After the joy and excitement of having a baby, a new mother will quickly come home to the reality of a changed life and a tired body from delivery. Delivery is a natural process but requires a lot of recovery time before a mother begins to feel normal and ready to be active again. After the birth of my daughter, it took about a week and a half before I felt more like myself and ready to create a new schedule for myself to get active again. Some mothers may take a shorter or longer time to feel energized again, but taking your time to recover from deliverycompletely is the most important part.
Even if you have lost all of your pregnancy weight, you are probably still seeing the effects of pregnancy on your body. Dieting will not be effective if your muscles need to be tightened and toned. Before jumping head first into an exercise routine that your body isn’t ready for, it’s a great idea to speak to your doctor, doula or midwife first. My doctor answered all of my pre-delivery questions about labor pains, breastfeeding, and optional choices likecord blood banking and immunizations; my doctor also was available to answer all of my post-delivery questions about dieting, exercising, and emotional health. The following three exercises can help you shed some baby weight and begin to be more active.
Toning the Tummy
Most often, mothers bemoan their bellies in the post-partum weeks. Stomach crunches and sit-ups are effective fortightening abdominal muscles, but in the early weeks after childbirth, these exercises may be quite painful. To gently tone the tummy in the post-partum period, you simply need to engage the abdominal muscles. This can be done while sitting, standing or lying down. Imagine that you are wearing a tight corset, and consciously begin suck in your stomach muscles as you perform your daily activities. Use this time to hold your baby in your arms or in a sling, I did this at every chance I could to make my exercises seem less like work and more like bonding.
Tightening the Thighs and Buttocks
If the first sight of your legs in months is horrifying, you probably want to do some gentle toning for your thighs. Squats are very effective at strengthening the thighs and buttocks, and you do not have to do hundreds of them to see the results. You may want to get into the routine of doing four or five squats every time that you get up from the couch or sit down in the recliner. Hold your baby in your arms for added resistance. If you get into this habit, you may do forty or fifty squats each day, which will tighten your thigh and buttock muscles in just a few weeks.
To beat the arm flab that comes from several months of inactivity, you may want to begin to lift some weights. As you nurse your baby holding him in one arm, you can use dumbbells to work the muscles of your other arm. Do not forget to work the triceps. These muscles on the underside of your upper arm can give the appearance of “old lady flab” on your arms when they are underdeveloped. Even just lying on your back and lifting your baby over you is a great arm exercise; I always brought my daughter back down for a kiss in between each lift.
Exercise in the post-partum period does not have to require hours of time and a trip to the gym. By using these three tips, you can begin to tone your muscles before you even get back to the doctor for your post-partum exam.