Do – Follow your doctor’s advice. Ask your doctor questions about how much activity she recommends for you at your 6 week check-up. Depending on your health history and birth doctors may recommend you take it easy for a while longer, or give you the go ahead to start on a postpartum exercise plan.
Do – Take it slow. Having a baby is great deal of work for a woman’s body. Both traditional Indian and traditional Chinese medicine hold that the lifelong health of a woman is affected by her health and activities postpartum. So give your body ample time to heal after pregnancy and nurture and nourish it. If your doctor gives you the go ahead, begin with a routine of regular but gentle exercise. Start with a daily walk with your infant/s. Either a stroller or baby carrier will work. Add a yoga routine or low intensity workouts gradually. As your body adapts you may change your walk to a run (a jogging stroller can be great for women who are runners) – or add a thrice weekly visits to the gym.
Do – Have realistic expectations. Your body – familiar as it has been to you so far – has changed significantly after pregnancy and birth. These changes happened gradually – over a period of nine months and it can take just as long or longer for your body and metabolism to return to normal – particularly if you are breastfeeding. Studies show that postpartum weight loss is at it’s peak after your baby is six months old and breastfeeding mothers can usually expect to see the famous weightloss benefit of breastfeeding starting around 5 or 6 months in. Non-breastfeeding mothers’ bodies and metabolisms too begin to adapt to the new normal. Stressing about not being back to your pre-pregnancy shape or weight before your baby is one year old might be premature.
Do – Eat healthfully. You may find your appetite and food preferences have changed postpartum. Many women experience increased hunger – this is only natural as their bodies seek to replenish nutrients depleted during pregnancy and birth. Denying your body food at this time can be pretty near impossible. However with a newborn’s round the clock schedule, mealtimes may not really exist. Eat to hunger but pick foods that are nutrient dense. Now may not be the time to drastically cut carbohydrates or fats as the energy demands of caring for (and nursing) a newborn as well as healing are considerable – however, simple sugars are best avoided and fats in the form of nuts and seeds as well as healthful oils will satisfy both cravings and nutrient requirements. Consider continuing your prenatal vitamins and gradually add in a variety of fruit and vegetables.
Don’t – Lift anything heavier than your baby. Your back and core have changed greatly with pregnancy and birth. Use the weight of your growing baby as a guide to how much your should carry/lift and build your strength back slowly.
Do – Find friends to exercise with. Connect with moms in the neighhborhood (you will meet them when you are out with your stroller!), call up your friends for a daily walk and talk or find a neigborhood yoga or mother-and-baby exercise class. This will help keep you motivated as well give you some much needed adult company.
Do – Eat a nutritious diet with plenty of iron, calcium, protein and freshly cooked vegetables. Include shakes and smoothies for a quick boost of energy and hydration before/after your exercise.
Don’t – be overly stressed about bouncing immediately back to your pre-pregnancy body. Many factors affect how much weight you gain or lose post partum and it can be unhealthy for breastfeeding mothers to lose weight too quickly after birth. Give yourself a year to get back to your postpartum weight and shape and as you work towards your goal focus on developing a new but regular routine of exercise and making sure you are eating a healthy diet.