Active Post-Baby Lifestyles
You now have your baby, your gem, your amazing little miracle. She loves you unconditionally, relies on your love, attention and energy. You have the amazing honour to be someone’s mum. You promise to look after her, to care for her and to keep her safe. You promise to keep her healthy and to help her grow into a fabulous little person. Your energy goes up and down. But you don’t care. You have your baby.
Time starts to go by. One week for some, one to 6 months month for others. You know its time when the walls start to feel heavy. The fresh air blows through the open windows and the outdoors calls your name. It’s time to break out of the home and exercise again. Not just for you, but for you little one. To keep your energy up and to be the best mum you can be. Exercise to keep you strong, vibrant and most importantly to role model a healthy lifestyle that your baby will learn and love.
Why should you exercise?
We all know that exercise is important. Keeping strong and fit is essential to good health. Pregnancy and post-partum are times exercise is vitally important. By exercising during pregnancy you immediately decrease the likelihood of prenatal complications. After delivery, you will enjoy a higher motivation to restart exercise and you will find it easier to get back into an exercise routine.
Enjoying an active post-baby lifestyle has wonderful benefits both mother and babe. For mum, exercise improves mood and sleep. It also decreases the chance of depression and anxiety. Supporting mother-baby bonding and improving family relationships.
Don’t forget about the benefits in weight management.
An active lifestyle is the quickest road back to a pre-baby self. You will restore bladder control faster and support the return of abdominal strength.
It can still be a little daunting. So let’s understand the common worries and see how to work through them.
How to overcome the common hurdles
I had an easy, complicated or c-section delivery…
If you had an uneventful vaginal delivery you can get started straight away. Just go for a walk first. Then as you feel comfortable add some light resistance exercising like lunges or squats. You may be ready in the first 10 mins or over the next few days. It is up to you. As your confidence grows try light jogging. Keep adding exercises until you are back into your pre-baby routine. It is your body, your pace and your journey. Do what feels comfortable.
If you had experienced tearing you may be a little sore to begin with. But just listen to your body. Walking may be enough for you at first. Soon you will heal and regain your strength. You can resume to pre-baby exercise whenever you are ready. Pelvic floor exercises are particularly helpful post tearing. Wait until the pain has disappeared and you have healed before you begin.
Did you have a caesarean delivery? Although they are very common, the reality is that you have had major surgery. Your body needs rest and time to repair. You have 7 layers of tissue that need to heal, strengthen and restore normal blood flow. It is best to get the OK from your medical physician before you start exercising. Usually 6 weeks is the recommended recovery time. Normal house hold chores can offer great movement for the body to slowly regain strength. Sweeping, vacuuming and clothes hanging are all jobs that will need to be done by a helpful partner in the first few weeks. Folding, ironing and light cleaning can be enjoyed while lightly holding your belly button inward. Be mindful when lifting too. Just take it easy at first. You will get there, you have your whole life to exercise intensely – you only have a few weeks to heal.
I don’t have a babysitter
Exercise does not need to be done solo. There are many activities to get you back into the swing of things, even without childcare.
Baby wearing – purchasing a high quality baby carrier such as the ERGObaby helps you get out of the house, while looking after your posture. As your baby grows, their body weight becomes extra resistance. Overtime this improves your strength. Baby wearing supports your child’s development of their nervous system as they move with you. It also promotes optimal head shape as it takes pressure of the back of the head form lying down.
Be mindful of the temperature of your baby as you walk. They may get cold due to air temperature or they may get hot from your body heat. Check them continually.
Stroller – strollers support exercise and are used extensively by mothers. The major benefit to using a stroller is the ability of packing it full of supplies for longer walks or walking with a second child. A couple notes to keep in mind about strollers
- Your posture is not optimal when pushing a stroller
- Extended use can increase the pressure on your baby’s head. Although you may be fine to keep walking, your baby needs breaks every 30-40 mins.
Baby & Me Classes – There are a variety of yoga, gyms and outdoor fitness classes tailored to suit mums with babies. Keep an eye out for them in your local community. You may have the opportunity to have baby on the ground next to you. This is a great time to start tummy time. Mum and baby doing exercise together.
My body is different
Regaining confidence and familiarity about your body post-partum is essential to sticking to an exercise program. It does take a little time.
Poor Bladder Control – For many women, bladder control is particularly hard. Ensuring you use sanitary pads to help you confidently move into more vigorous exercises without the worry of an accident. Pelvic floor exercises are great. Practice squeezing and relaxing your pelvic floor. Hold for 5-10 seconds and relax. Repeat throughout the day.
Separated Abdominal Muscles – restoring the core strength is an important part of recovery. Sit-ups and crunches are not appropriate exercises post-partum. Here are three alternatives;
- Start by simply pulling the belly button inwards, while maintaining your breath. Hold 5-10 seconds and then relax. Do several times a day.
- Lie on your back, knees bent and arms by your side. Contract your tummy. Slowly lift one leg, extend it out, lower the extended leg and then pull back in. Be conscious to stabilise your body, back and pelvis. Do this exercise 10 times on each side.
- In the same position, create a cycle movement with your legs. Maintain 90 degrees at the hip joint. Be sure to hold the tummy contacted. Breath normally. Do this for 20 counts then relax. Repeat 3 times.
My body needs support – time to go shopping. Hopefully a supportive bra was purchased during pregnancy so a trip to the shops is not necessary but a good bra is very important. New supportive joggers are also a good idea. Your hormones will still make your ligaments more flexible. Old joggers may no longer give you the right support. Gym pants with a higher waist to sit over the belly can help keep things secure while you walk. New pants can always make you feel a little nicer too!
Breastfeeding? – even more important to keep hydrated! Water Water Water. There are mixed reports about the effect of exercise on your breast milk. Best idea. Wait 20mins after exercise before you feed your baby. That way if any lactic acid is still around it has time to disappear.
At the end of the day exercise makes you feel good. Fresh air makes you feel good. Being the best mum you can be makes you feel good. Listen to your body and enjoy the journey with your baby in tow. Get moving and have fun.
About Dr Jacey Pryjma
Dr. Pryjma, chiropractor, is in private practice on the Northern Beaches, Sydney. She focuses on pregnancy and paediatric care. She is an executive board member of the Chiropractors’ Association of Australia (NSW).
Her love for working with children lead her to develop her, ‘Well Kids’ program - chiropractic and healthy lifestyle program designed to get kids well and ensure all children have the tools to make excellent health decisions now and in the future. For more information please head to www.wellkids.com.au or email firstname.lastname@example.org