Congratulations on your new little bundle of joy! The focus in the first crazy weeks postnatally should be on getting to know your new baby and giving your body time to heal from the marathon of labour and birth AND the 9 months of pregnancy. Don’t expect to be getting back to the gym any time soon, some days just getting dressed will be a challenge so please be kind and patient with yourself in these early weeks/months.
There should be absolutely NO PRESSURE to lose your baby weight until you are ready, be that 6 weeks, 6 months, 1 year or more. Having said that, I firmly believe that gentle, appropriate exercise and good nutrition is key for good physical health and mental well-being for new mums, whose bodies (and minds!) need to be looked after in order to recover from pregnancy and birth. Most mums I know (including myself) can suffer from aches and pains, back problems, pelvic floor issues, weak core (and tummy separation) and low mood which all effects their daily lives and can makes us pretty miserable. Exercise has been proven to promote happiness and well being and we all know the physical health benefits of maintaining a healthy weight. So when you feel ready mamas, follow the steps below to get back to feeling like your old self again. You deserve to look after yourself as well as your new baby!
- Firstly always always be kind and patient with your body when working to lose the baby weight – it has taken 9 months to grow your amazing little bundle and can take that long or longer to lose the extra weight – and that is perfectly OK
- Breastfeeding can be a great way to help naturally lose some of the baby in the early weeks BUT please note that some people may actually hang onto those last 5 to 10 pounds until you stop nursing. Why? Because your body needs the extra fat stores to produce milk. Of course everyone knows someone who lost all their baby weight and more through breastfeeding alone (lucky them!). Remember everyone’s experiences are different but we all know the health benefits of breastfeeding for both mum and baby.
- Do your deep core exercises and correct breathing to restore your core - pelvic tilts and pelvic floor exercises can be done after delivery and its vital to start to activate these muscles as soon as possible. Some great safe, postnatal Pilates exercises that can be done immediately after birth can be found here.
- Quite simply - Get up and move. Which with a new baby can be easier said than done when you are stuck to the sofa feeding constantly. Additionally most new mums are too sleep-deprived and overwhelmed to even think about exercise. That's perfectly OK, and remember most women's bodies aren't ready for serious exercise until at least six weeks after giving birth, 10 weeks if they've had a C section or a difficult instrumental delivery. However, you could start by just walking with the buggy. If it feels good and doesn't cause or exacerbate bleeding, walk a little farther the next day. Pushing a buggy 1-2 miles in 30 minutes burns approx. 150 calories and getting out and about in the fresh air also does wonders for you and your baby. Do this until your 6-8 week postnatal checkup, after which you should be ready to do start more formal types of exercise.
- Body weight training will go a long way toward speeding up your metabolism. However, instead of going to the gym weight room, there are lots of safe body weight exercises you can do at home such as lunges and squats that feature in our postnatal strength programme AND it doesn’t have to take long – just 10 minutes of exercise can have great results.
- Watch calories and fat. Say no to empty-calorie foods such as sweets, crisps, biscuits, cakes…. (you get the idea!) as well as fad diets that eliminate entire food groups. Instead, fill your diet with a variety of nutrient-rich meals containing lean protein, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables. We definitely advise against going on a diet right after giving birth. To get your body back, you have to think health first, your body is working to repair itself and shouldn’t be deprived.
- Eating small, frequent meals throughout the day will keep your blood- sugar levels steady and help prevent you from overeating, as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner aim for a mid morning and mid afternoon snack. For more details and coaching on healthy eating and nutrition, plus a 100s of healthy recipe ideas have a look at our postnatal programme.
- Eat healthy snacks. As mentioned above, snacks are fine and help keep blood sugar levels even as long as you choose a healthy variety. To avoid temptation, keep only nutritious foods at your fingertips; veggies and hummus, hard boiled eggs, greek yoghurt with fruit, apple slices with almond butter are all good choices.
- Prioritise sleep… Yes I know this is an irritating one as obviously getting enough sleep with a baby is easier said than done… BUT, getting plenty of sleep has been shown to help with weight loss because you're not compelled to binge on high-calorie, high-sugar foods for energy. Strange sleep cycles like those forced on you by a newborn can upset your metabolism and make it harder for you to lose your pregnancy weight. Take a nap anytime the baby does, housework be damned. That way, you won't end up with a long-term sleep deficit, and you'll keep your energy levels and your potentially naughty cravings in check. Whatever you do, don't sacrifice sleep for exercise time in those early weeks. If you don't sleep enough, you won't have enough energy for satisfying workouts, anyway.
- Drink plenty of water! Hydration is key for adequate milk production (if breastfeeding) but it can also help you determine if you are actually hungry or just thirsty. Once you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated and that for many can be confused with feeling hungry, so drink up!
- Meet up with other mums to exercise and motivate each other. It’s always great to workout with friends, it can make it much more enjoyable and turns what some people view as a chore into a social event! Getting out and about at an exercise class designed for new mums with their babies is a great way to meet other mums. Or get together with some mummy friends and work out together in a local park or at someone’s house so you don’t have to worry about childcare as babies come too.
If you would like to find out more about safe and effective workouts check out Mama on the Move’s Postnatal Exercise and Pilates online programmes.