Being a mum is truly a different experience for all. In the first few weeks, you’re likely to experience a rollercoaster of excitement, fear, sleep deprivation and at times, outright exhaustion. And, whether you’re breastfeeding or not, you may not feel completely in control of your own body. Hormonal ups and downs, bleeding, stitches, stretch marks and wobbly bits are common in the immediate aftermath. Add all this together and what you have is no recipe for rushing into exercise or making huge dietary changes in order to get back into shape. In fact, it’s pretty important not to implement any kind of new regime without talking to your health visitor or GP first. But when you do feel up to working in a little exercise or kicking your chocolate dependence to the kerb, here are a few ways you can tackle new mum fitness at your own pace:
Eat for your lifestyle
It’s not easy eating a healthy, balanced diet of three meals a day when you have a newborn to feed and change. You may also have a number of well-meaning visitors popping in for coffee and biscuits. If you’re breastfeeding you’ll burn (and need) around 500 calories extra each day, but all new mums can end up feeling even more tired and drained if they don’t eat well and stay hydrated. Try and drink as much water if you can – having a water bottle or sports bottle on hand can be a godsend if you’re stuck under a feeding baby! And, in those first few weeks don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself constantly reaching for snacks. If you feel like too many biscuits or chocolates are passing your lips, try stocking up on dried fruit, nuts and natural energy bars such as nakd bars or your own homemade version. These type of snacks are still fairly high in calories, so they’ll fuel your new parent adventures but have the additional benefit of containing vitamins and nutrients that you won’t find at the bottom of the biscuit tin.
We’ve all heard the advice about napping when baby does and asking guests to bring round meals but it’s not always easily put into practice. When you do get time to cook yourself always try to make a bit extra and think about making meals that are not only nutritious but easy to reheat or grab to eat in future. Comforting foods like cottage pie are relatively well balanced and have the added bonus of being easily eaten one-handed too!
Exercise where you can
The experts recommend waiting until your stitches have fully healed and you’ve had your six week GP check up before you take part in any exercise, though you’ll likely be out and about with your pram or baby sling before this. Simply pushing your little one for short 20-30 minute walks each day is a great re-introduction to exercise. Not only will this help your baby get used to night and day, it could also help them to sleep longer at night and tone up your tum and bum.
If you suffered with back pain in pregnancy or had a back-focused labour, you may well continue to have problems in the weeks that follow. To tackle this head on you can ask your GP for a referral for a physiotherapy consultation. Exercises such as yoga and pilates may also help you to reduce pain by building your core muscle strength and are great ways to build your fitness too. You may want to start out by attending baby-friendly yoga or pilates classes in your local area that you can take baby along too. Baby yoga classes very often include a few stretches for mum and are a great way for your little one to learn to socialise with other babies their age, not to mention a way for you to meet other mums.
If you’ve not tried pilates before it’s definitely an exercise to check out. Along with helping you to burn calories and de-stress it can help at definition to wobbly bits. Most people start out doing mat based pilates, though once you feel more confident in your strength and techniques, you could consider trying out apparatus-based exercise with pilates reformers. These will help you take your workout to the next level by increasing resistance. Reformers can be expensive, so do your research to find the right model for you. There’s a good introductory guide to pilates along with a class finder on the NHS website too.