After 9 months of pregnancy, you finally have your long-expected baby.
And in the middle of everything you are getting trough with breastfeeding, postpartum recovery and adapting to your new mummy job, there is one thought that crosses every new mum’s mind quite often: “My post-baby body looks terrible and I will never get my old body back!”
Well, there is a long way towards your new mum body now, but there are things you need to know – your body is truly amazing.
It just gave birth to a real human being and it is feeding it now, so be gentle to yourself and your body.
It deserves a special treatment and much-needed rest. Always remember, pregnancy and birth didn’t ruin your body, your body still works perfectly and it just needs some time to heal and recover to its former glory.
I have given birth fourth times in the last 8 years and the process of healing and recovery is very familiar to me. I know how hard can be looking at other perfect bodies on Instagram and wonder will you ever be there again.
But let me tell you something – you will get there in no time!
Here are some things that were the most important for me in my postpartum fitness journey and helped me not only to get my old body back but to look better and stronger than ever.
Be active during your pregnancy
Getting your body back after you give birth starts during pregnancy.
There are some things that are very important and that you can do to help yourself after birth.
Be active during your pregnancy and start a workout routine.
Working out during pregnancy is great for you and your baby. If you were working out before, just continue. If not, there is no better time to start working out than pregnancy.
It is perfectly fine to start working out during pregnancy. It will help you with controlling weight gain and help with endurance and birth preparation. Also, you will recover much faster after birth too.
Things you can do during pregnancy are versatile, try pilates or yoga, brisk walking, swimming or, for ultimate benefits, strength and resistance training.
Don’t eat for two.
Seriously, don’t. Eat normal amounts of food, eat until you are full.
A healthy and balanced diet is essential during pregnancy, for the health of you and your baby, but also for weight gain during pregnancy.
Avoid junk food whenever you can and drink plenty of water.
Prepare for birth
Do your best to prepare for the birth you want. Take childbirth preparation classes, read books and prepare mentally for birth and for the postpartum period.
Learning about breastfeeding and what to expect after birth can help so much.
Rest and recover from birth
I don’t know why, but many women today are somehow competing which one will be the first to go for a walk with a baby or which one will be back to her normal routine faster after birth.
But there is no more important and essential thing to do after birth than rest and recover.
Your body needs rest.
You are establishing the breastfeeding and your hormones are all over the place. You are still bleeding and losing blood, your uterus is trying to heal and you probably have contractions, this is your uterus getting back to its original shape.
This is a process as well as is getting used to your baby and your new role. This is postpartum!
It’s a hard, but unbelievably important and unique time in your life with your baby. So, don’t bother with anything except taking care of your baby, breastfeeding, and resting.
Rest and recovery impact your entire body, here is what to do dyeing postpartum to help you rest faster and regain energy:
- Don’t rush into anything, bed rest for at least a week post-birth. After that avoid anything you can other than taking care of your baby. Lay in the bed and rest, watch Netflix and sleep.
- Breastfeed. Breastfeeding is not only beneficial for your baby, but it is also healthy for you too. It is also helping you burn calories so imagine it like a very first exercise you will do after birth.
- Postpartum is not the time for diets. Eat healthy and nutritious food. Red meats are great for increasing your iron levels. Leafy greens and vegetables are essential for your recovery and will refuel you with all important vitamins and minerals. Include some fish for your Omega-3 intake. Take your supplements too because postpartum is not the time to stop taking them, it is equally important as in pregnancy.
- Hydrate. You are losing lots of body fluids through sweat, blood and while breastfeeding. Drink enough water but also natural juices, teas, and soups to compensate for fluids loss.
- Heal your perineum. If you had an episiotomy or stitches they will need time to heal. Rest and lay in bed, take daily baths and wash the area daily with lukewarm water.
- Make rest a priority for at least the first 6 weeks after birth. Rest whenever you can, don’t push yourself too hard. Don’t do housework like vacuuming and washing the floor and cleaning the bathrooms. Ask your husband to do it when he can or think of an option to pay for help. And don’t lift things heavier than your baby.
- Be gentle to yourself and to your body. Give yourself permission to rest and to heal, to do nothing except taking care of your baby and yourself. Only after you are recovered and feel better you can start working on your body again.
Heal your core and pelvic floor muscles
Healing your core and pelvic floor muscles are essential before moving to anything else.
It is part of a healing process and most of the things your body will do by itself.
But sometimes, after pregnancy, our body and our muscles need to be retrained and restored so they can work properly again.
You can’t just hop into workouts after birth with nonfunctional core muscles and with week pelvic floor muscles and hope everything will fit in place.
After you have recovered from your birth and regained your energy levels, you can start with restoring your deep abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles.
