Being a new mom isn’t easy. You’re now responsible for another life other than your own, and this life can’t do anything for itself. The new life can’t even tell you what it wants, except through crying—and you need to figure out those cries.
To be able to provide for your new baby, you’ll need to make sure your health is in the best possible condition. You’ll be sleep deprived and hormones will be scattered, so you need to find a way to balance the darker thoughts, the worries, and the tears.
And then there’s the weight gain from pregnancy (and in the aftermath, especially if you’re breastfeeding)! You’ll want to get into your pre-pregnancy clothes, but may find it a struggle with so much other stuff happening in your life.
The best thing you can have is a post natal fitness regime and diet. By getting the right nutrients and exercise, you’ll be able to improve your mental and physical health. It’s possible to starve off the baby blues and post natal depression and make sure you have the energy to care for your new little one.
Here’s your full guide to post natal fitness and nutrition to make sure you’re ready.
Let’s Start with Gentle Fitness
We’ll start with the fitness guide before the nutrition. The main thing that you want to focus on is your health. That means you need to start with gentle fitness. Even if you were active before and during pregnancy, you need to start with gentle exercises. This is even more the case if you had a c-section.
Your body needs to heal after the birth of a child. If you delivered naturally, you may have a tear that needs to heal. If you had a c-section it can take six to eight weeks to recover. Make sure your body is ready for the exercise that you’re going to throw at it.
When I say gentle exercises, I mean the ones that you’ve been cleared to do. This is not the time to start training for a marathon next year! Your doctor or physio will usually give you some core strengthening exercises to make sure you support your body fully after giving birth.
Having a baby will weaken the core muscles. This happens to everyone, so don’t worry too much about it. You can do pelvic floor exercises to boost the strength, even if you’ve had a c-section. These are highly recommended to do from the very start of your post natal recovery.
As you start to recover, your doctor will tell you when you’re ready to do other exercises. You may even be given some suggestions to help build your fitness levels up gradually.
Your doctor will recommend exercise, unless there is a medical reason not to. Exercising after having a baby is excellent for your mental health. It will help to release the serotonin in the body, so you feel happier and can fight off the changing hormones in the post-delivery period. You’re at a lower risk of developing post natal depression in the future.
Don’t Rush Your Exercise Levels
A very important point to make is that there’s no rush with exercise. Don’t feel like you need to compare yourself with anybody else. Women recover from pregnancy at different rates, and we all have different types of labours, deliveries, and post natal issues. Some of us are lucky enough to have no tears at all while others will lose litres of blood in the aftermath.
So, focus on your current abilities. While you can set mini goals for yourself, don’t feel the pressure to rush or push yourself further. You don’t need to get back to your pre-pregnancy capabilities right away. It took nine months to lose your fitness levels, so it will take nine months to gain them back!
Build your way up and listen to your body. If it’s in serious pain and screaming at you to stop, then stop exercising! Dial your program back and focus on the levels that you could do.
It’s important to be realistic with any goals that you do decide to set—and be realistic about your current abilities. Mentally you may want to push yourself more, but physically your body may not be able to cope. You may not be able to get back to your pre-pregnancy shape or fitness capability. Your body will change shape because of pregnancy, and not everyone gets back that pre-pregnancy shape.
The change in shape and weight distribution is completely normal and something that will be good for you. It’s your body’s way of making sure you are sustained for the tasks that will come ahead with the newborn.
Build Your Baby into Your Exercise Routine
Involving your baby into exercise has become a popular way for moms to get fit. There is certainly nothing wrong with doing it yourself, once your doctor has cleared you for exercise.
One of the most common exercises to add into your plan is buggy running (or walking to start with). This is just as it sounds: you run with the buggy. There are even running groups around the country offering moms to get together and run with their little ones, and then there will be socialising afterwards or during different days.
Make sure you have a buggy that is suitable for buggy running. There are now specific runner buggies designed, usually with three wheels to make it easier to turn corners and remain stable at faster paces. The last thing you want is to find you have to come to a halt just to get your buggy around a corner or risk affecting your child’s health!
You could also play a game of peek-a-boo while exercising. Put your child where he/she can see you as you do a sit up. Say peek-a-book and then lay back down. As your child gets older, they’ll join in with the game much more.
