Babywearing and Exercise – keeping our babies close while getting fit!
At ‘Babes in Arms’ we believe that a gentle transition back to exercise is important after having a baby. It is unnecessary to feel any time-line pressure with getting back to your pre-baby size either! The bombardment of celebrity media often convinces mothers that shedding her pregnancy body can happen in weeks or a few short months. For ‘real’ women the process can take longer than the 9 months it took to grow our beautiful babies. Coupling ‘babywearing’ – the extended use of baby carrier or sling - with your exercise routine allows you to keep your baby close AND helps you to burn more calories as a result of the extra 5, 10 or even 15 kg you have in your carrier!
Before we explore various safe and realistic post-pregnancy exercises, we will cover a few safety tips to ensure that you enter this exercise stage with your overall well-being in mind.
In Australia we typically view the first 6 weeks postpartum as a period of rest and bonding. It is an opportunity for the mother to regain her energy and to establish breastfeeding and sleep patterns. For this reason, we encourage mothers to wait until after this period and their 6 week medical checkup before commencing any exercise.
Now let’s consider what safe exercise options are available post-partum and see which one(s) matches your lifestyle and personal preferences.
One of the biggest challenges any mother faces is finding an opportunity to incorporate fitness into a hectic schedule. Our pre-baby routines no longer work! Walking is simple and allows you to balance your need to get out and exercise with your baby’s daily routines.
Gentle walking is one of the best exercises for women after birth. It can be used by most women quite soon after birth – including those recovering from a C-section and those recovering from a difficult or long labour. Walking is free and easily accessible – you could even walk around your house if you are not yet ready to face the outside world! You can easily incorporate a short walk into your baby’s daily routine with the aid of an appropriate sling or carrier. (To find the sling/carrier that suits you and your lifestyle check out our Sling Chooser here).
Carrying your baby in a sling and going for a walk is simple and fuss-free. It does not involve lugging a heavy pram around and makes getting out of the house more achievable. Making the effort to walk around our neighbourhood encourages social contact and staves of feelings of isolation, key triggers for post-natal depression. Walking raises your happy hormones!
Exercise note: remember to engage your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles when walking, especially when carrying your baby in a sling or carrier.
Pilates (and even Yoga)
Joseph Pilates developed Pilates over 45 years ago emphasizes the concepts of core strength and stabilization. Wearing your baby in the front position can be incorporated into Pilates as long as you have a supportive carrier such as the ERGObaby carrier that supports your baby in the correct alignment. A great example of pilates whilst babywearing can be found here as illustrated by Synthecore's Baby & Me Pilates & More Workout.
Dancing burns off calories with every single movement. The beauty of dance is that it can be done anywhere – from home in front of a DVD (perhaps Zumba?) to a formal class at your local gym. You can utilise your carrier or sling to stablise your bub and keep close as you jive away to your favourite track and who knows…..perhaps the tune and movement will rock your baby to sleep! Here’s a group of mum’s enjoying some dance time with their bubs in an assortment of carriers.
Of course there are a range of other exercise options you can embrace whilst babywearing from cross country hiking to low impact sports. What exercise are you doing?
Whatever physical activity or exercise you choose, remember that it needs to suit you and your baby. Take your time, there is no rush. At the end of the day, you and your baby’s physical and mental health are paramount to any race to fit into your old jeans. Remember that it is normal for your body to look different, just as you now feel different! Having a baby opens a new world to you – focus on the joy and newness that this season offers. This special time goes so quickly, so enjoy it while you can.
*Babes in Arms is a babywearing specialist and not a health professional. The above article does not have any endorsement from health professionals. It is essential that you discuss post-partum exercise with your Health Professional before engaging in any.