I want to talk about tips and guidelines for exercising after your baby is born. But before we get into quick tips, let's just be real.
If you recently had a baby, you're tired. Understatement of the year, right? You're not really sure what day it is, you may find yourself struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety. You look in the mirror and don't recognize this body that is clearly attached to your head. Why do I still look pregnant?! Your body image might be playing strongly into your recovery time, or even your enjoyment of your new child.
Can I just say this doesn't make you a bad mom?
Hit the pause button on all those negative messages looping through your brain. They're not doing you any good. They're not motivating you, they're tearing you down. So take a deep breath, and keep reading.
Set Realistic Goals
- You gained weight over the course of 9 months. Don't expect it to come off in 1 or 2. As I've said, a good goal is 1-2 lbs per week. If you gained 30 lbs, that's 4-7 months.
- If you had a c-section, difficult birth, or complications, you will need much more time to recover before exercising again than a woman who did not experience any of those. It doesn't do you any good to begin before your body is ready. In fact, you risk muscle injury, fatigue, heavy bleeding, or a hernia.
- That said, if you didn't have complications, there's really no (physical/medical) reason to wait. You can get back into things immediately. Still be mindful of avoiding too hard too soon, though. Ease your way back in!
- Go back to those guidelines for healthy adults. Aim for at least 150 minutes of activity that gets your heart rate up, and strength training twice per week. Lucky you, you have a child that constantly needs to be held, picked up, or bounced - you can strength train on a regular basis!
Keep the Benefits in Mind
Regular exercise after pregnancy will provide all the same benefits as it does the general population, and then some. Like restoring muscle strength and tone, getting those abdominal muscles back (what abdominal muscles?!), improve bladder control, boost your energy, improve your mood, relieve stress, and prevent or help treat postpartum depression.
Also, it benefits your baby! Exercise is associated with a more relaxed mother-child relationship. And including physical activity in your daily routine sets a positive example for your child. Yeah, you're nailing this parenting thing.
Problem-Solve and Get Creative
The biggest barriers to physical activity as a new mom are lack of childcare and lack of time. Sometimes you need to get creative to make things happen.
- Exercise with the baby. Each age or stage will have different success with these options. But consider a Mommy and Me yoga class, Strollercize, Baby Boot Camp, or Fit4Mom (links are all for Dallas options).
- Find other new moms who are willing to either exercise amidst the crazy of the kids, or who will alternate childcare with you. She gets her workout during a morning nap, you get yours in during the afternoon nap. Or alternate days.
- Join a gym that offers childcare. This may not be practical until your baby is 6 months or older, but it's a great long-term option.
- Get a good sports bra. Not going to give you more time or better childcare, but it will make it all a more pleasant experience.
- Make exercise "you" time. Pay a sitter a couple of times a week if you need to - it's worth investing in your emotional and physical health!
- Start with something low impact and simple - like a walk. Build up in mileage and intensity from there.
- Kegel exercises and the pelvic tilt are both great for transitioning your body back to your normal exercise routine. Also, they can reduce the risk of future incontinence.
- Consider simple body weight exercises like push-ups and lunges. As you practice with your balance, you can even do lunges while holding the baby.
- Invest in a few good DVDs, or subscribe to a fitness service like DailyBurn or FitFusion. You can workout at any time at home.
I've heard that lactic acid can build up in breast milk and harm my baby? Is that true?
While lactic acid can accumulate in breast milk after an intense workout, it won't hurt the baby. Some evidence has shown that babies don't feed quite as well due to the flavor. If you sense that is the case, it might be better to feed before, or wait an hour after exercising.
Will exercise impact the amount of milk I can produce?
There is evidence that exercise does NOT adversely affect the mother's milk production. It does not reduce the nutritional quality of breast milk.
I've got a special event a couple of months after my due date. I want to do whatever it takes to lose the weight and feel normal at the event. That means more than 1-2 pounds per week. Is that ok?
Here is where exercise - combined with a calorie restriction - can impact breast milk. Losing weight this rapidly will impact breast milk production. For many moms, this is non-negotiable. For others, it is a difficult decision. The benefits of breastfeeding are incredible, for both baby and mom. The reality is, not everyone is able to - for a host of reasons. If you will not be breastfeeding, then losing the weight faster is ok for you.