The blissful arrival of your new bundle of joy brings dramatic changes to your life, and to your body. If you are wondering when you’ll be able to get out of your stretchy pants and back into your pre-pregnancy jeans, you are not alone.
Getting back into shape after childbirth takes time; how much time depends on many different factors. If you had a traumatic delivery or caesarean birth, more recovery time is needed. If you were active during your pregnancy, you will probably have an easier time returning to exercise. Most women should give themselves at least four weeks to recover from labour and to become accustomed to motherhood before returning to a regular fitness program. During the early weeks after childbirth, light walking is usually advised. Lower abdominal contractions and pelvic floor strengthening exercises (Kegels) are also suitable exercises to do soon after birth.
Once you have the go ahead from your doctor or midwife, you can start adding more exercise into your day. Even when you are physically ready to exercise and eager to start, however, you may find that fitting exercise into your day is a challenge. Sleepless nights can leave you exhausted, and working out while your baby is ‘napping’ does not always work so well if your baby has an unpredictable schedule. Here are some ideas to fit exercise into you and your baby’s schedule.
1. Exercise little and often. You do not need to exercise continuously for 30 minutes or an hour to do your body some good. Aim to fit in small segments of exercise throughout your day. You can do a few squats while waiting for your baby’s bottom to dry during a diaper change, push-ups while playing on the floor with your infant, or lower abdominal contractions while enjoying skin-to-skin contact with your newborn.
2. Exercise with your baby. Most babies love exercising with mom! They love being held while you do squats or walking lunges, or laying on the floor looking up at you as you do push-ups. Once your infant has adequate head and neck support, try using your baby as a weight to do biceps curls or chest presses. To learn more exercises and to meet other new moms, join a mom and baby exercise class in the community.
3. Walk or run with your baby. Most babies enjoy the fresh air and gentle vibrations of being pushed in a stroller while mom gets some cardio exercise. An all-purpose stroller will work for power walks on pavement or hard gravel. For the active mom who wants to kick up her exercise level, a jogging stroller is invaluable. Stroller classes are a great way to get outside, get fit and enjoy the support of other new moms. Using a front carrier is another way for your baby to join you on a walk. Once babies are able to sit up on their own (usually around six or seven months), you can also try carrying your baby in a hiking backpack. When your baby is a bit older and heavier, carrying him on your back is much easier than using a front carrier.
4. Do an exercise video at home. Try a postnatal exercise video while your baby is napping or arrange for someone else to care for your baby while you exercise. If you are on your own, don’t worry if your exercise is interrupted. You can always press the pause button and continue your workout later on. Even if you are unable to resume your workout, exercising for 10 minutes is better than nothing at all!
5. Go to a gym that has daycare. Sometimes it’s nice to take care of yourself while someone else takes care of your baby. Joining a gym that has daycare is a sure-fire way to enjoy an uninterrupted workout. In Chilliwack, both the Leisure Center and Pumphouse Health and Fitness offer daycare. Babies must be over six months of age at the Leisure Center, while the Pumphouse cares for babies starting at a younger age. Call for details.
While getting back into shape after having a baby can be challenging, being an active and fit mom is definitely worth the effort!