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Post-Natal Fitness for Mother and Baby
Having a baby and raising your family changes your life and certainly your body. But does that mean forever? Most women gain around 30 pounds during pregnancy and shed about 20 pounds within the first month after delivery. The last infamous and dreaded 10 pounds can be difficult to get off. While exercise can help you return to your pre-pregnancy weight, as well as help you manage the stress and strain of having a new baby in your life, you may wonder how you are going get back into shape and fit exercise into your new life with a baby.
First, be patient and gentle with yourself. Start slowly. You may not get right back into your favorite pair of jeans, but don't lose heart. Your body went through many changes during the 40-or-so weeks of your pregnancy, so getting your shape back should be a gradual process. Try setting a realistic goal for your weight loss, and give yourself another 40 weeks, or even a full year. Keep in mind that exercise gives you a mental boost and raises your metabolism while helping you get rid of that extra weight.
Before you get started, you will want to discuss exercise with your doctor or midwife. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends you gradually resume your pre-pregnancy routine. Some healthcare providers ask mothers to wait until after their six week check-up before starting or resuming aerobic exercises. Remember to start simple. At first you will only want to do some easy exercises, such as doing Kegels to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and walking. Start right away even in the hospital, putting your baby in a kangaroo style shirt, sling or wrap (make sure your baby is properly secured), and taking strolls around the corridors or outside, if you are at home and the weather is decent. Start off with short, leisurely walks. Listen to your body and don't do too much too fast. Nursing can also help with losing weight. While nursing mothers need an additional number of daily calories (up to 500), studies show that women who breastfeed are more likely to get back to their pre-pregnancy weight than those who formula feed.
You can also follow this simple exercise routine:
Troubled that your belly that looks like a deflated balloon? For starters, lie on the floor on a comfortable mat and place your abdomen so that the two of you are lying tummy-to-tummy. (If you had a cesarean-section, you will need to wait for your incision to heal.) Keeping your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor tighten your abdomen and squeeze your buttock muscles. You can also do pelvic tilts with your baby in this position by lifting your buttocks and lower back off the floor. Repeat these as many times as you like.
Stand against a wall to help strengthen and relax your back and shoulder muscles. With feet apart and arms down by your side, inhale and tighten your abdomen and push your shoulder blades together and down. Exhale and bring your shoulders together in front. This can be especially helpful as your arms and shoulders adjust to carrying a baby around.
Lower back/ abdomen
Get down on hands and knees, letting your head and shoulders relax, and arch your back up towards the ceiling, like a cat. Relax to your starting position and repeat. This will strengthen your lower back and abdomen.
For breastfeeding mothers, you will be more comfortable if you exercise when your breasts are not full of milk. Once your healthcare provider gives you the OK to resume or start more vigorous aerobic exercising, wearing two sport bras or a sport bra over your nursing bra can give you the additional support you may need. Remove them when you're done to prevent too much pressure on your breasts.
Second, get creative. If you start thinking of exercise as an active lifestyle for you and your baby, you'll be able to do more than you think. Your post natal exercising can be just as important for your baby as for you because you are modeling good habits. Babies in the western world spend a lot of time in carseats, swings, or cribs, and this can translate into a sedentary lifestyle and obesity as children and adults. A recent study reports that babies born in the US now, as compared to those born in 1980, are 59 percent more likely to be overweight.
Look for other ordinary things that you can do with your baby to burn calories-vacuuming, sweeping or even dancing-keeping in mind that when you ‘wear your baby' you're burning extra calories. Take walks before and after dinner. When the baby is having a fussy period, ‘put your baby on' and get moving outside. Babies love being under the wide expanse of the sky and it's good for mom, too.
Third, get involved and get Support. Look for mother and baby exercise groups in your area - such as yoga, Pilates, stroller activities and dancing classes. Several videos are on the market for post natal fitness. Try Gaiam's Shiva Rea Postnatal Yoga DVD.
Form your own group with mothers and their babies and instead of just talking or enjoying a cup of tea start moving. You will lean up faster, gain energy and friendships and spend incredible time bonding and interacting with your baby.
Also, feel free to let dad or the grandparents watch the baby while you exercise. Swimming, cycling, aquarobics, and light weight training are other acceptable types of post partum exercises.
Some Common Sense Tips for the first 6 weeks:
- Breathe slowly and deeply when you exercise, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth - this will help you to relax
- Tighten your abdominal and buttocks muscles to help protect your lower back
- Listen to your body and stop if you have increased vaginal bleeding, feel pain or get shortness of breath
- Exercise in 10-minute intervals throughout the day
- Exercise with your baby and enjoy!