Congratulations! You survived the joys and the discomfort, the emotional rollercoaster, the physical changes, the heartburn, the stretch marks, the kicking, the sleeplessness, the crazy and the
amazing challenge that is pregnancy. You’ve brought the little bundle of joy home from the hospital, you’re slowly settling into some sort of routine and you can see light at the end of the sleepless, hazy tunnel that is the ‘newborn’ phase.
So now your thoughts begin to turn to feeling back to your normal self, and part of that process is losing your baby belly. A couple of important things to remember include:
- Your body didn’t change overnight. It took 9 months to get to the end of the pregnancy, give yourself plenty of time to get back to your pre-pregnancy shape.
- Life is certainly different with a new baby, and you might have to think differently about fitting in your exercise around your little bundle’s schedule.
- Remember that dieting for weight loss is NOT recommended post-natal, ESPECIALLY if you are breastfeeding – you need to eat a balanced, varied diet to provide all the nutrients that you and your bub need. You actually have a HIGHER calorie requirement for breastfeeding than you do for pregnancy!
- Wear a supportive bra – it might seem funny, but the additional weight and size of your breasts can be quite uncomfortable during exercise if they’re not properly supported.
- Cut yourself some slack! Having a baby is hard work, you’ll be tired, still waiting for your hormones to return to normal, and attending to your babies needs every minute of the day – so make sure you set yourself realistic goals, and don’t feel disappointed if it is harder than you thought. Being a new mum is one of the hardest jobs in the world, and you are doing amazing!
What NOT to do
While it might seem like a good idea to start doing some sit ups to tighten up those weakened abs – the LAST thing you should be doing is direct abdominal exercises like full sit ups or leg raises – these exercises can exacerbate rectus abdominis diastaisis (where the abdominal muscles tear and separate during pregnancy), and over time can cause chronic lower back pain and postural issues.
Also avoid high intensity bouncing movements until your pelvic floor is strong and stable (around 12-16 weeks post-natal if you are consistent with your exercises) these types of movements are highly likely to cause incontinence for a weakened pelvic floor.
What TO do
After a few weeks of gently activating and strengthening the deep abdominal muscles you should start to feel stronger and more stable through your core and pelvis. Once you have the thumbs up from your doctor at your 6 week check-up, then you can look at branching out into other forms of exercise.
Here are some ideas for exercises that are safe and effective to complete at home, with no equipment and can be squeezed in any time you have a spare minute.
- Walking! – Pop the baby in the stroller and go for a walk. If you want a bit more of a challenge you can try some hills, go through more challenging terrain like a pebbly path or grass (only if
your stroller can handle it), and try alternating fast and slow walking for some intervals.
- Squats – Squats are a great exercise to engage all the big muscles in your legs and bum, as well as using your core for stability and balance. Be mindful of your posture, as your abs are still weak and low back is tight – try to keep a nice flat back and don’t overarch the spine.
- Wall angels – To balance out your overly tightened chest muscles, it’s important to use your upper back muscles. Standing with your back and feet against a wall, tuck your pelvis under so that your low back presses against the wall. Put your arms straight up over your head and touch the wall with the back of your hands, wrists and elbows. Keeping your low back firmly pressed against the wall, slowly slide your arms down the wall and then back up again (like you’re making snow angels on the wall = wall angels). This movement will engage all the
important muscles in your upper back and back-of-the-shoulder.
- Hip Lifts – Lying on your back on the floor, knees bent, feet flat about 30cm from your bum. Push your hips up into the air and squeeze your glutes, lower back down, just touch the floor and then lift again. For an added challenge try one leg at a time. This will engage most of the big muscles in your legs and bottom.
- Step ups – using a small step, stool or anything you have available, simply alternate stepping up and down with one leg at a time. You can do it slowly and focus on strengthening your legs, or more quickly to increase heart rate and build cardio.