Beyond the Belly – Fitness for New Moms
By Susan McDonald
Have you just had a baby? If so, you’ll know that it can feel overwhelming, between feeding and changing diapers, there’s very little time left over for you. So, here are a few exercises you can do during the first few weeks after baby arrives to help you feel a little more like yourself:
1. Pelvic Floor:
Your pelvic floor muscles will lose elasticity during pregnancy due to pressure from your growing fetus and you will likely need to recondition these muscles regardless of the type of delivery you’ve had. A quick way to find your pelvic floor muscles is to try and stop the flow of urine when you’re sitting on the toilet. You can use this test as a gauge to see if you’re using the correct muscles, but don’t do this on a regular basis!
Begin by contracting your pelvic floor for a series of 10 x 1 second contractions. Follow with contractions where you hold your pelvic floor contraction for a longer period – begin with holding for about 3 seconds and work your way up to 10 seconds.
To be sure you’re doing them correctly remember:
Don’t hold your breath
Don’t tighten your tummy, thighs or buttock muscles
Don’t squeeze your legs together
Try to complete 10 short and 10 long contractions a few times a day, remembering that pelvic floor muscles fatigue easily. If you need to, complete fewer contractions more often in the day to prevent fatigue.
2. Shoulder Rotations:
During pregnancy, our shoulders tend to roll forward as our upper back muscles weaken, due to larger breasts and postural changes as a result of a growing belly. Poor posture during breast feeding can aggravate this.
Begin by inhaling and lifting your shoulders towards your ears. Exhale and roll your shoulders back and down, allowing your shoulders to fall as far from the ears as possible and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Release to normal position and repeat.
This exercise will remind you to correct your posture, open your chest and strengthen your upper and middle back at the same time. Try to complete 10 repetitions a few times a day. Once a good latch and breast feeding is established, you can practice this exercise during feeding time, as it’s easy to do with your baby snuggled in your arms.
Pelvic tilts will help release tension in your lower back and rehabilitate your core muscles.
Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Inhale to fill your belly with air. Exhale, pulling your belling button towards your spine and slightly rolling your hips towards your ribs, but not lifting your hips or glutes off the ground. Release and repeat.
Try to complete 10 repetitions a few times a day. Work up to 20 or 25 repetitions as you begin to feel stronger. You can practice pelvic tilts after you finish nursing as you are cuddling with your baby.
For these and other exercises that you can work on in your first six weeks after your baby is born, you can watch this FITMOM video