Exercising With a Baby

Written by Jenn on September 9th, 2011

Healthy Living, Keeping Active

Motherhood is full of struggles. Adjusting to the new role as “mom,” learning about your child’s needs, and the self-doubt and fears associated with being responsible for a completely helpless being can be so overwhelming. Along with these struggles, new moms also face a very personal challenge: coming to terms with the post-partum body. We desire – and perhaps are even expected – to bounce back into our pre-motherhood bodies, yet the time we once may have dedicated to exercising (or even if we didn’t exercise, the time we could have spent doing so) is now consumed with caring for a new baby. The whole ordeal can be very discouraging.

A negative post-partum body image can contribute to post-partum depression and low self esteem. Conversely, exercise has been shown to improve mood and even ease symptoms of depression. But when you have eight pounds of brand new neediness demanding your attention, how on earth can you find the time?

Make yourself a priority.

That’s so easy to say. You are exhausted, sore, perhaps very emotional, and have more demands on your time than ever before. Between feedings, diaper changes, rocking, holding, comforting, and generally loving your new baby, how are you supposed to make time for you?

The honest truth is that it won’t be easy to do, yet tending to your emotional and physical well-being needs to be just as much a priority as eating and sleeping. You need to be the best you that you can be for your family, especially for your new addition, and that means making time for things that are important. And your body, your self esteem, and your health and well being are all very important.

But just because it won’t be easy don’t mean it is impossible. You don’t need to have a solid hour of time to yourself to dedicate to exercise, and you do not need to give up time with your baby in order to have a fitness routine. Like eating, showering, and sleeping, opportunities for exercise need to be taken when they come up, and with a little creativity you can fit exercise into your schedule while bonding with your baby.

Before thinking about exercise, you need to give your body the time it needs to heal. Every woman is different, just as every birth is different, and whether it takes three weeks, two months, or more, you need to give yourself the time you need to heal before you can begin pushing yourself. But once you are ready to make exercise part of your life, there are ways to make it happen.

When you are ready:

When you are ready to start exercising, here are some ideas for sneaking fitness into your daily schedule while spending quality time with your new baby.

  • Go for a walk. Take your little one for a walk around the neighborhood in the stroller. Just 45 minutes of pushing a stroller can burn upwards of 100 calories. Walking can also give you a much-needed opportunity for social interaction: check your local parenting websites, Facebook groups and message boards for new-mom walking groups. If your little one was born in the cold winter months, take your walk inside and do some window shopping at the local mall a few times a week. The motion of the stroller can be very soothing to a baby, making the time spent walking together beneficial for both of you.
  • Wear your baby. There are so many reasons to wear your baby, and the calorie-burning effect is just one of them. Wearing a baby while doing everyday tasks burns an average of 211 calories per hour. Babywearing is a wonderful bonding experience, and it is a great form of exercise which you can participate in while enjoying your child.
  • Do some yoga. Baby yoga classes are gaining in popularity, and with good reason: they offer moms a wonderful opportunity to connect with their babies while participating in a gentle yet very beneficial form of exercise. Check with your local birthing centers, gyms and even hospitals to see if any of them offer a “mommy and me” yoga class. If you can’t find a class, there are DVDs available, and Youtube even has baby yoga videos that can help you get started.
  • Get a balance ball. Sitting on a balance ball is a great way to gently ease into restoring core strength. It may take a little practice, but a baby can be nursed, snuggled, soothed and sung to while mama sits on the balance ball. Even as little as fifteen minutes a day on the balance ball, when done consistently, can make great strides towards strengthening the abdominal and back muscles with little strain or stress.
  • Exercise with each diaper change. It sounds a little silly, but consistency is key to maintaining a good exercise regiment, and if there is one thing that you can count on with a new baby is consistent diaper changing. Use the diaper change as a reminder to exercise: every time you finish changing a diaper, do a squat or a lunch or touch your toes or do a pushup – whatever is challenging but not overtaxing to your current level of fitness. By itself, one pushup seems insignificant, but newborns go through 8-10 diapers each day. Can you imagine saying “I did 70 pushups this week?” Creating a habit is a wonderful way to stick to an exercise routine.

