Beginning with a gentle approach is vital.
On Instagram, recently, we saw a video of a mother who has created a range of exercises to do whilst breastfeeding. We watched in surprise, as she lunged, twisted, jumped and squatted, with her newborn baby attached to her breast. It got us thinking about the importance of postnatal recovery and easing your body back into exercise.
As a new mother, how would I feel watching this video? When our newborn baby arrives, our life is transformed in entirely unexpected ways. Often, one of these changes is how we feel about our postpartum body. We may well be in awe of our body and what it has done. It has conceived, grown, sustained, developed and birthed a baby, maybe even two!
We look at ourselves in the mirror and see the bits that have changed. Sometimes we don’t like what we see. There may be lumps, bumps, lines and scars. Perhaps we even move and smell differently. We may not feel like the same person anymore. In the public eye, we see celebrities who appear to snap back into shape mere days after having their babies. They are out in their figure-hugging clothes, their hair and make-up looking perfect. So sometimes we think “is this how I should look?”. The answer is no. There is no such thing as how we ‘should look’, just how we ‘do look’.
In light of this pressure from the media, the temptation can be to go straight into high-intensity exercise, to ‘burn off’ the baby weight, to flatten the ‘mum-tum’, to regain our ‘pre-baby’ figure quickly. Unfortunately, many exercise classes designed for postnatal mothers involve practices that do not support the postpartum; including squatting with the legs wide apart, burpees and sit-ups. However, these movements can often do more harm than good to a mother whose core is not healed and restored. Often the exercise is counter-productive to the objective, which in the postpartum period is to close the body – not open it more.
The priority during the period of postnatal recovery should be to nurture and care for our amazing bodies. To breathe and relax, realign the spine, regain the pelvic muscles and restore the deep muscle layers of the abdomen first. There is time for high intensity later when the body has rested and is ready: in about 6-months, or longer depending on the birth.
At Calmababy, a team of highly trained, experienced teachers deliver our Postnatal Program. They know how to gently and effectively support a mother – mind, body and spirit – through her fourth trimester and the first year of motherhood. All classes spend time working with the breath and our specific postnatal breathing patterns recharge the body with new energy and clear the fog of sleep interruption. They help to strengthen the body – in particular, the stomach and pelvic floor. By drawing the muscles that are stretched during pregnancy inwards and upwards, so they can hold the spine, pelvis and internal organs in correct alignment. As you reestablish your strength and muscle tone, you will be able to increase and develop the exercises to suit your body without causing stress or strain. Later, if and when you feel ready, you can move on to higher intensity exercise.
Further to this, we have stretches and exercises that can be used correctly to help repair separated stomach muscles (Diastasis Recti) as well as ones that can restore muscle tone to the perineal, pelvic and abdominal muscles.
Relaxation is vital in helping you to nurture yourself and thrive as a mother, and so every class ends with a moment of relaxation for you to enjoy with your baby. We find this helps to overcome worries and avoid the build-up of pressure that often accompanies the demands of raising a new baby.
The overall aim of our Postnatal Program is to give you time to relax, restore, energise and tone your body kindly during the postnatal period. To understand your hormones, emotions, make sense of the often weird thoughts new mothers experience and calm the mind. All in a non-judgmental environment, where you can bring your baby and share time with other new mothers. Take this time to look after yourself. Do things that make you feel good. Breathe. Rest. Allow yourself to heal. Don’t look at what everyone else is doing (or at least what they put on social media) and compare yourself to them.
Pregnancy & Postnatal Teacher