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.