06 May 5 things to remember about exercising after baby
Life changes considerably after having a baby or two. Many of us set big goals when it comes to our fitness post-baby. Whether it’s how much exercise we should be getting or what weight we’d like to get back to, we often put a lot of pressure on ourselves.
But anyone who has had a baby knows that life becomes unpredictable. Some days just getting through the day is hard enough without meeting the Australian guidelines for physical activity.
So here are 5 things to remember in this time…
1. Be kind to yourself
You are amazing. You carried and delivered (in whatever way you managed to, go you!) a baby into the world. Good going. And now you’re learning how to become a mum. So, in this time (especially the first 3 months of adjusting to having a baby), try to see exercise as something that supports you and baby.
We have all seen the mums and prams brigade, walking the streets solo or together. Why? Because walking is easy, safe and it’s great exercise! Plus, baby loves it and mum gets some much needed fresh air. A daily walk can be enough in those first few months.
2. Prioritise your well-being over strict sleep schedules
So, you’ve spent 45 minutes trying to settle your baby to sleep? Or are you into a second cycle of sleep? Or some other form of prescribed sleep that you’ve been told by others your baby must have otherwise they’ll end up not meeting developmental milestones? As soon as this happens, reach for your baby carrier/pram and head out the door. Anywhere will do! Trust me, everyone will be better off for it.
3. Be mindful of your weight, but not overly self-critical or obsessive
Take one look around any new mothers group and you will see a group of women who, for the most part, have no idea what they’re doing. On top of that many will still be carrying a few kilograms of baby weight for some time after having a baby. This is normal. Yes, it’s important to watch what you’re eating, but especially if you’re breastfeeding – you’re going to be hungry. Let yourself be nourished! Focus on what your amazing body achieved by bringing your baby into your arms and trust that in time, the weight will come off.
4. Look for baby friendly exercise groups
When I say baby friendly, I don’t mean ‘Mums and Bubs’ groups that require you to pay-up-front and lose hundreds of dollars when you can’t make it. I mean casual, welcoming exercise groups with baby friendly instructors. There are gym clubs who support mothers and their children so you can do a few sprints and then compare notes on baby sleep with the overwhelmed mumma next to you. Multi-tasking at its finest! Be aware though, you may need assistance from an Accredited Exercise Physiologists to know which exercises are safe for you to do in a gym environment.
5. Reach out for help if you need it
If this period of time seems all too hard, then maybe it’s time to get some help. Post natal depression is real and doesn’t discriminate. This gig is challenging, and although reaching out for help can feel like an admission of failure, it isn’t. There are some terrific people out there, so start by talking with your GP or maternal child health nurse. If post partum issues are complicating your return to exercise, you may need to ask your GP for a referral to an Accredited Exercise Physiologist. They will work alongside you (and baby) to help get you on track. To find an Exercise Physiologist near you, click here.
For more specific information about when to return to exercise and other considerations whether you have had a vaginal or caesarean birth check out American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists FAQs for Exercise Post-Partum.
Lisa Broman is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, and yoga and Pilates instructor. She is passionate about all things wellness and works alongside her clients to make realistic, life-long changes in behaviour and exercise. She has been working for the last 15 years in hospitals, private practise and community health. Her latest career development is the steep learning curve of mothering two under 3.