Getting back into shape is usually high on a new mom's to-do list. But alone time is often difficult to come by. So how can you drop those pregnancy pounds while bonding with Baby at the same time? Exercise with Baby!
Benefits of Postpartum Exercise
Most of us know the physical benefits of exercise—increased metabolism, weight loss, muscle toning. But there's also a mental benefit specific to new mothers. "[Exercise] will also cause improved mental health states, reducing the chance of postpartum depression," says Reed Maltbie, co-founder and director of Gainesville Athletic Academy in Florida. "Exercise also lowers stress levels and we all know how stressful a newborn baby can be when we are low on sleep! Speaking of sleep, exercise actually helps Mom sleep better!"
Baby benefits from exercise time, too. "Imagine the bond Baby is developing with Mom through interaction," Maltbie says. "You are building confidence, self-awareness, human connection, love. Babies need these intimate interactions to adjust, to develop and grow. Also, the activities are exercise for Baby too, so he/she is developing cognitive and physical abilities."
Ways to Workout with Baby
From walking to jogging, yoga, to resistance exercises, there's something for everyone. "Baby carrying, especially in the first six months, is a great way to burn more calories throughout the day as well as helping baby to establish a secure attachment to Mom," says Helene Byrne, founder of BeFit-Mom. "When babies are little, moms can use a sling or front pack; as Baby gets bigger, a framed backpack is best."
7 Exercises to Try
Stefan Aschan, a personal trainer in New York City, recommends the following exercises, which can be done at home with Baby:
- Baby Bench Press: Lie on your back and hold your baby securely above your chest with arms straight. Lower elbows, keeping arms close to your sides, and then extend arms straight up. Repeat while smiling and make funny faces with your child, keeping arm muscles engaged.
- Cooing Crunch: Lie on your back and hold your baby with arms extended in front of you. Sit halfway up, keeping abs engaged, and come down. Repeat.
- Baby Bend: Hold the baby in front of you and sit all the way down, bringing your butt to your heels while keeping arms straight. Stand up again and repeat.
- Stroller Stroll: Push the stroller in front of you. Speed up for 30 seconds and slow down. Do the same thing uphill for added resistance.
- Baby Ballet (Plié) Squats: Hold the stroller in front of you (in locked position) and stand with feet wide apart. Bend from your knees till your hips are knee level, making sure to keep your entire body engaged.
- Kiss Push Up: Arrange yourself in the push up position with your baby flat on his back near your head. Raise and lower your body doing traditional push ups, and be sure to smooch your baby on the way down.
- Use an Exercise/Swiss Ball: Use an exercise or Swiss ball (those giant beach balls that you see in the gym). Sit on the ball while holding your baby in your lap. Bounce up and down, keeping your abs engaged. Your baby will love the vertical movement and will enjoy being held close, and you'll love the tighter tummy. You can also do this more gently to help put your baby to sleep. Talk about multitasking!
When to Start and Safety Issues
The most important safety tip to remember regarding exercising with your baby is to clear it with your physician, as well as your pediatrician. "After an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, women can start pelvic floor exercises, special postnatal abdominal isolations, gentle stretching, and fitness walking with the baby in either a front pack or stroller as soon as she feels ready," Byrne says.
After a C-section, a longer recovery period will be needed before beginning to exercise. Byrne also stresses that all postnatal women should start exercising at a beginner level, beginning with exercises that develop core strength and functional stability to prevent injury and speed recovery.
It's equally important to get your baby cleared before performing certain exercises. "A certain amount of experience and maturation of the baby is required in order stabilize their head," Aschan says. "Most doctors and midwives suggest waiting until your six-week postnatal check before beginning to exercise, so best to consult them before doing any activities."