I recently received an email from one of my prenatal yoga students. She is now a mama to a brand new baby girl. As you may relate, before she became a mom she was able to find time for housework, career, self-care (attending yoga classes) and more. However, now that she is a new mama she is having a hard time balancing it all. How can we fit it all in? Usually the first thing that gets cut from our list is self-care and, more specifically, exercise.
Physical movement (exercise) is important for everyone, especially new moms. Our bodies go through many changes in the forty or so weeks of pregnancy, not to mention the changes that can happen during the birth experience. Most doctors recommend waiting six to eight weeks after delivery to begin an exercise program. The question then becomes, not if you can exercise, but when can you find time during your week to add it to your already full schedule? Breastfeeding alone can feel like a full-time job, especially in the beginning. Not to mention, the potential distress of the unanticipated extra hour that you’re are away from your baby. He or she is home with a bottle of breastmilk, happy as can be, while you are out feeling the pressure and discomfort of extremely full breasts!
I’ll share a quick story: After my second daughter was born and I was trying to get back into an exercise routine, I went to a hot yoga class. I mention that it was a “hot” yoga class, because people had a lot of sweat dripping on their yoga mats. And that was a good thing, because as I moved back into downward-facing dog pose, oh no . . . I felt it. That sensation that you know, or will know soon, and then it happened . . . I began to leak milk right on my yoga mat! It happens, and usually at very inopportune moments. (So, don’t forget your nursing pads!)
If you are at least six to eight weeks post-delivery and, like so many other new moms, are having a hard time fitting fitness back into your weekly routine, here are four ideas to support you:
1. Multitask at Home: Multitasking gets a bad rap sometimes (and for good reason), however, when it comes self-care and baby-care, it can be necessary. I recommend baby wearing for several reasons, many of which are good for you and good for your baby. (For more information on baby wearing, check out attachmentparenting.org.) When you wear your baby in a safe carrier, you can incorporate fitness right at home. Lunges, squats, stretching, bicep curls and tricep extensions can all be done at home while wearing your baby. My all-time favorite way to get moving is having an at-home dance party. Play your favorite tunes and dance around the house with your baby in a carrier or in your arms. (P.S. This is an excellent way to get your baby to fall asleep fast!)
2. Mommy and Me Classes: You can find several classes dedicated to mommy and baby time. Bring your baby along while you practice a little self-care. I’ve found ballet classes, yoga classes and moms’ groups that incorporate baby into the exercise routine/class. There are also stroller classes if you are not comfortable using a baby carrier or prefer to be outside. I teach postnatal yoga and welcome moms to bring their babies to class. In these classes, you can lay your baby on a soft blanket next to your mat while you practice or hold your baby and incorporate him or her into the postures. (See “resources” for more ideas and links.)
3. Schedule Blocks: It may be hard in the beginning, but making time for yourself and scheduling it in advance are key to getting moving again. Set yourself up for success and enlist others to support you. Find a time that works best, talk with your husband, partner or other caregiver and arrange to have them watch the baby while you take some much-needed time for yourself. Remember, the more you fill yourself up, the more you have to give to those that need you most. This is true for new moms and moms of older children alike. I’m definitely a calmer, more patient and loving mom when I’ve had my self-care time.
4. Mental/Emotional Fitness: We’ve talked a lot about physical fitness, however mental/emotional fitness is just as important to your health and well-being, especially as a mom. Did you know that baby-brain is a real thing? As a pregnant woman/new mom, your brain physically changes! Support your changing brain with breathing exercises (pranayama), guided imagery and meditation. I have a few favorite tools (see “resources” below) that you can use while you’re breastfeeding. I also practice mindfulness, breathing and meditation. When I’m waiting for my daughters to fall asleep at night (sometimes they really want and need mommy at bedtime), rather than getting frustrated and irritated (which happens), I instead try to practice mindfulness. It’s quiet and it’s dark so it’s the perfect time to relax the mind. These practices also help me to prepare for a more restful night’s sleep. These types of exercises can be done almost anywhere, at any time.
Try some or all of these ideas to find out what works best for you. And, as with everything, take the best (for you) and leave the rest. If you’d like more information and support, please find a list of helpful resources below.
Baby Carriers: Ergo Baby, Lille Baby, Maya Wrap and Moby Wrap. And swaddle blankets.
Classes: Postnatal Yoga, Mommy and Me Yoga, Stroller Strides and Baby-wearing Exercise classes (Google any of these ideas to find classes in your area).
Attachment Parenting: attachmentparenting.org
Breastfeeding support: La Leche League
Mental/Emotional Fitness: Pranayama, Alternate Nostril Breathing, Guided Meditation and Mindfulness