Whether you are an avid runner or spin class regular, fitting in physical activity as a new mom can be challenging. Your time is no longer entirely your own, and you may be struggling with feeling tired, anxious, and a mixture of sad and happy, as your emotions adjust post-pregnancy. Engaging in regular exercise, or at least as regular as you can, has many positive benefits. From improving mood to helping the body regulate hormones, stress, blood sugar, blood pressure, and weight, there are many benefits to exercise. Here are some things to keep in mind as you work to stay active after your baby comes.
New Mom Exercise Tip 1: Start Small
As a new mom, the routines you had before may be difficult to get back to, or you may establish all-new good habits. Being mindful of that and taking steps to develop new, realistic goals is an important start. While you generally need to wait at least six weeks from giving birth to start exercising so that your body can heal, you can take short walks earlier (depending on your doctor’s guidance and your delivery method – cesarean delivery brings a longer recovery time). If you love yoga, you can continue practicing breathing and relaxation, even when you can’t commit to the poses yet. There are also small exercises you can do to help your body recover. By keeping up with aspects of your favorite exercises in those first few months, you can continue to build on these activities as your baby grows and your body heals.
New Mom Exercise Tip 2: Be Patient
While some women may find it easy to leap back into their favorite fitness activities, you may struggle based on how you feel, how your new baby is responding to eating and sleeping, how much daily support you have at home, and whether you are planning to return to work. Self-love is essential for self-care. Some days will be easier than others to fit in exercise, and it is important to not be too hard on yourself or to think it is “all or nothing.” After the first month, you should start to see some patterns in your baby’s habits, and when your baby is sleeping or in a quiet awake phase, you can work in some exercise. It may take a few tries to find the best time of day for you to exercise. First thing in the morning, during lunchtime, or late afternoon might work best for you and your baby. Try different times of day to see what works best. Even ten to fifteen-minute fitness bursts can make a difference early on. Some apps and videos can offer timed at-home exercise ideas. For longer 30-60-minute workouts and to make sure that you have ample time to rest when your baby is resting, ask your partner or other friends/family to cover baby care, while you engage in a longer, more meaningful workout.
New Mom Exercise Tip 3: Fuel for Fitness
Being a new mom takes a lot of energy as you work around the clock to care for your newborn, especially if you are breastfeeding. Breastfeeding alone can increase calorie needs by almost 500 a day. Breastfeeding “superfoods” rich in protein, healthy fats, and fiber can also help you have the energy for your workouts. Have snack-sized bags ready to grab and go and keep water on hand in your favorite insulated water bottle. If plain water is not your drink of choice, try making your own flavored water with cucumbers, oranges, lemons, or berries. Keep a pitcher in the fridge. Sparkling waters can fit too, but check the labels for added sweeteners. Are friends or family asking you for gift ideas? Perhaps suggest a monthly subscription to a healthy snack box kit or boxed meal kit that can help lift some of the shopping and meal prep burdens in the early months as you strive to meet your nutrition needs while keeping up with your baby.
New Mom Exercise Tip 4: Keep Adjusting
As your baby grows, starts staying awake more, begins crawling, or your life is transitioning as you or your spouse go back to work, remember that routines can be adjusted at any time. As your baby can hold his head up, you can try exercising with him. This is a win-win as you play and bond with your new little one! When it comes to work, see what flexibility you can arrange with your employer for your schedule so that you can continue to fit in exercise. It might mean working a longer day some days and a shorter day, others, or at least being sure to take short fitness breaks throughout the day. A more significant number of employers now recognize the value of preventive health and wellness and are offering compensation or insurance discounts on fitness programs. It is important to ask about what options are available to you.
No matter what activities you take on, be sure to consult with your doctor to ensure you are safe and healthy for exercise. It is also important to talk with your doctor about what you are thinking and feeling, as postpartum depression is a real and potentially dangerous condition for you and your baby. Becoming a mom is a joyful time, but it is also life-changing and challenging. Know you are not alone and are supported in reaching your goals.