Losing that mummy tummy - exercise after birth

Exercise can make a huge difference to your recovery after you have your baby – but how do you fit an exercise routine in around your baby?

Exercise can make a huge difference to your recovery after you have your baby – even if you are feeling exhausted from 24-7 baby care. It’ll boost your self-esteem and confidence by getting you back in shape, give you a shot of much-needed energy and help fight the baby blues and postnatal depression by combating any stress and anxiety you may be feeling. The trouble is, you’ll need to fit any exercise routine in around your baby – and that’s where it can get tricky!

Take it slow

How much and what you do does depend on how fit you were both before and during your pregnancy and you need to have realistic expectations for what you can achieve. Face it: your abs take a real beating during pregnancy and you’re not going to lose the jelly-belly overnight. Breastfeeding is also something you will need to bear in mind – exercising burns calories so you’ll need to make sure you consume enough to maintain your milk supply.

If you had an uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery you should be OK to start exercising again around six weeks after the birth (though you should begin doing pelvic floor exercises with a day or so of having your baby – these increase blood flow to your pubic area and help increase circulation to the area), but check with your doctor or midwife first as a precaution – they may even recommend that you start working out sooner if all looks well. Bear in mind that you may have to wait longer if your baby was delivered by caesarean.

If at any time you feel pain or discomfort while exercising, or your post-birth bleeding becomes heavier or starts up again having previously stopped, check with your doctor.

1 Make a space

You’ll find it much easier to stick to your new exercise routine if you have a proper designated exercise area where you can exercise in comfort. It can be as simple as a yoga mat on the floor in a corner of your bedroom, or large enough to include an exercise bike or treadmill.

2 Time it for convenience

One thing that can put new mums off even starting an exercise routine is the notion that they simply don’t have time to go at it for 45 minutes. In reality you don’t have to – two 10-minute exercise sessions a day will start making a difference to your shape as quickly as two weeks after you start exercising.

3 Think ‘mummy-and-me’

The best way to fit in exercise around your baby is to have him there while you do it. Make sure your exercise space has enough room for his play mat or car seat, or some toys he can play with if he’s sitting up. If he gets bored of watching you cycle or lift weights, put on a CD and dance around him, skip rope or twirl a hula hoop around your waist and hips – it’ll keep the cardio workout in full swing, while keeping your baby entertained!

4 Work that baby!

Your baby doesn’t have to just sit and watch, you know – you can incorporate him into your routine. Try using him as a free weight – lie on your back, with your knees bent and hold him under his arms as he sits on your chest. Now lift him slowly up and then back down, without locking your elbows. He can also help you crunch: lie him back against your bent legs, with your hands under his arms to hold him safely in position. Then contract your ab muscles to slowly raise your head and shoulders off the floor. Looking to shift fat from your thighs and bottom? Holding your baby close to your body with him facing out and your hands under his arms, stand with your feet hips’ width apart 10-12 inches away from a smooth surface, such as a door. Lean back against the door, so your back is flat against it. Now bend your knees to lower your upper body as far as you can, back still flat against the door.

5 Turn outings into workouts

You don’t necessarily have to strap on the in-line skates and buy a three-wheel jogger, a la Tom Cruise. A simple walk to the shops or around the park is an opportunity to exercise while your baby takes in the sights and gets some fresh air. Stand tall instead of slumping into the stroller to push it, and stride out briskly to make the distance really count – it’s also worth using ankle weights for the extra little push. When he’s really tiny keep to that brisk walk, but as he gets bigger and strong enough to sit and support his head, gradually work up to a gentle jog. Turn your walk into a strength training session too, by carrying your baby in his sling or a back carrier.

6 Sneak it in

Use every opportunity to exercise, not just your assigned 10-15 minutes. You can do pelvic floor exercises while you breastfeed; lie down beside your baby to do a few crunches and pelvic tilts while he kicks his legs before you put on a clean nappy; side leg lifts while you’re standing at the nappy-changing station. If your baby is colicky and wants to be carried, march on the spot with her held close in your arms or in her sling.

7 Find a friend

If you’re meeting up with the other new mums you got to know in your antenatal classes, why not make the first 10-15 minutes of every get-together an exercise session? Stride around the block together before you sit down to chat, or better yet arrange to meet at a local park or community centre where you can do a mini aerobics session. If you’re meeting up at each other’s homes, borrow a Pilates or fitness DVD or video from the library and exercise along to it as a group, or club together to buy one.

8 Class system

Most local fitness centers offer classes for postnatal fitness and many of them encourage mums to take their baby with them and incorporate him into some of the exercise routines. At least you’ll know you won’t be the only mum with a crying baby in tow!

Related links

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Find out more

  • Guild of Pregnancy and Postnatal Exercise Instructors has an online search facility so you can find a qualified local fitness instructor who is experienced in postnatal exercise.
  • Buggyfit offers hour-long classes designed to burn calories and strengthen and tone specific muscle groups. 
  • Newborn Fitness offers advice, local exercise classes and personal fitness training. 
  • From Baby to Bikini by Greg Waggoner and Doug Stumpf. Simple, do-able exercises and nutrition advice.
  • Lose Your Mummy Tummy by Julie Tupler. Deceptively simple abdominal and breathing exercises designed to firm and flatten abs after pregnancy and birth.
  • Body After Baby by Jackie Keller. Meal plans, speedy workouts you can do with your baby and 100+ recipes.

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