You love your new baby, but let’s face the facts: motherhood is draining and even taking a daily shower may seem like more energy than you can muster in those early months of caring for your infant. But embarking on a healthy diet and exercise regime will not only give you the stamina to get through those seemingly endless days, it should help improve your overall mood as well.
Experts advise getting the clear from your physician or other healthcare provider first before starting any exercise regimen six weeks postpartum. If you exercised regularly before giving birth, and feel well enough, you might be able to start earlier. Once you’ve got the thumbs up from your doctor, here are some easy ways to incorporate exercise into your new life with baby—and shed those extra pregnancy pounds that may be weighing you down as well.
Get on foot: You can start building your daily activity level by walking. While it’s fun to cocoon with your baby, you’ll both benefit from a change of scenery and a stroll through the neighbourhood. With your baby in the stroller, start off slowly with a 30-minute walk a day and work up for there. Consider squeezing in some extra exercise by strapping your baby in a front carrier to accompany you on simple errands. “I walk everywhere I can with my son and not only do these walks make me feel better, they seem to calm him down as well when he’s fussy,” says Mary Marentic, a Toronto mother with an 11-month old. She notes that having a dog is another great motivator to get outside with her baby every day for a walk no matter what the weather.
Exercise with other moms: Fitness programs geared to moms and their babies are getting more and more popular. Oonagh Duncan, a personal trainer and owner of Toronto-based Fit Feels Good, offers several, including a Belly Bootcamp led by trainers specialized in easing new mothers back into shape, and another called Mum and Baby Groove class where babies are put in carriers while mothers dance around to inspiring music. “Everyone can take it at their own pace and it gives mums a chance to let down their hair a bit and have some fun,” she says. “And the babies love it too!”
Workout at home: If you’re not ready to venture outdoors for some exercise just yet (or the weather is just too lousy), incorporate daily activity at home, be it by running up the stairs, dancing around the living room with your baby or finding an exercise DVD to use while your infant is sleeping or occupied. Squatting with your knees bent and back straight to pick up objects around the house is also a good way strengthen your thigh muscles and prevent from damaging your back.
Keep tabs on nutrition: Making sure your diet is low in fat and high in vegetables, fruits, lean meats and whole grains is essential in fueling you towards a healthy fitness level post-baby. If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll need extra calories and liquids to keep producing milk and stay hydrated. Talk to your doctor or other healthcare provider to get advice on a recommended calorie intake that will help you get back to your pre-baby weight.
Keep colds at bay: No one feels like exercising when they’re wheezy and congested. Help to keep colds and other viruses away from you and your child by washing your hands frequently and getting as much rest as possible. If you are congested, a natural sea water solution administered through the nose to clear the nasal passages may provide some relief.
Don’t push too hard: Have realistic expectations about weight loss and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get your pre-baby body back in record time. “Although many women are anxious to get their bodies back post-partum, it’s important to realize that nurturing a newborn is a ton of work and that’s where they should spend their energy,” says Duncan. “It took 40 weeks to get into the shape you are in and you need to give yourself at least 40 weeks to get back to where you were—or better.”