A lot of new moms worry about when they will get back “in-shape” after having a baby. Some as early as one-week into post-partum phase. The body still looks 5-6 months pregnant, as one mostly loses only 5-7 kgs of weight in delivery. The fatigued mind starts despising the body which is now a life-giving form. The belly fat is jiggly, the firm breasts are now sagging and big. The face has lost all the beautiful glow. The long luxurious showers are now a 2-minute affair while you can hear the baby screeching in the background.
The first few days are nothing short of a marathon. The constant needs of the baby start tiring one out, as day-after-day one is nurturing the new human and focussing lesser on one’s own mental & physical fitness.
When my baby was a month old, people would tell me “you don’t look as tired as a one-month’s mom should look like”. There is no big secret, but just a lot of clarity that went behind it. When my baby turned 6-months-old, I started receiving compliments that I have lost all my pre-pregnancy weight, but not the glow. Followed by questions on how I managed that.
So I am sharing the learnings from the post-partum phase, which I found extremely helpful.
If you had a c-section, check with your Ob-Gyn first, even though walking at an easy pace is encouraged as it helps the muscles to heal.
1. Myth: During pregnancy eat what you like. The myth needs to be busted. You may eat what you like, but it needs to be healthy. One cheat-day of instant-noodles and pizza is no big deal, but it does set you back on your baby’s nutritional goals. A good diet of 4-5 types of fruits a day, with good consumption of proteins, good fats, and lots of liquids is what our body requires during these 9 months. This is the kind of healthy weight you need to put on, and this is also easy to shed after delivery.
2. When is the right time to start walks? As soon as you feel your body is ready (which is mostly 2-3 weeks after giving birth), and the stiches of C-sec or episiotomy have healed, one can start with slow walks. I found that the best way to get back into morning or an evening walk routine was with the baby in the stroller. This way one gets to enjoy the time out of home, and also bond with other new mommies. This way I made friends with other new moms like me, who have played a critical role in my journey of motherhood. The positivity exuded by new mommies if contagious and gives a great feel-good factor.
3. Exercise: If you exercised throughout your pregnancy and had an uneventful vaginal delivery, you can safely start with light exercises – walking and stretching – within just a few days of giving birth as long as you don’t experience any muscle pull or pain. Avoid sit-ups, tummy-crunches, and skipping for atleast 4-5 months. If you are a gym enthusiast, then start with light cardio, and slowly proceed with weights after 5-6 months of post-partum.
4. Swimming: It is safe to start swimming within a month of giving birth as water-therapy helps to heal the body and tones it overall. I found that swimming not only helped me tone my body, flex those lazy muscles, but even the sun gave me ample dose of Vitamin D, that I did not require supplements throughout.
5. Kegels: The most important exercise is kegels, and one cannot stress enough on the critical role it plays. After a vaginal delivery, the muscles have stretched to their maximum limit, and to gain back control on those muscles, start with kegels within a day of giving birth. Imagine you have had too much water, and try holding your pee while looking for a loo. Well, that’s what kegel is all about. Contracting and releasing the vaginal muscles. I found myself doing kegels in the shower, during my sitz-bath, evening walks, breastfeeding and sunbathing time. Kegel exercises help bring the muscles to pre-pregnancy form, but is also great for your sex life. Not paying attention to the muscles in your vaginal area leads to difficulty in holding urine, and may also lead to greater chances of catching UTIs.
6. Yoga: Yoga works wonders on a post-partum body. It helps loosen tight muscles, brings calm to the tired brain, releases tension, and helps rebuild the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles that have stretched over the months to support the baby. However, all the mentioned yoga aasanas must be done only under the guidance of a trainer instructor. Yoga injuries are extremely common when yoga-enthusiasts start giving unclear knowledge on the subject. I preferred going to a yoga centre to follow the exercises even on a daily basis, rather than doing it with a group of people not trained to impart the knowledge.
Yoga aasanas to follow:
7. Great diet: Since, I consciously decided to exclusively breastfeed my munchkin, eating well was my main priority. This means no MSG, no soft-drinks, and least caffeine. I did not follow any fad diets to lose weight, whether it meant a no-carb diet, or a keto diet. My main focus was to produce nutrient-rich diet that would be healthy for the baby’s development. Starting a diet too soon after giving birth can affect your mood and energy level as well as your milk supply. You’ll be surprised to know how much weight you can lose naturally by just breastfeeding, and eating right. So hide those cookies and chips. Focus on summer cucumbers and melons.
So, mommies, take time out for your fitness goals. Just don’t go overboard. If you were not very active during the pregnancy, check with your doctor before you start with serious exercising.
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