As a person who enjoys exercise I find it quite difficult in the first few weeks post baby being instructed to take it easy and not do anything too strenuous. This is even harder if you have 2 other children at home to look after. However, we need to be mindful that after giving birth, our bodies are recovering from quite a major event.
As a physiotherapist I repeatedly tell my post-natal patients not to rush their return to exercise. If you return to certain exercises too soon and without preparation you are at risk of causing damage and affecting your long term recovery.
So, I have attempted to take my own advice this time (as physios we are often quite bad at taking our own advice!) and here’s an example of a typical day in the first 6 weeks…
7am (if I’m lucky!)- baby alarm wake up call. Before the school run, I usually find myself breastfeeding Samuel at the kitchen table whilst spoon-feeding cereal into my 3 year old’s mouth – poor baby Samuel often has a few crumbs left on his head come the end of breakfast. This is not my finest hour and I don’t really manage to practice what I preach with good feeding postures here. But I can make up for it later, right?!
9am – I’m trying to get into some kind of routine (for my sanity) so I put Samuel into his crib for a morning nap. He (obviously) doesn’t self settle yet so I find myself rocking the crib to help him. I have found this to be a good time to get some gentle exercise in. I usually rock the crib 5 times, do 10 squats, stand on 1 leg with my core engaged for 30 seconds and repeat the whole circuit until the baby is asleep. It’s lucky women are such great multi-taskers!
10am – time for another feed. This time, there are no other kids around so no distractions and I’m able to really think about my posture. A lot of the postures we assume as new parents can put significant strain through our spines, often leading to pain if not considered. To avoid this, I ensure a supported feeding position. I use pillows to prop up the baby and bring him to me, rather than stooping to him.
I also try and do my pelvic floor exercises at every feed. I aim to do x 10 long squeezes (10 second holds) and x 10 short squeezes, at least 3 times a day as advised by The POGP (Pelvic, Obstetric & Gynaecological Physiotherapy). If you are unsure how to do these please DM me and I can give you some tips.
11am – I put Samuel on the mat for a play if he’s in the mood. Time is precious so I take any and all opportunities to do my postnatal exercises so basically, whenever the baby is on the mat – so am I. I see it as joint exercise time. Samuel has a good stretch or does some tummy-time, which has multiple health benefits for him including improving shoulder stability and preventing flat head. The mat exercises I’ve been doing are basic core strengthening, Pilates style exercises to strengthen my deep Transversus Abdominus muscles. These deep core muscles act like a corset around your spine and they work with the other stomach, back and pelvic floor muscles to support your back and help with good posture.
12pm – in my continued attempt to get baby into a routine, now is time for his next nap. This is an important time of day for me and based on previous experience with my 2 eldest sons, I try my hardest to get this nap going ASAP so that I get 2 hours to myself. I’ve currently been taking baby out for a walk at this time. This way Samuel gets to sleep whilst I get to enjoy some gentle cardiovascular exercise in the fresh air. As mentioned on a previous post, the positives of walking include strengthening your important lower limb muscles, engaging your core and pelvic floor, and also its a great time to escape from the monotony of menial home tasks. Even better – go with a friend and enjoy some good conversation. For the sake of my mental health, I personally try and keep away from baby chat. Don’t forget who you were and what your interests were before you became a mum.
6.30pm – bath time…..an important time again to be mindful of my posture to prevent injury. When lifting baby into and out of the bath use the big muscles in your legs rather than bending from your back.
7pm – bed time. As parents we’ve always tried to ensure we have a set bed time for the kids so that my husband and I can enjoy grown up time, catching up on each other’s days, which is important for a healthy mind (and our relationship!).
10pm – I try and get an early night when I can (because I know that as the milk machine, I’ll be woken in a few hours). Sleep is so important for recovery and state of mental and physical health. I also try to grab a nap at some point during the day if Samuel allows it!
Having prepared my body gently and gradually as above, I now feel confident that following my 6 week post-natal review I will be ready to take my exercise to the next level 😀.
I hope you find this useful and if you are interested in the next steps please continue to follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.