How to Safely Exercise as a New Mom (with Expert Marcy Crouch)
As I’m nearing the end of my third pregnancy, I’m reflecting back on the exercise routines I used as a new mama, especially in those first months postpartum. Whether you’re adjusting to mama life for the first time or are a mama of multiples like me, having a good exercise routine can help you feel like yourself again with all the changes your body goes through during and after pregnancy.
Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, pediatrician, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
My first piece of advice is to honor your body and what it went through to grow and bring your baby into this world… it’s such a beautiful experience. Everyone heals in different ways and you shouldn’t compare your journey to someone else's. And secondly, a healthy mom is a happy mom, and exercise is a great way to get healthy!
Light exercise Ideas:
As always, consult your physician before beginning any exercise routine, especially as a postpartum mama!
Stroller walks: Walking is a great way to start introducing your body to exercise again after childbirth. It's an easy way to get out of the house and get a workout in. It's especially good right in the beginning few weeks after giving birth since any sort of intense exercise is usually banned by the doc until you are about 6-8 weeks postpartum. And the fresh air is great for you AND the baby. Once you're cleared for some accelerated physical activity, hiking is my fave way to get in a workout outdoors!
Stretching: Whether you’re a new mom or not, I love what stretching does for the body! As with any of the next few exercises, definitely check with your doctor on when you can start after childbirth before you do, but light stretching is another way to get physical as a new mom without pushing yourself to hard right out of the delivery room. Your body has gone through a lot, and stretching is a great way to mold and bend back into shape. Another great way to relax, mold, and shape is getting a massage. Treat yourself, mama!
Babywearing: As soon as you're cleared, you can start doing a ton of exercises while babywearing. I'm a huge fan of the Solly Baby wrap for use in the fourth trimester (when baby is 0-3 months). Babies love and thrive on mama's smell and touch in these first few months, but sometimes mama still needs to be able to get things done and exercise and this is a beautiful way to do so and stay close to your baby. I got so much done while babywearing… vacuuming, washing dishes, squats, lunges, and more!
Workouts with baby: I mentioned the exercises I did while babywearing above, but there are other exercises you can do that include your baby. The first is dancing… I just loved putting music on and dancing. And now that the boys are older we love to have dance parties in the family room. Dancing is such a great way to get some cardio in and lift your mood, and introduce your little one to rhythms and beats!
When your baby has more head and neck control you can use them as your “weights.” The first exercise you can do is the “baby bench press.” Lie on the floor, hold your baby above your head, lower the baby to your face, give them a kiss and raise them up again. The other exercise is the “overhead baby press.” Sit cross-legged on the floor, hold your baby in front of your chest, then lower and lift your baby up and down.
Lastly, check out your local gyms for mommy and me exercise classes. If you’re in the Glendale area, The Little Gym has classes for kids 4 months to 3 years that parents participate in. Who knows, you may meet some new mama friends who you and your baby can hang with outside of class too!
Workout sans baby: If you have some help and when you feel comfortable leaving baby for short periods, definitely get out of the house and sneak in a workout alone! Exercise is a great form of self-care time because you are working on your mind, body, and spirit. Afterwards, enjoy a nice green juice or healthy lunch with a girlfriend before heading back to baby and mom mode. It'll make all the difference in your new mama days!
Being exhausted after having a baby is completely normal, mama, but it’s important to get into a routine when you are ready. One of the first things you can do before doing any physical exercises is eating healthy and getting enough water… because if you are not and you start exercising you won’t feel so hot. And when you are ready to exercise be sure to build it into your schedule... 15 minutes a couple times per day is all you need. Not sure when you can fit these little bursts of exercise in… nap time, after lunch, or playtime are perfect! Remember, just get moving and don't compare yourself to other mamas.
Marcy Crouch & Postpartum Pelvic Health
I wanted to bring in an expert to talk about postpartum pelvic health and exercise, so I reached out to one of our Happy Mom Conference speakers to tell us more! Marcy Crouch, PT, DPT, WCS, is a pelvic floor physical therapist specializing in all things pregnancy and postpartum. She helps mamas, new or seasoned, recover fully and live their best lives after baby. Her area of expertise includes everything "down there" and she has some great tips to start healing after baby:
Often after baby, we talk about exercising our "core" and getting strong again, but what does that really mean? When we are taking about the core muscles, we also have to include the pelvic floor muscles. Those are our "Kegel" muscles, and they endure a lot during pregnancy and birth, and need a little love post baby. Most of us don't really know how to properly do a Kegel, or engage our pelvic floor muscles, and it's so important to do them correctly.
These muscles are the "floor of our core" and hold us up against gravity and support our organs (bladder, rectum, and uterus). Sometimes, after having a baby, we may experience some not so pleasant issues when we start to get back to physical activity. Most commonly, we see leaking urine when we laugh, cough, sneeze, exercise, or jump, and have feelings of weakness or heaviness that could be a pelvic organ prolapse, or maybe even pain down there. Super common, but NOT NORMAL.
I recommend EVERY mama get a pelvic floor PT evaluation at 6-8 weeks postpartum, so that you can get a baseline of function and see what you need individually to meet your fitness goals and your unique lifestyle demands. This is especially important before returning to any consistent exercise routine. Every body, every birth, and every vagina is different, so we need to have an individualized plan of care for optimal recovery. In the meantime, though, I encourage new mamas to move, get out and walk, and start to engage their pelvic floor muscles and abdominal muscles functionally.
We need to show those pelvic floor muscles some love, and they are super important for long term core strength and vaginal healing. Listening to our bodies is key, know that pain and leaking urine is not normal, and asking for help and guidance from a skilled PT is crucial. Movement is key!
Hear more from Marcy and the other experts of our Self-Care Rituals Panel live at Happy Mom Conference 2019 happening in LA on Saturday, May 4th!
Mama, what's your favorite way to get a little postpartum workout in?