This is the base of everything you will do after so don’t skip it.
Skipping it could cause you more issues than just doing the thing properly and starting your journey from the start.
Start with light core exercises a few weeks after birth and go slowly. You should be doing these exercises daily for just 5 to 10 min per day.
Check yourself for Diastasis Recti, abdominal separation and if you have it, think of visiting a physical therapist or to start an exercise program specifically made for healing Diastasis Recti.
Also, visit a physical therapist if you have any problems with leaking urine, pain in the pelvic area, bulging or swelling in your vagina or pelvic area.
This could be a symptom of the week pelvic floor muscles or prolapse so get yourself checked if you have any doubts before starting any exercise program.
USEFUL READING: How to check yourself for Diastasis Recti?
Start slow and with low impact
When your doctor clears you for working out, you can start with your exercise routine. But, this is usually around 6 weeks postpartum and that is still too early to start exercising rigorously.
Even if you feel great, you are still healing from your birth.
Start slow and don’t overdo. Please, be aware that this is still a very early postpartum period and be gentle to yourself.
Healing your core and pelvic floor muscles is still the main priority so keep doing exercises for your core.
During this time you add some light cardio exercises like light walks.
Walking is one of the best exercises after birth since you can take your baby in the buggy with you and just go for an easy walk.
Start short and slow and progress to longer and power walks.
Walking is a great way to get some much needed fresh air and it’s perfect to shed some fat. It might seem very easy, but after birth, you’ll see that even light walk can make you sweat.
Walking is also very important for making your core stronger and healing Diastasis Recti if you have one.
In this early period after birth avoid:
- Abs exercises like planks, side planks, push-ups, crunches and sit-ups, v-ups and all similar ab exercises
- Don’t do any plyometric exercise that involves jumping like squat jumps and burpees and don’t run or jog
- Don’t do exercises with heavy weights – for strength training you need to have strong functional core muscles and pelvic floor muscles.
This doesn’t mean you can’t do anything.
You can do amazing workouts with no jumping and heavyweights. Low impact doesn’t mean low intensity, so you will want to do workouts that are low impact but high intensity.
That would be one minute of regular bodyweight squats with 10-sec rest. Repeat this 10 times.
You’ll sweat and lose weight while still healing and not hurting yourself.
Clean your diet
You will not have good results if you don’t change the most important thing – diet.
Postpartum is not the time for restrictions and diets, counting calories or macros. Most new mums have no time for this.
But the most beneficial thing you can do is to clean your diet. That would mean that you should start eating healthy and clean nutritious food and get rid of all junk food.
- Don’t eat junk food – no more fried food, fast food, sweets like cakes, chocolates, and candy. Don’t drink soft drinks full of sugar or food containing artificial sweeteners
- Eat real food like meat, eggs, milk and dairy, vegetables and fruits, whole wheat bread and cereals.
- Use healthy fats like olive and coconut oil, butter made from free-range cows milk and avocados.
- Drink water – make sure to drink at least 8 glasses of water per day.
- Increase your protein intake – proteins are essential in weight loss and in building muscle mass
Be patient and try your best to eat well. But also, don’t be too hard on yourself. Allow yourself for an occasional treat, this will make your journey much easier.
USEFUL READING: How to eat clean to get the results in fitness?
Start strength training and HIIT training when your body is healed and recovered
After you have recovered from the birth, restored your core muscles and healed your Diastasis Recti if you had one and strengthen your pelvic floor muscles – now is time to progress.
Don’t rush to be here too soon, everyone is different.
Give yourself time to recover on your own time. Some women will be here after 3 months and others after a few years. There is no wrong or right answer so just listen to your body.
If you want to stay on low impact exercises for a longer period of time that’s perfectly fine.
They can give excellent results and will not be hard on your body.
When you feel ready and don’t have any of the symptoms of weak pelvic floor muscles and weak core you can add weights and start adding some HIIT exercises to your workout routine.
USEFUL READING: Why women are afraid of strength training?
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is the best way to start losing fat.
These exercises are hard but fast and effective. They will make your body burn fat better than regular cardio routines. You’ll have excellent results from HIIT and even better if you combine it with strength training.
There is no better thing in sculpting your body than strength training. Strength training is also great for building lean muscles and losing weight.
This is also the period when you can go back to ab exercises. Just when your core is functional, you can add this.
Still, if you have any doubts and you feel you are not there yet, then don’t do it or add them carefully and slowly.
Getting your body back after birth is not just in getting back to your pre-pregnancy shape and weight.
It is about building your new stronger body from scratch.
Your body will never be the same again because after going through pregnancy and birth, your body became stronger.
Now, you just need to rebuild it so you can see how amazing it really is.