As a new parent, your world may seem to revolve around caring for your baby, but taking time for physical activity is an important way to care for yourself too. Remember that by taking care of yourself, you are also taking care of your baby.
After a normal vaginal birth, most physical activities can be started again as soon as you are comfortable. Start slowly, and then gradually build up the length of physical activity.
If you are unsure or have had a caesarean birth, check with your doctor, midwife or physiotherapist.
Why being active is very important:
- Being active, along with good nutrition, is very effective to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
- Regular activity can boost your energy level, and is important for heart and lung health. How much you can do will depend on your fitness beforehand and how your pregnancy went. If you were previously inactive, starting with as little as 10 minutes of activity at a time is helpful. Work up to at LEAST 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic exercise per week.
- The postpartum period can be a tough one. A recent review suggests that being active after pregnancy can help prevent or manage symptoms of postpartum depression.
- Your deep core muscles may have changed during pregnancy and birth. Doing bone and muscle strengthening exercises are important to regain your strength as well as for your overall wellness and to help you with the new demands of caring for your baby. Talk to a qualified exercise professional or physiotherapist for help.
- Kegel exercises will help strengthen and tone the area around your vagina and will help you control peeing.
- Your baby will get used to going out in a stroller or baby carrier and enjoy your routines, and in the long run they will grow up seeing you being active, which means you will be a great role model.
Finding time for physical activity:
- Remember that activities you enjoy can help boost your mood and give you more energy.
- Try to find times that work best for you to plan activity, be it taking time for activity while your baby is napping, going for a walk with your baby using a stroller or baby carrier, or having someone else look after your baby to allow you to schedule in regular active time.
You might have concerns about taking time to be active. Do you have concerns that…
Time spent being active takes away from time with your baby?
All women, new mothers included, can benefit from being physically active. No it is not selfish, and you should take time for yourself to be active. Plan for it, schedule it, and do it. When you are feeling well, you can be there fully for your newborn! Ask for help from your support network as needed. Physical activity can also be a time for you, your partner and your baby to spend together.
Being physically active affects breastfeeding?
Some mother’s might be concerned that exercise affects the quality of their breast milk and growth of their baby. Most women experience no issues; this article may address concerns you have. Wear a supportive, comfortable bra. It’s possible to purchase sports bras also designed for breastfeeding.
Being active adds financial stress?
Look into your local recreation centre to see if they offer low cost classes. You can also call 8-1-1 to speak with a qualified exercise professional that can create an at-home fitness program designed to meet your needs. Remember, walking is also free and can be enjoyed with your baby as well as family members and friends.
Ideas for being active:
- You can begin Kegel exercises a day after a vaginal birth. Let pain be your guide. These exercises will help strengthen and tone the area around your vagina and will help you control peeing. Make Kegel exercises a regular part of your daily routine for the rest of your life.
- Take your baby to the pool to play with them. Walk to one side of the shallow (or deep end, depending on your skills) to the other side while holding them.
- Involve the whole gang! Move the family gathering with grandparents from the living room to the local trail. There’s always a trail to match your groups ability level.
- Some facilities have a childcare drop off area so parents can take part in an exercise class or do their own workout.
- There are also “mom and baby” classes you can go to with your baby. For example, mom and baby yoga classes can be a good outlet to release stress, both physically and emotionally. Ask your local recreation center about availability.
- Use technology! Don’t hesitate to text your friends and family members to see if they want to go for a walk or run with the stroller. Join a mom group on Facebook for support and to meet other new moms. Invite a friend over to your place with their baby to do a core session.
In the end, the important thing is to do what helps you and your family to be happy and healthy. The key is to find something that works for you and your family.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Exercise After Pregnancy