Small steps over time lead to big results. By incorporating just one or two of these ideas into your regular routine you can begin making steps towards a more fit you, and best of all, you can do it while bonding with your baby.

About The Author: Jenn

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Jenn embraced natural parenting as a way to develop a deep bond with her son Jack despite working long hours outside of the home.

12 Responses to Exercising With a Baby

  1. Rachel P.

    I was an avid runner pre-pregnancy and ran up until about 7 months. Since then, I’ve experienced a lot more fatigue so I haven’t run at all. I am excited to get back to my exercise regiment, but am nervous about how that will actually all work! So these are great tips for me to keep in mind going forward, thanks!

    • Jenn  

      I worked out as much as I could through my pregnancy (well, until about 8 months when people at the gym would actually avoid me like I was going to give birth on the treadmill or something), and I really think it helped me bounce back after my son was born. It sure was a whole new world once he was born, but it helped having a few different ways to exercise with him.

  2. Sylvia@MaMammalia

    Thank you for sharing these great tips. I especially liked the babywearing one! I was very active before I had my son, and the adjustment was especially hard for me. What helped most was learning to compromise: I couldn’t run 5 miles, but I could walk for half an hour. After the nesting period, I took my baby out for a walk every day, in the Moby wrap. I moved slowly and not very far for many months. When I started to view it as time for myself (even with baby along), rather than having an exercise goal, it really made a difference. The physical does eventually follow the mental, emotional, and spiritual. It’s taken awhile, but it has!

  3. Charise@I Thought I Knew Mama  

    Great advice! I never got a balance ball, but I did do the other things. Up until fairly recently, we would walk for 1-2 hours a few times a week. Baby has less tolerance for being in the carrier or stroller for long periods of time now, but I’m glad he liked it when he was younger. I don’t know what I would have done without those walks.

    • Jenn  

      My son has gone through periods of hating the stroller and loving the stroller. Tonight I told him we were going bye-bye for a walk downtown, and he went right to his stroller and sat very happily the whole way. Funny how they change their ways now and again.

  4. Gaby@Tmuffin  

    Thanks for these tips! It’s so hard to maintain consistency when you have kids, because nothing is ever consistent. I like the idea of doing something during diaper changes. That really is the only consistent thing that happens to me every day!

  5. Joy

    I recently (in the past 3 months) resumed running after a hiatus of almost 2 years. I stopped when newly pregnant, because I was nervous about miscarriage (I know it’s safe but I was anxious about it). Then, in labor I tore a bunch of lower abdominal muscles and post birth running was very painful–so I didn’t. Stuck to baby wearing and loads of walking/hiking. Around a year I started some slow run/walking and yesterday (16 months pp) I ran sub 9s for almost 3 miles (without the jogging stroller or kid–have to say that running with the stroller is a whole new level of hard)!

    I thought I wasn’t going to resume running…ever 🙂 ! All that said…taking it slow and listening to my body seemed to have worked–even tho’ at the time I mostly felt guilt for not exercising “enough”.

    • Jenn  

      Joy, I’ve been running for the better part of a year and still don’t run sub-9s. That’s some fantastic work! Running is one of the most efficient fitness activities out there. Taking it slow and listening sure worked well for you!

  6. Joy

    I was being towed by a 55 pound terrier mix at the time 😉 Slow, steady and patient has definitely been key for me (and learning to run for the love of movement–not because I want to look a certain way, I certainly don’t “look” like a runner!)

  7. Janine  

    I waited until my son was almost one to start REALLY working out, and I SO wish I had started sooner! It is the perfect thing to do when my son wants me on the floor with him, and he gets a huge laugh out of me sprinting across the apartment or doing jumping jacks. And it really does make me feel like MYSELF, so much happier, stronger and more confident.

    • Jenn  

      My son loves watching me do yoga, probably because I must look a little silly doing it. I try to involve him and make faces at him or sing while I do it to get him interested. He has learned a few yoga positions from watching me. He gets a kick out of busting out a downward facing dog now and again (and his form is way better than mine). I love seeing how they pick up on things like that.