The body goes through significant changes during a pregnancy. It is the one time that so many women feel it is acceptable to eat larger portions and indulge in every craving. For most, the mistake is not realized until after the baby has arrived. At this point, a new mum swears she will work out and eat right with any future pregnancies!
It isn’t fun accepting a newly postpartum body; there may be stretch marks, loose skin, and more weight than expected still sticking around. It can be agony trying to squeeze back into pre-baby clothes. But beyond all of this, getting back into shape is something a new mother should do for herself. It’s easy to throw the old clothes into a storage bin and replace them with larger sizes, but it shouldn’t be the first step; exercise and a healthy lifestyle should be worked on before giving in to a new wardrobe.
Every woman is built differently – before, during, and after a pregnancy. Each mother will heal a bit differently after giving birth as well. There are genetic factors, hormonal rebalancing, swelling, fat storage for milk supply, and other reasons for each woman’s body to vary when trying to reclaim its pre-body shape. While it truly may not be attainable for every mother to get into her ideal body shape, it is possible for every woman to reach a place in which she feels healthy, strong, and happy. It is also possible to get into the best shape of her life after having a baby.
As a pre- and postnatal exercise specialist, I have worked with mothers of every shape and size! For those wanting to get (and stay) in shape after pregnancy, I recommend the following:
The body must heal prior to beginning a workout routine. The breastfeeding relationship should be well-established, and you should not be bleeding anymore
You will go crazy looking for the perfect workout routine, the right class, or a postpartum-friendly diet. Instead, buckle baby into the stroller and just start walking. You can YouTube a quick workout while baby naps, wear baby while you do basic exercises, or hand baby over for 30 minutes so you can sweat alone. The hardest part of getting your body back is starting. Stop making excuses and just start.
Learn as You Go
After you have incorporated exercise into your daily routine for a week or so, start reading about exercises you would like to try to include. You will read contraindicating opinions on everything from water intake and calorie-counting, to heart rate zones and exercise goals. The key is to listen to your body and learn what works for you. This is not the time to go to extremes, as you are providing nourishment for at least the first year of your baby’s life, but instead, it is a time of finding the healthiest version of you and strengthening it.
Join a Mums’ Exercise Class
It’s easier to work out when you are being held accountable. You are also more likely to show up if you have paid to attend a class! Exercise classes created specifically for mums are popping up everywhere, which means that you don’t need childcare. You get to work out with your baby, make friends, and have fun.
Evaluate Your Diet
Take the time to keep a food journal; it can come in handy for yourself and your baby if food sensitivities arise. It’s hard to deny what you are eating when it’s written in front of you. Keep in mind that calorie counting is not always the answer; it’s about proper food balance. You want to cut out processed sugars and foods and consume real, whole foods instead.
Increase Healthy Fats and Proteins
The body needs healthy fats to perform at its top ability. When new motherhood means lack of sleep, breastfeeding around the clock, and constant hunger, foods high in healthy fats and proteins (avocadoes, organic oils, nuts, high-quality meats, etc) will help keep the mummy-fog at bay and provide you with the nutrients needed to exercise and survive this stage of life.
Sleep whenever possible
Babies are not supposed to sleep through the night, which means that you aren’t getting solid sleep. Try to nap if possible or start your sleep routine earlier in the evenings. Sleep allows the body to rest and repair so you can reach goals faster. Without sleep, the body is in a constant state of fatigue.
Skip the Celebrity Expectations
Put down the magazines. No one can expect to drop pregnancy weight and regain a six-pack two months after having a baby. It takes time and persistence, and it takes realistic expectations.
Life is busy, goals are sometimes missed, and it’s easy to give up. DO NOT GIVE UP. Keep moving, every day; even when you feel defeated, exhausted, and unmotivated, keep eating well and working out. Five minutes is better than nothing.
Again, every woman will achieve successes at different rates. Breastfeeding may mean that weight falls off, or it could mean the exact opposite and some weight won’t budge. Look for successes in different ways if needed. A loss in inches, an increase in weight lifted, a faster mile, a longer walk, a completed class, all are incredible goals to meet. Celebrations are key to staying on track. Try to celebrate in non-sugary ways if possible!
About the Author
Elizabeth is a researcher, author, and content writer for My Baby’s Heartbeat Bear – a leading online store for unique baby pregnancy gifts and manufacturer of plush toys; stuffed giraffe, elephant stuffed animal and much more. She spends her days as the ringleader of a never-tiring circus; one full of tightrope walkers, nerf-gun shooters, mess makers, and danger-seekers. Find out the do’s and don’ts and other important things about pregnancy on our latest pregnancy blog.