Squeeze Your Workouts in When You Can
You may find it difficult to fit in an exercise plan into your day. This is completely normal as a new mom—and I’m sorry to say that it doesn’t get easier when you have two or three running around after you.
It’s very easy to brush off a day of exercise and decide to veg out on the couch instead. Sometimes your body will need this. If you did have a terrible night with the newborn, by all means give your body rest if it really needs it. But do listen to your body—and not just what your mind keeps telling you.
It’s very easy to think your body needs rest, when it’s really your brain telling you a lie. This could be the baby blues or post natal depression setting in. You think that all you need is to curl up away from everyone, but really you want to fit in the exercise when you have a chance. The release of serotonin really will help to boost your mood.
Fit in the exercise whenever you get a chance. While there is a rule of sleeping when the baby sleeps, this isn’t always realistic. Plus, a baby should sleep 16-18 hours a day and you definitely don’t need that many hours sleep!
So, spend some of that time doing some exercise. It could be just 5 or 10 minutes of exercise but it will be better than nothing at all. It could just be using the stairs to walk up and down them and strengthen your leg muscles, but at least it is doing something.
Make Sure You Have an Energy-Boosting Diet
While fitness levels are important, you will also need to make sure you get the right levels of nutrients. The right diet will also help with your fitness levels, since you’ll get the energy that you need to sustain yourself throughout the day.
Let’s start with getting the right food for your full-day energy needs. The last thing you want is to focus on getting more caffeine and sugar in your diet.
If you’re breastfeeding, you will need to limit the bad stuff you put in your body. It will pass into your breast milk and into your baby. But even if you’re not breastfeeding, you’ll want to think about the food that you put in to fuel your body.
A healthy diet that is full of fruit and vegetables will certainly do you a world of good. The fibre that you get will break down slowly throughout the day, so you get the sustained energy levels. When you eat sugar or have more caffeine, you end up with energy spikes. These may feel great for the short term, but in the long term you’ll just end up craving more. You’ll have the energy dips and feel like you need to create another spike. All you’re doing is raising your blood sugar levels and affecting your overall health.
With sustained energy levels through the addition of fibre and even more protein in your diet, you will be able to get through more during the day.
The fruit and vegetables will also help to keep your nutrients up—and you’ll need then whether you’re breastfeeding or not. Nutrients like iron and selenium will give you a boost in energy, while calcium and vitamin D will help to protect your bone, teeth, and brain health. And we can’t forget how the vitamin C and antioxidants will help to support your immune system, which will be affected by childbirth.
Bulk Make Your Meals for Freezing
I know that standing at the stove for long periods of time isn’t what you want to do. Many of us feel like we can’t even stand there for five minutes, let alone 20 or 30 minutes that a recipe calls for.
If you have time before your baby arrives, spend that time bulk making your meals. Do meals that you can freeze for the time after the birth, such as Bolognese sauces, soups, stews, and even curries. All you’ll have to do is make some pasta or rice to go with them—and you can sit down for the majority of that!
For those who are already a new mom, ask someone else if they will make the meals for you. A husband or partner could do something on a day off work, so all you have to do is grab and pop in the microwave to reheat when it comes to feeding yourself. If you do have a little energy or a day where you can do something, opt for making a few bulk meals and stock up for the week.
Having some healthy homemade freezer meals will definitely help you in the months after the birth. Your willpower will be at an all-time low. Your energy levels are zapped and you just don’t feel like making anything. You’ll want the junk food, even if you know it isn’t good for you. With freezer meals, you feel like you have convenience food but without all the salt, sugar, and other bad ingredients.
It’s Time to Develop Your Fitness and Nutrition Plan
Having a full plan that is just right for you and your newborn will be the best thing you could ever do. Many moms overlook it. But by putting yourself first, you will actually be there for your baby and the rest of your family. You’ll also create a system that can just keep improving.
Getting your nutrients through your food will help to keep postpartum depression at bay. You’ll find that balancing hormones is much easier, and you’ll feel better within yourself. Adding in a fitness regime can only improve those feelings.
You’ll also become a more confident person and will be happier about the shape of your body. Your mental health is supported in that way, which means you can focus on your new baby and being a new mom.
Take the steps now and you can have happier memories in the aftermath of birth.