By Olivia Brag
Regaining confidence in your body after having a baby is a very important step toward both physical and mental health for the postpartum woman, but we’re not just talking about weight loss. That feeling of putting on your favorite jeans again is a triumphant one, but it is important to arrive at that moment in a healthy way that respects what that amazing body of yours has just been through.
Everyone is different
When preparing a postpartum diet and exercise plan, it’s important to remember that every body and every pregnancy is different. Give yourself some time. Don’t compare yourself to “Becky with the good hair” who was back in her aerial yoga class the next day after giving birth to ten pound twins. That is not realistic, or common. Most doctors recommend going back to the gym no less than two months after delivery, sometimes more after a cesarean or difficult births.
When you do begin, take it slow, and remember that breast feeding can burn a thousand calories a day just on its own! You might find that you’re hungrier and more tired than you were before you got pregnant because of breastfeeding. With that said, if you’re two months or more into parenthood and settling in nicely, here are some of the do’s and don’ts of postpartum exercise.
A healthy diet is key
We know it’s tough with all the extra responsibility on your plate, but maintaining a healthy diet is essential. If you’re breastfeeding, you’re still “eating for two”, and you and your baby have specific needs.
Protein, extra good fats, like avocado, chia seeds, and fish, along with fruits and vegetables will give you the fuel you need to push through a workout while supplying the adequate nutrients you and your growing baby need. Do your best to avoid having too much coffee, or foods like tuna, swordfish, and mackerel, that may contain high levels of mercury. Not only are toxins and stimulants not great for baby, they will make you sluggish and irritable. Now that we’ve got diet under control, let’s get our bodies into gear!
It’s a marathon, not a sprint
There are so many exercise options for postpartum moms nowadays. From goat yoga to CrossFit, so where to start?
Since the journey back to feeling great in that baby-making bod is a long one, we would advise you start with walking. It may not sound like much, but walking or light hiking is a wonderful and natural way to ease back into an exercise routine and can be a nice opportunity for some much needed socializing as well. Whether it’s with a friend or strapping the baby to your partner and giving them a turn to “carry the load”, taking a good walk can burn away the calories and the stress.
More postpartum exercises
Another great place to start getting back into the swing of things in the water. Swimming and water aerobics allow for a low impact, high yield workouts that ease your body back into shape, while getting some cardio in to boot.
And lastly, the most talked about postpartum exercise on the planet… kegels! In most cases, you can start doing your kegels in the first few days after birth but be sure to ask your doctor if you have any concerns. Kegels can help with incontinence, and will strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, which are both essential parts of postpartum recovery.
Be patient with yourself
As always, with any type of workout, listen to your body. If you are in pain, stop and give yourself the day. Remember to be patient and don’t get down on yourself. Not only has your body been stressed and weakened, but your hormones are high, making it easier to judge yourself, or feel badly about your accomplishments. Rather than wishing it would all fall off at once, set realistic goals that allow you lots of mini victories along the way. If things get tough, look in the mirror and try to see yourself the way your baby sees you, full of love and admiration. And never forget, you are amazing, you are woman!