After having a baby, it is exciting (and terrifying) to think about getting fit and returning to exercise again.
There are huge benefits to be gained by getting moving for both your mental and physical wellbeing. So here are my top-tips on how to get going in those first few “hazy” weeks and months post-baby.
This new little human may require constant attention but it is important to take care of yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends and family to achieve this.
Mel’s Top tips
Listen to your body
(and your medical professionals). I once read that having a baby was like running a marathon. Having run numerous marathon’s and having had one baby I can report that while they are extremely different experiences they both required A LOT of energy and RECOVERY time is key! So take each day as a small step forward and allow your body time to heal. Remember it takes our bodies approximately 12-18 months to fully recover from pregnancy.
Fuel your body.
Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding taking care of a tiny human is exhausting and time-consuming with little to no “rest” time. You need enough fuel in the tank to keep going 24 hours a day. Eating little and often is the key, so ask your friends and family to bring food over to keep your fridge and freezer stocked so you can grab a bite while you feed the baby. Breastfeeding requires on average an extra 500 calories per day so make sure you are getting those extra snacks to help build and maintain your milk supply. I loved to snack on bagels with peanut butter. Savoury muffins are another great option and can be made in bulk and frozen. Try to maintain a balanced diet but don’t be concerned about the odd sweet treat, you will burn it up in now time!
Focus on the inside out.
Your pelvic floor is a muscle and it has just been “progressively challenged” for the last 9 months so regardless of your birthing process it needs to be focused on post-partum. Your pelvic floor muscle works in conjunction with your deep tummy muscle (Transversus Abdominus) and your diaphragm. Hopefully you will have been doing your Pelvic floor activation exercises during your pregnancy. But here is a reminder of how to below. You can start these in week one and continue alongside your cardiovascular exercise.
Activating your pelvic floor:
Lie on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. (the exercise can be done in sitting but required a little more focus). Imagine a diamond shape on the gusset of your shorts and think of drawing the points together and upwards creating an internal upwards lift of the pelvicfloor. Do this activation on your out breath. Try to breath normally throughout the exercise. Try to turn it on gently and then relax. Gradually increase the time-frame you can “hold” the pelvic floor starting with 1-2 seconds and building to 10 seconds. Don’t worry if this is challenging to start with just try a little every day.
Go slow and build strength and stamina gradually.
Walking is a great low impact way to start to build some cardiovascular fitness and you can do it with bub in the carrier of pram! Start off small with a gentle walk round the block (5-10 minutes) and gradually build adding 5-10 minutes per week. Dependent on your recovery and previous level of fitness you may feel able to walk further but you can also progress from a gentle flat walk to adding some hills to increase the challenge. We are lucky in Brisbane to have access to many beautiful parks and a walk along the river always makes me feel better.
Stretch your upper back.
All that feeding, lifting, cuddling and general caring for your bub takes its toll on your posture and particularly your upper back. Try stretching it out gently by reaching your arms overhead and then bending your elbows into a stop sign position to stretch both the upper back and open out across the front of the chest.
Patience, Persistence and Positivity……
is our family moto and I have definitely had to apply all three in my post-partum journey so far!
NB: Ensure you seek advice from your Doctor or paediatrician before commencing exercise. Ideally schedule a women’s health physio appointment the same week as your 6 week check up to review your pelvic floor health. Everyone’s birthing story is different and therefore recovery times will vary.