Ask any new mother, and they’ll tell you: getting into shape after giving birth is not easy. However, research shows that beginning a regular workout program soon after having brings countless benefits to a new mom’s health, including lessening the risk of postpartum depression.
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Of course, not all pregnancies are the same and every delivery is different. You’ll need to give your body standard time to recover from child birth, which is at least six weeks, and more if you’ve had complications or surgery. Always seek your doctor’s advice before starting your exercise program after giving birth. If you experience headaches, extreme soreness, heavy bleeding, and any other unusual post-partum symptoms, stop what you’re doing immediately and consult your physician.
Getting back into your exercise routine can be intimidating for new mothers, so remember to take a progressive, gentle approach to lessen the risk of quick regression and risk for injury. Slowly get moving and listen to your body.
Without further adieu, here are some tips to get back into a health and fitness routine after giving birth.
A lot of new moms are either overwhelmed or sleep-deprived to think about how they’ll execute a workout. Most women’s bodies are not yet ready to get back into a fitness routine until they reach the sixth week postpartum, and it may take longer if they’ve undergone surgery or a Cesarean section. However, if you feel like moving, you should start with light exercises to gently pump up your system.
“The worst thing a woman can do is try too hard to do too much too soon — if you do, you’re likely to find yourself exhausted and discouraged and less likely to continue, and you’ll wind up carrying that baby weight a lot longer, ” says fitness trainer Sue Fleming, creator of the Buff line of workout DVDs including Buff New Moms.
During the first six weeks, rigorous exercise is not recommended, however you shouldn’t be totally sedentary, either. Although exercise may feel like the last thing you want to do as a new mother, it does have benefits. Gentle lower belly exercises and pelvic floor exercises are all it takes to help your body recover at this stage. Make sure to do gentle upper-and-lower-back stretches as well (you’d be surprised at how carrying a baby around takes a toll on your muscles). As soon as you feel up for it, try getting out of the house and walking around with your baby, either pushing him in a stroller or strapped on as a marsupial. Enjoy a 10 to 20 minute walk, and don’t forget to bring water and snacks with you.
Do It For The Right Reasons
Elizabeth Cutler, co-founder of SoulCycle, says she’s inspired by moms who transform their figures after baby — and she would know. She was inspired to open the popular cycling studio chain in 2006, when she was trying to shed 45 pounds of baby weight.
“What happens is that once you’re a parent, you have to focus on your priorities,” Cutler says. “You have to be able to deliver your best, stay healthy and strong for your kids. There’s no question that as we age and have children, our bodies change. You have to find your core again, your strength after a baby. At first I struggled to hold a 10-pound baby.”
Cutler recommends that moms re-think what it means to have a “better body,” especially now that you’ve got a little one in tow.
“It doesn’t have to be a skinnier body, just a healthy, stronger body,” she says. “Fitness is such a key part of my life, post-children, and I see that in so many of my friends. You want to get your body back, your strength, maintain your energy and those endorphins.”
Breastfeeding can help women shed weight and burn calories effortless after birth — up to 700 calories each day — which is why you’ll need to consume more calories to make up for the deficit if you choose to breastfeed your baby.
“You should be eating at least 1,800-2,000 calories a day while breastfeeding, and if you eat less you will not only be shortchanging yourself, you’ll be shortchanging your baby. You can’t produce quality milk if you are not eating enough,” says nutritionist Elizabeth Somer, RD, author of Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy.
For this reason, Riley advises patients to not even think about dieting until after the first six-week visit. “If you can lose a couple of pounds before then, that’s OK, but you really don’t want to cut your food intake dramatically during these early weeks. You need the energy, and you need the calories for breastfeeding,” she says.
The good news is many women increase the calories they consume, while losing weight safely and quickly as they breastfeed. Keep in mind however, that as you discontinue breastfeeding, you’ll need to cut down your calories.
A Clean Diet For You And Your Baby
If you hadn’t done so during your pregnancy (and fair enough: cravings are cravings!) you’ll want to focus on ditching processed, sugary junk foods that do nothing for your health — this means sodas, sweets, chips and any other frozen or pre-packaged snacks that are filled with added sugar, chemicals or unpronounceable ingredients. Remember that if you’re breastfeeding, what you’re feeding yourself is also feeding your baby. Focus on clean eating — fresh fruits and veggies, lean protein sources, legumes, whole grains, healthy fats (like olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds) and organic dairy products to fuel your body and give your baby the nutrition he or she really needs.
Keep It Simple
There’s a reason why family and friends bring pre-made casseroles for new moms to put in their freezers; they’re easy to heat up, and provide easy nutrition for a busy mother.
Thankfully, there’s many ways to eat healthy as a new mom without spending hours in the kitchen meal-prepping like Julia Child. Focus on easy, clean meals and make plenty of leftovers that can be heated up in a pinch. Stir fries, slow cooker recipes and easy-to-make dinner salads are just a few tried and true ideas.
For a healthy and delicious snacks, try some of these super-easy options:
- Egg sandwich made with whole-wheat bread
- Oatmeal with berries and nuts
- Carrots, celery, and peppers with hummus
- Omelettes or poached eggs
- Banana or apple with all-natural nut butter
- Fruit shakes or smoothies
Bond With Other New Moms
A major issue when it comes to working out after giving birth is a lack of energy and motivation. Many new mothers feel that they do not have enough in the tank to get through the day, let alone to work out regularly. For these mothers, it may be helpful to enlist the help of other new moms who are in a similar situation. Some new moms create running and workout groups, or buddy up to attend weekly yoga classes together. If child care is an issue (as it is for most new mothers), you can try hosting your very own mini-workout sessions for new moms, and encourage mothers to bring their babies with them.
Find A Workout That Works For You
Whether you’re a running fanatic, a yogi, a Zumba enthusiast or a fan of strength-training, the kinds of workouts you do as a new mom are entirely up to you and your particular goals. The main priority should simply be to get moving; as you get more energy, you may feel up to doing more and diversifying your workouts. For some women, enlisting the help of a personal trainer after baby can do wonders for their motivation and self-confidence. Eventually, you’ll get to a place where you’re incorporating cardio, building strength and improving your flexibility in your workouts.
Focus On Sleep
Research shows that sleep and weight loss are intrinsically linked, with those who are continually sleep deprived at a higher risk of gaining weight. Chronically sleep-deprived individuals make up for a lack of energy with sugary foods and excess calories, A disturbed sleep pattern can disrupt your metabolism. Of course, getting enough sleep with a newborn at home is easier said than done, but the takeaway here is to get it where you can. Prioritize your sleep as much as possible and reap the benefits.
Now that you’ve welcomed your little bundle of joy, it’s time to get back into a fitness routine. Take things slow, be gentle on yourself, and focus on easy, simple changes. Prioritize your health for sake of your baby as well, so you can be the happiest, healthiest mother you can be.