Regaining your shape after baby
After the excitement of birthing a baby, women face an inevitable reality: the post partum belly. It takes time for the body to readjust, but there are ways to hasten weight loss and regain your figure more quickly.
The good news is some of it comes naturally. Instead of lifting weights, you’ll be lifting the baby. Instead of taking a jog, you may take a walk with baby in the stroller. Without even exercising, breastfeeding helps moms burn off calories.
“We encourage exclusive breastfeeding,” advises Susan Kistler, nutrition director for the Polk County Health Department. “There’s been evidence that moms make it back into shape a little sooner. It makes sense because mothers are using a lot of calories to nurse their babies.” When they breastfeed, women burn anywhere from 500-800 calories a day while ensuring a healthier future for their newborn.
Kistler suggests http://www.choosemyplate.gov as a resource for healthy diets. The website offers information tailored to pregnant and breastfeeding moms.
She cautions against drastic weight-loss measures, however. “Skipping meals is not generally compatible with maintaining a good weight over time, she says. “Cutting carbs [carbohydrates] down to a very low level is probably not sustainable over a very long period.”
Maintaining a good weight for the “long haul” is preferable. So is assuring adequate rest. “There is evidence that people that don’t get enough rest eat more,” Kistler points out.
This can get complicated for mothers. Trying to squeeze in exercise with a newborn at home can be difficult when sleep is at a minimum and the body is not well rested. “You have to find ways to relax,” says John Abdo, a life motivator and fitness expert. “Close your eyes, even if it’s just for five minutes. A still moment here plus a still moment there add up over a day, week, month, year.”
He also says to sleep whenever the child is asleep. If the baby’s nap seems like a good time to do some cleaning, by the time the cleaning is done the baby will be back up. A good catnap will help you get recharged.
The first few months are a break from the strains of pregnancy, and physical activity should be taken slowly. “Make a list, set goals, stick to it,” encourages Abdo.
Walking, stationary biking and some stairstepping work the entire body and can be taken on as soon as two weeks following childbirth. Abdo advises to stay away from free weights initially, but after consulting with your doctor moderate weight training can be done under supervision.
When planning a fitness routine, keep in mind the workout that comes from toting the tot around. Mothers will lift their child in ways they’ve never lifted before, and more often. These slow, passive exercises also provide a bonding effect with the baby. Holding the baby and playing games can be translated to exercises for the biceps and shoulders.
The foremost place to target is the middle portion of the body, says Abdo, a recent inductee into the National Fitness Hall Of Fame.
The skeletal system generally incurs deformity because the lumbar has been pulled on during the pregnancy. He recommends abdominal exercises that help increase the integrity of the midsection muscles and support the spinal column.
Naturally, mothers who deliver by Caesarian section won’t bounce back as quickly as ones who delivered naturally, so it’s important to take on exercises that won’t overexert the body.
story by MATTHEW M. F. MILLER and CHERYL ROGERS