It's not easy trying to lose weight after having a baby.

During the pregnancy, any extra fat you touted around was attributed to the baby in your belly and your face had that mysterious pregnancy glow. But once you give birth, that glow seems to transfer to the baby’s sweet little face while you deal with half-lidded eyes, dark circles from sleepless nights and a still-round tummy.

So what’s a woman to do when the sweet little creature she carried around for nine months leaves baggage behind when he leaves the womb? For starters, accept that it took a while to gain the weight and it will take a while to lose it. Healthy weight loss after the first few weeks should be at about 1-2 pounds per week. Losing more than that can release toxins into breast milk – not a healthy snack for your little one.

Make Your Calories Count

Breastfeeding moms need an extra 500 calories a day, so no cutting calories to fit into those jeans just yet. The best way to lose weight is to increase water intake to ten to twelve cups daily, fill up on whole grains, veggies, beans and lean proteins, and snack on fruits and low-calorie foods. This type of common sense diet promotes slow and steady weight loss, as well as a host of other health benefits.

It’s a lot easier to say yes to foods you love than to say no. Ask your spouse or close friend to clear the junk food out of your kitchen and fill the fridge with favorites from the produce department. Wash a handful of sweet potatoes, wrap in foil and throw them in the oven for a hot, sweet snack that’s packed with vitamins. Munch on veggie sticks with fat-free yogurt dip or flat breads with salsa. Keep a large water bottle with you at all times to sip throughout the day, and chew sugar-free gum when habit brings you to the fridge to eat when you’re truly not hungry.

Get Your Body Moving

Equally important when trying to lose weight is taking the time to exercise. Before heading to the gym for a full-scale workout, make sure to get clearance from your doctor – particularly after a C-section. Even before you’re cleared for your favorite zumba or pilates class, there are great ways to insert small workouts into your day. Take a walk around the block or to a nearby park, go up and down the stairs an extra time or two, and park in the furthest spot from the store when you go shopping. You’d be amazed how quickly small habits like these can add up and burn calories.

Once the doctor’s given the okay for a full workout, usually at six weeks post-birth, there are several great programs geared specifically for new moms. Tracey Mallet, creator of the Super Fit Mama exercise program, says interval training is the best way to get back in shape after giving birth. She suggests a mix of cardio blasts with strength and balance moves, and recommends new moms take a day off in between workouts.

Why Sleep is Key to Getting Healthy

While the advice given above may seem simple, putting these ideals into practice when a new mom is sleep-deprived can be quite challenging. Lack of sleep increases the digestive hormone ghrelin, which tells the body to eat more, and decreases leptin, the hormone that tells your body you’re full.

Exhausted moms will typically also have a strong aversion to any kind of exercise, even a walk around the block to soothe a crying baby. The key to staying sane and healthy after birth is doing whatever is necessary to be well-rested. When a friend or family member offers assistance, take them up on the offer. If they don’t offer, ask for it or even pay for it, it’ll be worth every penny. When the baby sleeps, you sleep – everything else can wait.