Having a baby is possibly the most wonderful thing I’ve ever done – but it’s also a huge rollercoaster for your wellbeing. Feeling healthy and staying fit really helped me get through pregnancy, and I found it relatively easy to fit exercise into my daily routine when I had a bump. Now my daughter Sylvie is here, I have a lot less time to focus in myself – but making sure I’m happy, healthy and on my way back to fitness feels more important than ever. From six weeks postpartum, most mamas who have had an uncomplicated birth can look at dipping their toes back into sport, and exercising postpartum has been proven to prevent depression, relieve stress and help with sleep – all things that will really help when you’re knackered with a newborn! Sylvie is now four months old, and these are the tweaks and tricks I’ve found really helpful for fitting fitness around her.
15 fitness and wellbeing tips for new mamas with Very
Get the right kit
Your body changes after you’ve had a baby – and that’s ok. I feel really proud of what my body has achieved by bringing my daughter into the world, but part of regaining body confidence has meant investing in some lovely workout kit that fits my body now. The absolute best thing I’ve bought for running is a Shock Absorber bra from Very, which is super-supportive of my currently-massive breastfeeding boobs even if I run and jump about, and I also love these stretchy and supportive running Under Armour leggings and this soft yoga-ready bra, also from Very. A surprisingly handy purchase for getting out the house? Slip-on trainers from Skechers – you can pop them on and off without bending down and while holding a baby.
Do what feels right
The best bit of advice I was given when pregnant? “If you feel good, it’s most likely good for you and the baby”. Obviously there are lots of caveats around this but for me, it boiled down to continuing the sports and activities I felt well and confident doing, and I think this is good advice postpartum, too. Ease back into the sports you love slowly, but trust your body – I did gentle stretching a few weeks after birth because it felt right, and started running gently two months postpartum because I felt physically and mentally ready to run.
Don’t let breastfeeding put you off
You can absolutely breastfeed and make space for working out and wellness. I feed my baby right before I head out for a run or start a workout (you don’t want to jog with full, heavy boobs) or will even stop halfway through a hike with her for a quick feed. If you’re breastfeeding, you need 500 extra calories a day, so make sure you eat enough to top up any calories you’re burning.
Go for a dip
The wonderful weightlessness of swimming feels great post-baby, and outdoor swimming is very mindful, so you get a mental as well as a physical break from motherhood when you hit the pool or go for a wild swim. It’s easy to build up your fitness by adding on a few lengths each time you swim. I also found cold water immersion a huge natural painkiller both before and after birth.
As well as working your way back to fitness, make sure you find time feel well, too. Carving out time just for you could be as simple as having a hot bath or following a five-minute meditation on your phone, or it could be a proper treat such as a few hours at a spa or heading to a community sauna.
Don’t forget about your pelvic floor
Did you religiously do your pelvic floor exercises while pregnant? Don’t forget to keep them up after birth. These five exercises are easy to tack on to a workout.
Get an app
It can be nigh-on impossible to make it to the gym or a group fitness class when you’re on maternity leave, so quick online workouts can be far easier to fit into your day (and you can’t be late!). I love Nike’s free Training Club app, which has workouts ranging from 10-minute yoga routine to 45-minute HIIT sweat sessions, many of which don’t require more than a mat. A set of weights is a good investment for quick at-home workouts, too.
Do little and often
I found exercising while pregnant easy. Now that I have a little bundle of energetic joy around, carving out time to work out is a lot harder. My husband looks after Sylvie when I run or go out for a pool swim, but if I’m at home looking after the bub, I’ll often try and fit in 10 or 20 minute workouts around her, doing a quick stretch while she’s napping or even fitting in some yoga moves on the living room carpet while she plays with toys (and watches me avidly).
Try a baby yoga class
There aren’t loads of ways of working out with a little one in tow (see running buggies below for one great way to get active with your bub) but baby yoga classes are one great way to ease back slowly into fitness, give your babe a bit of a stretch and meet other mamas while you’re at it.
Don’t underestimate walking
I love a stiff hike but never really thought of a gentle walk as proper exercise until I was pregnant. Babies change everything – and Sylvie’s changed my perception of walking, too. Walking is low intensity but still burns calories, especially if you walk along at a decent pace – push a buggy up a few hills and you’re basically doing an arm workout, too.
You’d be surprised by how good you’ll feel after 10-20 minutes of weeding, digging or just deep breathing in the garden. Sylvie loves looking at the trees and clouds above her, so I often stick her in her Moses basket outside and garden around her until she gets bored. Yesterday I managed 15 minutes of frosty weed-pulling and it really lifted my mood.
Track your progress
Fitness trackers and smart watches are a bit like marmite – but if you’re a fan of keeping track of your stats and workouts, they can be a great way to make sure you’re working consistently back up to the fitness level you want. Garmin’s Venu Sq watch is a good affordable option that has preloaded cardio and yoga workouts you can call up when you get a few minutes of free time.
Get your body checked
Your GP will sign you off to exercise at your six-week check, but in reality this is a quick and not very thorough appointment and you’re unlikely to get checked physically. Now I’m back to regular running, yoga and walking, I’ve booked a Mummy MOT appointment to check that I’m definitely well and ready to get into the level of exercise I did pre-pregnancy.
Invest in a running buggy
Love to jog? A running buggy lets you get back to running fitness while bringing your babe along for the ride. Running buggies are recommended for babies from 6 months old, so Sylvie and I haven’t tested out proper running with ours yet, but we do plenty of fast-paced walks together, and I love how easy it is to take my buggy off-road and onto gravel paths. If you aren’t sure where to try running with a buggy, I recommend your local park, arboretum or a National Trust property – they tend to have well-groomed or even tarmac-ed paths that make pushing a buggy less jittery. I have a Baby Jogger City Mini GT2, and also recommend the more affordable Hauck Runner.
If in doubt, get out
As I’m typing this, I realise that Sylvie and I haven’t left the house today – so we’re off to the local arboretum for a fast-paced pram walk with a coffee. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a quick stroll around the block or an all-day excursion – fresh air will make both you and your mini me feel happier and healthier.