You’ve made it through labor and delivery. Now you can start thinking about how to get back into prebaby shape. Since your baby will spend a lot of these early months by your side, why not make them part of your post-pregnancy fitness routine? Working out together will increase your bonding time and give your baby’s physical skills a boost.
If you had an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, you may be able to start to exercise a few days after giving birth. For a C-section delivery, ask your doctor how long to wait. Either way, take it slow.
“Don’t be a superhero,” cautions Sarah Ann Kelly, a prenatal and postpartum fitness specialist in Denver and owner of MomTrainer.com. She cautions new moms to avoid running or other high-impact exercises in the first 3 months, or until their doctor has cleared them.
“Once you start to feel ok, generally walking is fine. You can go for a stroller walk. Your baby is just going to sleep.” Or, put baby into a swing or car seat nearby while you do light squats or biceps curls with exercise bands.
Once you get the go-ahead, use your baby as extra weight. “You can cradle his head against you and do deadlifts or hip hinges, squats, or lunges,” Kelly says. Or, lie baby on your belly and do bridges to work your glutes. This will also give your baby tummy time to practice using his neck muscles.
When your baby is old enough to hold up his head (around 4 months), do overhead presses or side lunges while lifting him up and down. “I will stand in front of a mirror with my daughter facing out. We’ll do squats and lunges while I make faces at him,” Kelly says.
If you’re craving adult company, enroll in a structured baby-and-me fitness program. You’ll find baby boot camp, stroller fitness, yoga, and barre classes across the country. Infants who are too young to participate sit in a stroller or on a blanket next to you while you work out.
Once your baby becomes a crawler, exercising together gets a little more complicated. “Half of the exercise is chasing after your child,” Kelly says. For safety’s sake, “That’s when I recommend starting naptime workouts.” If you do keep baby by your side, create a safe space and keep your eye on them.
Babies need a lot of attention, so your time will be limited for the first few months. Kelly recommends making the most of your workouts with timed exercises. Rather than doing 20 squats, do as many squats as you can in 30 seconds to bring up your heart rate. On days when you feel totally exhausted, give yourself a break and skip the workout.
Follow this advice from pregnancy and postpartum fitness specialist Sarah Ann Kelly to keep both you and your baby safe when you exercise together.
Get clearance. Ask your doctor how soon you can start to work out, based on your type of delivery.
Avoid abs. Doing crunches or twists too soon after you deliver could inflict long-term damage on your ab muscles. For the first few weeks, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth while gently pulling in your navel. This exercise tones your abdominal wall without putting too much strain on it.
Be supportive. Babies don’t have good neck control in their first few weeks. Use your hand to support your infant’s head when you exercise together.
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