are using plastic surgery to get thin.
"Women are just not gaining as much weight as they used to. Particularly in LA - you can't even tell they're pregnant," Dr Griffin adds.
Tell that to all the expectant mothers who spend nine months with swollen ankles, jiggly arms and newly acquired back fat.
"I don't think any woman wants to gain weight anywhere but her belly and her boobs!" said Herrington, "I guess 29 pounds isn't that much to gain, but it was definitely more than I wanted to."
She said that being active before she got pregnant and hitting the gym soon after her son's birth made a huge difference.
"Most doctors say wait six weeks to work out, but if you have a healthy delivery sometimes you can get a thumbs up after three weeks. So I did long walks in the parks, kickball with my two other children, stuff like that. Why weight lift when you can carry your kid's lunch boxes to the park?"
Not all women are so lucky to have easy, natural deliveries. Over 30% of women are now delivering via C-section, a 46% rise since 1996.
Most are ordered by their doctor, many are electing for C-sections, saying they like the convenience of choosing a delivery date and can avoid the pain and possible vaginal tears from a traditional birth.
Now numerous celebrities, including Christina Aguilera, Victoria Beckham, and Elizabeth Hurley have become, as a British tabloid quipped, "too posh to push" and are opting for C-section births.
Despite it being a major surgery, Dr. Griffin says the healing process might actually work in their favor when it comes to slimming down.
"You burn a lot of calories healing after a C-section. It's a serious surgical procedure - you're cutting through the abdominal wall and the uterus," he explains.
"Your body is trying to repair itself and that stimulates your metabolism. Plus you're usually on a liquid diet for the first few days afterward. You can lose about 10 pounds. So if you keep that off, watch your diet and get back to exercising, you can look really good."
Once you're ready to strap on those Nikes and feel the burn, certified personal trainer Kedrick Fink says new moms have to be vigilant about more than just germy treadmills and bland protein bars.
Fink, who works out of the Crunch fitness studio on Manhattan's 13th Street, says that during pregnancy women are flooded with relaxin, a peptide hormone that helps loosen joints that facilitate the birthing process. It typically dissipates six to 12 months after delivery.
"You can dislocate a shoulder or throw something out because you're might be pushing yourself beyond the limit and not even realizing it," he says.
Fink also recommends nursing before you work out, since babies often won't feed if their mamas have been pumping iron, possibly due to a release of lactic acid during exercise.
All in all, our panel of experts seem to agree that a woman's pre-pregnancy activity level plays a huge part in her body's ability to bounce back."You can't expect a body that's never really worked out to suddenly snap into shape after having a child," warns Fink, "And even if you do get a tummy tuck or some sort of jump start, it might make you look thinner, but it's never going to make you stronger."