Body Image

This Photographer Celebrates the REAL Post-Baby Body in the Honest Body Project

We’ve all seen those stick-thin celebs strutting their post-baby bodies down the red carpet or the runway. They were bursting barely weeks ago, and now they’ve managed to stuff themselves into size 0’s.

You roll your eyes, mock their seamless return to their pre-baby bodies and think, “Well, if I had personal trainers, nutritionists, personal chefs and probably plastic surgeons working on my body around the clock, I could look like that too!”

But, you don’t. And you’re not alone.

Whether you’re 24 hours out, it’s been two weeks or your new baby is no longer exactly a newborn, it’s likely you’re experiencing the post-baby body woes. Photographer Natalie McCain, of Rockledge, Florida, took to the internet to show the reality of the after-baby body. Through The Honest Body Project, this mum snapped pics of postpartum women during their first few weeks after giving birth.

Instead of hiding behind baggy sweats or still wearing maternity gear, these mums proudly showed off their stuff for the camera – sporting underwear only.


The heartwarming black and white portraits of the mums and their newborns (along with their older children as well), puts the ‘bounce back immediately after baby’ notion to rest. The series, entitled “After the Baby is Born,” features mums of all different sizes. You won’t find tight, toned models in every shot (although, McCain does include a model mum in her series). The mums include a range of sizes and shapes, showing that there isn’t just one ideal body. Along with photos, McCain captures the thoughts of the mums by adding quotes to the pictures. Meant to give all women a sense of comradery and let the world know that new mums need to focus on their babies and not their bodies, this intimate look into the lives of the real subjects makes you realize that you’re not alone.


So, you have stretch marks or maybe you gained a bit more weight than you had expected. Should that really take on a higher place in your mind than your new baby? Absolutely not. With these pics you can see that body after baby isn’t a Sports Illustrated cover shoot and it’s not s snipped, nipped and tucked figure. It’s real and it is what it is. No one’s saying that you should let yourself go, quit the gym and nix fruits and veggies in favor of cookies and cakes. Instead, it takes time and a healthy attitude to ‘snap’ back (in the case of a post-baby body ‘snapping’ may mean taking months or longer).


McCain doesn’t stop her Honest Body Project with this series. The photographer captures more than just postpartum women and their babies on film. Other series include “Defined by Our Hearts” (a series on mothers and their children with special needs), “The Beauty in a Mother” (a maternity series), “We Are Not “Still” Nursing, We Are Just Nursing” (portraits of mothers who choose to breastfeed their children after 12-months), “I Thought It Was Okay to Hurt Me” (stories of abuse) and several others.

the-Honest-Body-ProjectEven though McCain’s series focuses on mums who recently gave birth, the problem doesn’t end there. No woman has a magical date by which she loses the baby weight or feels fit again. In fact, the farther most women get from the postpartum period, the worse they feel about their bodies. A study (published in the journal Women Health) of women in the first nine months after giving birth found that body dissatisfaction actually increased as time went by. It didn’t matter that the average weight loss in the nine months after giving birth was 4.6 kg, the weights were still on 2.5 kg more than pre-pregnancy starting points. This led to body dissatisfaction. If you’re thinking, “Well, most women aren’t exactly happy with their post-baby bodies. So what?” This dissatisfaction was associated with poor mental health, appetite changes and even greater overall weight.


What’s the take home from McCain’s photo stories? Unless you’re a genetic freak of some sort (or have a plastic surgeon in your back pocket), you’re not going to be slim and svelte the second that baby pops out. Focusing on every bump, bulge, sag or mark won’t help you to be a better mum. Instead, let go of your preconceived ideas, accept that bouncing back takes time and concentrate on your family – and not your waistline!

Avatar of Belinda Jennings

Belinda's a passionate advocate for community and connection. As the founder of the Mum Central Network she’s committed to celebrating the journey that is Australian parenthood. Mum to two cheeky boys, and wife to her superstar husband, they live a busy but crazy lifestyle in Adelaide. Great conversation, close friends and good chocolate are her chosen weapons for daily survival. Oh, and bubbles. Champagne is key.

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