Coming back to exercise after giving birth can be daunting. You’re recovering from one of the most physically demanding feats your body has even been through. Give yourself a pat on the back for just leaving the house let along exercising! Meanwhile, locating clothes that aren’t covered in newborn baby spit-up can be a challenge, while finding some time for yourself is nigh on impossible. Low energy, lack of sleep and limited childcare can also derail fitness for new moms.
But moving your body – just a little bit at first – radiates positivity into all areas of your postpartum life. Experts recommend regular activity to help your body recover, keep you fit and lift your mood. You’ll also have more energy to cope with the demands of parenting and improved sleep. You just need to figure out how to exercise with baby in tow!
And that’s where we come in. We get that hitting the gym won’t be in the cards now that you’re juggling a new baby, possibly other older siblings and everyday upkeep. We’ve pulled together some realistic new mom fitness tips that you can fit into your routine plus some ideal exercises to do with baby. Let’s go!
Start With Gentle Exercise
If you had an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, you can start gentle exercise straight away. Ensure you’ve been given the go-ahead by your medical professional first.
You can kick off with kegel exercises right after giving birth. These help strengthen your pelvic floor, which will have loosened while carrying your baby, and which need building back up to prevent urinary incontinence. Leaking a bit of pee is normal – a side effect more than a quarter of women experience in the first year postpartum.
In the first few weeks, you can do gentle tummy exercises, such as leg slides and bridges, but avoid sit-ups and stomach crunches for now. Breathwork exercises will also support you regain tone throughout your core.
Core-strengthening postpartum exercises may help decrease the space between the rectus muscles along your abdomen. These two large parallel bands of muscles meet in the middle of the abdomen and separate during pregnancy to accommodate your baby).
If you had a c-section or any kind of birth trauma, give your body more time to recover. Rest and talk to your healthcare provider about when you can get active again.
When you’re ready, try some gentle walking, with your newborn in a carrier or in the stroller – whatever works for you.
If you’re breastfeeding, feed or pump first to make movement more comfortable.
Don’t rush. Your body has done an incredible job of bringing your baby into the world so allow it to recover. Pushing yourself too hard can increase your vaginal bleeding (lochia) – this your body telling you to slow down. Enjoy some guilt-free R&R (well, as much as you can do with a newborn!).
Turn Your Life Into An Exercise Routine
If you wait for the perfect hour to go to the gym, it just won’t happen. Let’s be realistic – even getting out of the house to the park with a newborn can take hours.
Make your daily tasks into a workout instead. Here are five ideas (plus some exercises to do with baby):
- Squat three times instead of once when picking up toys.
- Park the car a little further away to get those extra steps in.
- March in place while you’re getting you're rocking your little one to sleep (bonus: they’ll drift off with the movement).
- Use your baby as a weight and hold them while doing some lunges.
- Do your kegels while you’re feeding your baby.
Stay At Home (And Still Get Fit)
Short-and-sweet streaming workout videos are a great way to fit in a workout without leaving the house. Plus, if you’ve lost your self-confidence and your bosy image has taken a knock after giving birth, guided exercise within the privacy of your own home may give you a gentle kick to start getting fit in a way that suits you.
All you’ll need is little space and a yoga mat.
For a good stretch, try YogaGlo or Booya Fitness for every type of fitness class you can imagine. There are programs tailored to new moms, sessions that last between 10 to 30 minutes and reasonably priced subscriptions.
Aim For 30 Minutes’ Daily Activity
When you’re feeling a bit more powered up, both mentally and physically, you can get more active. If you’re not sure how much exercise you should be doing, talk to your doctor. They’ll typically give you the go-ahead to get back to your usual workout routine about six to eight weeks postpartum.
First, make sure you’re no longer bleeding, feel no pain or have any issues with your C-section scar, if you have one. And be mindful that approval from the experts doesn’t mean you have to launch straight back into a long run or a vigorous HIIT session.
Your goal is to slowly regain the fitness levels you had before pregnancy and birth, without stressing yourself out.
You could build up to 30 minutes of continuous walking a few times a week. Or break up your walk into 10-minute blocks throughout your day, depending on what you’re doing.
Gradually increase your speed until you’re walking fast enough that you would struggle to hold a conversation.
Remember that each day is different. Your energy levels may be super-low after a bad night’s sleep with a restless newborn. Go with it: be flexible and kind to yourself. Celebrate those small wins!
Find An Activity You Enjoy
You’re more likely to stay motivated and keep going if you’re having fun. Mommy-and-me postnatal exercise groups are specially designed for moms and newborns so you won’t need to worry about who’ll look after your baby.
Not only will it help you keep fit but you’ll also meet other new moms. Workouts will be as much about getting together and comparing notes as they will be about getting back into exercise. You can always head to the local cafe for cake afterwards, too.
You can also try running with your stroller and swimming with your baby.
Postnatal yoga and Pilates classes
Postpartum yoga is a modified, low-intensity practice. It’s designed to help your body recover and can help postpartum depression, balance your energy, lower blood pressure and reduce stress and anxiety.
Swimming is a great way to exercise after giving birth because it’s low impact and won’t put too much pressure on your pelvic floor. The pool is a great place to find that much needed time to yourself too, if you’re able to.
Running With Your Stroller
Also known as ‘strollercize’ or ‘powerpramming’, this is running or exercising with your stroller, with baby in tow.
First, make sure you’re ready for running. Try the ‘jump test’: if you can do 20 jumps in a row and four coughs afterwards without leaking urine, you’re good to go.
Next, invest in a decent jogging stroller, particularly if you were an avid runner before your pregnancy. This is by no means essential, but there are some great brands out there that will make for a comfy, smooth ride for your baby and a stress-free run for you. Features include big air-filled tyres, added suspension and handbrakes. Here’s what we recommend:
Easy to maneuver, thanks to the swivel front wheel that locks into place for jogging, and to the 16” rear wheels.
This stroller’s ready to hit the ground running. With SmoothShox™ suspension, you can take on any terrain. An ergonomic handbrake gives you downhill control, and the zip-top cargo basket secures all your gear.
Air-filled tires and all-wheel suspension give you the smoothest push and most comfortable ride no matter where you explore.
Overdoing it by running too fast, too much or too soon can leave any runner open to injury. But postpartum runners are at a higher risk. This is because at 20 weeks of pregnancy, your body produces the hormone relaxin, which makes your joints looser in preparation for birth. They remain loose and open to strain for up to five months postpartum. It’s all too easy to do damage, so ensure you build up your pace slowly.
Don’t Compare Yourself With Others
While celebrities and Instagram influencers seem able to continue with vigorous exercise regimes within a few months (while cheerfully informing us all about their progress on an hourly basis) the reality is quite different for us mere mortals.
For some of us new moms, it may be a bounce back; for others, it’s more like a crawl back. Our advice is to follow your own exercise program, not someone else’s.
Always do what feels right for you.