The initial period of adjustment to a new baby, especially if it is your first, is usually a cyclone of new feelings, new responsibilities, changing relationships and extreme tiredness. Many of the things you did prior to a newborn’s arrival can fall by the wayside as a result, such as exercise.
While it may be too early to return to your pre-pregnancy fitness regimen, it’s important to gradually include gentle exercise to your daily routine for the sake of both your physical and mental health.
Ultimately, looking after your own wellbeing is in the best interests of you and your young family. Here are some ideas about how to fit exercise in during the chaos of those first weeks of a new baby. But before you get started, make sure you get appropriate advice from your doctor.
Incorporate baby into exercise
The baby sling (or wrap) is a true godsend for parents wishing to remain active when their child is a young baby. Going for a walk with baby safe and snug in a sling is a fantastic option for keeping up exercise when your options are limited.
If a sling is not your thing, take the pram and leave the car at home. Where fitness permits, walking rather than driving to the shops or a friend’s house could actually be a more efficient use of your time than packing the pram in and out of your car.
Get flexible with baby
Before you know it, your baby will be ready for some tummy time. Lying on the tummy with weight on the forearms is important for building head, neck and upper body strength. That helps with learning to roll, crawl and sit up.
If you join baby in tummy time you can gently stretch and strengthen your core as well. Try some modified (knee) push-ups or yoga positions and you’ll quickly begin to feel stronger and notice the extra tone in your muscles.
You’ll probably get some giggles from your little one too, as you both stretch and sing your way through tummy time.
If your exercise regime prior to pregnancy and birth was particularly high-octane and demanding, you should wait for the OK from your doctor before trying to hit those heights in the first months.
Pregnancy places big demands on your entire body. And if you’ve had a Caesarean delivery, you will need to take extra care of yourself as your abdominal wound heals. That means no stretching, bending, or lifting anything heavier than your baby – for six to ten weeks!
You will return to your previous health and fitness faster if you give your body the recovery time it needs. Pushing yourself too hard, too soon, can risk injury and illness.
Combine with socialising
A crucial source of support, advice and company for new parents is other mums and dads in the same boat. Maybe you are a member of a mothers and fathers’ group or simply have friends who also have a young family.
Either way, participating in some kind of physical activity with other parents – with or without the baby – combines social stimulation with exercise, even if it is just a brisk walk, a swim, or a light yoga or pilates session.
Many sports and exercise facilities recognise the value of this social/physical interaction for new parents and will provide on-site child care for you.
Making sure both parents get enough exercise is a team effort. Dads can help mums by taking the baby off her hands so she can swim a few laps at the pool or go for a run. Going for a walk as a family can be a pleasant opportunity for bonding as well as exercise.
And don’t be afraid to ask extended family and friends for help when trying to fit exercise in to new parenthood.