Losing weight after pregnancy might feature high on your to-do list but there are plenty more reasons to squeeze a little exercise into your new-mum life
Although perhaps an over-used sentiment, it’s true that a baby’s birth marks the birth of a mother, too. And as a relatively new mum (my daughter is 18 months now) as well as the author of maternity fitness book Mind, Body, Bump (White Lion Publishing), here are a few things I’ve learned that’ll help new mums nurture their bodies as well as their newborns. And it’s not all about the quickest way to lose baby weight!
Do reframe your motivation
There’s more to be gained from exercise than just post- pregnancy weight loss. Don’t underestimate the everyday physical demands you’re facing as a new parent – maneuvering prams, carrying car seats, hours on your feet with baby on-hip. So, focus on getting fitter, stronger and more injury-resistant rather than flatter of belly.
Do check your body is ready
According to new guidelines released in 2019, new mums should only return to running and other high-impact exercise after three months, and only if they can comfortably complete the following without pain, heaviness, dragging and urinary incontinence: walking 30 minutes, single leg balance 10 seconds, single leg squat 10 reps each side, jog on the spot 1 minute, 10 reps and single leg hops 10 reps each side. So, don’t push yourself with your post pregnancy exercise – you’ve got plenty of time!
Do think what’s breast for your health
While breastfeeding does require extra hydration and nutrition to optimize milk production, and it’s important to have a varied and balanced diet, Boots nutritionist Vicky Pennington says it’s easy to overestimate what those extra calories look like. “Current guidelines suggest energy demand increases by 330kcal a day for mothers exclusively breastfeeding up to six months, which is the equivalent of a couple of oat cakes with peanut butter.”
Don't neglect a daily dose of nature
Yes, the effort to get out of your pajamas’, feed and change baby (twice), pack the nappy bag and stumble out of the door to the park really is worth it – 20 minutes in nature is enough to significantly improve energy levels. Max the benefits and add in a mini workout – try alternating between one minute of buggy squats and one minute of walking lunges the next time you’re walking bub around the park to help build your muscle strength (you’ll need it!).
Do make mum friends who keep fit
Healthy habits are more likely to stick when your peers are on the same page. Social networking apps like Peanut will help you find and meet local mums with an interest in health and fitness, while Hoop lets you search nearby baby-friendly exercise classes. Stuck at home? Get a pal around to try an online CARiFiT class. You “wear” your babies in carriers while you work out (and the workouts are created and tested by fitness, medical and babywearing experts).
Do try this weekday meal cheat
When you’re running on very little sleep, cooking an evening meal daily can feel a step too far – whether it’s you or your partner! Enter batch cooking. “Use weekend downtime to cook freezable dishes to portion into individual meals,” says Vicky. “And once you start weaning, you can also store some for your baby as long as you hold off on the salt.” Double up the ingredients in Beth Bentley’s Young Gums recipe book, packed with dozens of meals versatile enough to feed you and your baby.
Do find a new squeeze
At least 50% of mums experience urinary leaking. But that doesn’t mean wearing incontinence pads for life – try to do three daily sets of Kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor. Squeeze your back passage like you’re holding a fart, then draw gently up and in with your vagina. Initially you should tighten and immediately release these muscles, but you should slowly build up to a 10-second hold, before fully releasing and repeating for eight reps. You can start these exercises as soon as you feel up to it post labor. After your six-week GP check, when you are feeling ready, try to go next level with your squeeze by incorporating it into floor exercises like bridges and see a women’s physiotherapist if you’re worried that things aren’t improving.