Congratulations! Bringing a baby into the world is no easy feat. The postpartum period is exhausting physically, mentally, and emotionally. That’s why it’s so important to remember to take extra-good care of yourself, though you’re undoubtedly focused on caring for your new little one. While you’re probably short on time and energy these days, leave some room in your daily routine for gentle post-pregnancy exercise. Spending just fifteen minutes a day moving your body in a healthy way can help you to start feeling like your old self. Let’s explore some of the best strategies for safely returning to your workout routine in the postpartum period.
- When Can I Begin Postpartum Exercises?
- Post-Pregnancy Exercise: Take It Easy
- More Tips for Postpartum Healing
When Can I Begin Postpartum Exercises?
For the first week or two after delivery, it’s difficult to imagine ever wanting to exercise again. Giving birth via Caesarean section entails major recovery time, but healing from vaginal delivery is often no walk in the park either. Be sure to follow your doctor’s or midwife’s instructions for healing, and don’t push yourself to start working out before you’re been cleared for it. Some postpartum women may be ready for light exercise just a few days after leaving the hospital. Others may need weeks or even months to heal fully. No two pregnancies and deliveries are exactly alike, so your experience as a new mom may not be like your sister’s or your best friend’s. Be kind and patient with yourself as you adjust to your life after giving birth.
Post-Pregnancy Exercise: Take It Easy
The best postpartum exercise for you is whatever gets you moving your body regularly. The American College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians recommends thirty minutes of moderate exercise five days a week. That probably sounds daunting when you’re under-slept and up to your elbows in diapers and dirty laundry, but you can make it work. When the weather is nice, going for a thirty-minute walk with your baby is a great way to get some fresh air. (Bonus: if your little one is fussy, he or she may nap peacefully on the ride!) On days when you don’t feel up to leaving the house, try a streaming workout routine in your main living area. Put your baby down for a nap, start the dishwasher and washing machine, and settle in for a half hour of gentle yoga or Pilates. You’ll feel so accomplished when you’ve finished!
There will be days when you feel like you can’t put your baby down to get anything done. If your little one is feeling extra needy, try baby wearing while taking a brisk walk. You can also try laying your baby on a blanket or activity mat and doing your yoga routine right next to him or her. As your baby grows and becomes more aware of what’s happening, they may even take an interest in what you’re doing and try to join in!
You’ve likely noticed some significant changes in your postpartum body, some may be permanent, while others may return to your pre-baby norm. Stretch marks, for example, are notoriously difficult to eliminate. Others, like bladder weakness, may be treatable through physical therapy and specialized exercises. If you have trouble eliminating your after-pregnancy belly, ask your doctor if you have diastasis recti, which is the separation of the abdominal muscles. You can sometimes treat it with exercise, but it’s important to know that you have it. Some exercises like crunches and planks will worsen your diastasis recti. Ask your doctor to refer you to a physical therapist who can help design a workout for post-pregnancy that addresses your concerns.
More Tips for Postpartum Healing
As you find your “new normal,” you must resist the temptation to compare yourself to other mothers. You may know a new mom who easily dropped her pregnancy pounds within a few weeks of delivery. It doesn’t mean you’re weak or lazy if it doesn’t happen for you. Remember, everyone is different, and your results will be as individual as yours. Some moms find that breastfeeding helps them to drop excess weight, while others don’t lose anything until their babies have weaned. Your body has been through a lot in recent weeks, and it requires extra patience and TLC (just like your baby does). Take some time to appreciate the amazing thing your body just did: growing and delivering new life into the world.
Taking good care of yourself during the postpartum period entails more than regular exercise, as important as it is. You also need to eat a balanced diet—think lean protein, whole grains, fresh fruits and veggies, and a minimal amount of refined carbohydrates. Caring for a newborn is hard work (not that I need to tell you), and your body requires fuel for the job. You should follow the same healthy diet as when you were pregnant, with a few exciting additions, like sushi and sashimi. If you’ve missed your occasional glass of red wine during the past nine months, it’s safe to enjoy now that your baby is here. Just be sure to wait at least two hours after a single alcoholic beverage before breastfeeding.
It’s also important that you get enough sleep, and I know that’s a huge challenge when your baby wakes for frequent night feedings. You won’t get a full and uninterrupted night of sleep for a while, so do the best you can (and catch naps during the day when your baby is snoozing). If you have relatives offering to watch the baby so you can enjoy a night out, ask if you can use the time to rest instead. Believe it or not, one day, your little one will sleep through the night consistently—and so will you.
When we become parents, we’re conditioned to believe we need to be selfless at all times—the children’s needs come first! While your baby is the new center of your world, please remember that proper self-care isn’t selfish—it’s vital. It helps you to stave off postpartum depression and be the happy, loving, and mentally present parent your baby needs. Taking care of yourself is taking care of your baby. And it’s also what you deserve. So rest up, move your body, and enjoy all the wonderful things about being a brand-new mother.