If you’re worried you still look pregnant several weeks after the birth of your baby, you’re not alone. Look at it this way: it took nine months for your body to prepare for the birth, so it’s going to take a while for you to get back in shape. After having a baby, you may well find that exercise is the last thing on your mind, but with these helpful tips you’ll be on your way to beating the baby weight before you know it.
The early days
One area of your body you should be focusing on immediately after the birth of your baby are your pelvic floor muscles. These muscles hold your bladder, womb and lower bowel in place and therefore it’s no shock that they are weakened by both pregnancy and labour. That’s why some of us leak urine when we jump, sneeze or hear a funny joke. This happens to around a third of new mums. The good news is that, with a little work and subtle clenching, the pelvic floor can return to its previous strength and function. An easy way to master the technique of a pelvic floor contraction is to squeeze the muscles as if to stop the flow of urine, hold for a few seconds and then release. It’s desirable to repeat this exercise up to 10 times an hour – you can do this while feeding your baby or catching up on TV.
Despite the sleepless nights and the stress that comes with being a new mum, a bit of gentle exercise can lift your mood and actually give you more energy. An easy way to integrate exercise into your life again is to aim to get out in the fresh air and walk with the pram every day – this will benefit both you and your baby. Not only will you feel happier, but you’ll also be toning muscles and burning calories to boot.
Six weeks onwards
After your six week post-natal check (or ten weeks if you had a caesarean section), you can start to up the ante in your exercise routine – making cardiovascular fitness workouts a must do. This can be anything from light jogging, cycling, swimming and aerobics, to walking up and down the stairs at home.
It is important to keep these workouts light at first, increasing intensity and impact very gradually. Aim for 30 minutes of activity 5-7 times a week. This can be broken down to three 10-minute sessions per day if you prefer.
Aside from getting your heart pumping and squeezing those pelvic floor muscles, it’s a good idea to work the largest muscle groups of the body such as the chest, legs, bottom and back. This will help to burn extra calories, challenge your endurance and will have you ready to take on that energetic toddler in no time. Ideal exercises which you can do at home while your baby is near you or asleep are:
- Squats – complete 2 sets of 25.
- Lunges – complete 2 sets of 25.
- Back extensions – lie on your tummy, placing your hands at your side and keep your feet on the floor. Raise the head and shoulders a few inches, looking forwards and slightly down. Gently lower back down. Complete 2 sets of 12.
- Abdominal curls – lie on your back with your legs bent and your feet flat on the floor, placing your hands at the sides of your head. Curl up the spine, gently lifting and lowering the head and shoulders in a controlled manner. Complete 2 sets of 15.
Although it is important for you to aim to work on the above fitness components as much as possible, the best advice I can give you as a new mum is to take up an exercise that you enjoy. It goes without saying that exercising with a new baby in tow will be a bit of a juggling act – requiring precious time and effort – but the physical and emotional rewards will be worth it.
About the author
Deborah Beard has been a fitness instructor, tutor and assessor for YMCAfit since 2003, teaching a range of courses aimed at fitness professionals. She specialises in exercise and pregnancy, and has recently become a mum herself! You can buy her guide New Baby, New You: The Need to Know Guide to Postnatal Health and Happiness on Amazon.