After months of toiling through the challenges of pregnancy and finally meeting your beautiful baby for the first time, you might realize that merely a minute away from your little pork chop could provoke incredible separation anxiety. While kissing, holding and coddling your new bundle of love, why not start to exercise together? This is good, not only for your personal well-being, but also to stimulate your baby’s activity level.
*I recommend starting these exercises with babies when they are able to support their heads, starting as early as three to four months. By five to six months, babies will be able to hold their heads steady and erect.
These exercises will help to tighten up some of the soft spots after pregnancy and will help you avoid injury while carrying your growing baby and transporting 30-plus pounds of gear. Most doctors recommend resuming your exercise program two or more weeks after a normal vaginal delivery and four to six weeks following a cesarean birth. (Please consult with your physician before starting an exercise program.) All exercises should be slow and controlled. Fast, jerky movements are more likely to lead to an injury, particularly because of increased joint laxity (instability) after pregnancy.
Also, please avoid crunches or sit-ups! Most postnatal women develop diastasis recti. Diastasis recti, known as abdominal separation, occurs when your left and right abdominal muscles divide, leaving a thin connective tissue from the middle of your ribcage to your pelvis. Doing crunches or sit-ups increases that separation and does not provide sufficient support for your abdominal muscles. Instead, do core exercises, including planks, side planks and boat pose.
Here are a few moves to inspire you:
Baby hip raise (pelvic raise)
Positioning: Lie down on the floor with your head, torso and buttocks planted firmly on the ground. Your knees should be bent and your feet also planted on the floor. Hold your baby on top of your belly (easier) or hips (more difficult).
Action: Exhale while raising your hips as high as you can, making a bridge with your pelvis. Slowly lower your hips and return to the floor. Recommended: 16 to 18 reps (add three- to five-second hold for increased difficulty).
*Alternative: For increased difficulty, extend one leg straight out and hold, while keeping both hips on the same level. Also, try to practise Kegel exercises during the initial pelvic tilt.
Seated baby lift (seated chest press)
Positioning: Sit on a bench or chair, make sure that your feet are flat on the ground and sit up tall for a stable position.
Action: Hold your baby under her arms and lift her up in front of you. Return to start position with your baby sitting on your lap. Do not extend too high; that will cause pain or discomfort on your shoulders. Recommended: two sets of six reps.
*Alternative: for an increased challenge, try sitting on a stability ball or standing (be sure to flex your abdominals throughout to prevent lower back arching).
Baby faces (hydrant)
Positioning: Lay your baby on the floor underneath you and start on all fours, looking at your baby. Make as many silly baby faces as you can to keep your little lollipop smiling. Your palms should be flat on the floor, while knees and hips are bent at a 90-degree angle. Before starting, contract your abdominals to engage your core and inhale.
Action: While keeping your knee bent and hip flexed, take one leg out to the side and exhale. Keep your back straight throughout the exercise to engage your glutes (aka butt muscles) more. Try to avoid raising your knee so high that your hips tilt outward. Return your knee to the ground, then repeat (switch legs at the end of the set). Continue for 10 to 12 reps on each side.
*Alternative: For an additional challenge, extend your leg straight out at the highest range by extending at the knee, while maintaining the same degree of hip flex.
Baby kisses (hyper-leg extension)
Positioning: Start by kneeling on all fours with your baby positioned on the mat in front of you. Inhale before the movement and contract your abdominal muscles.
Action: Exhale as you start the movement. Extend one leg straight back, then lift it up (avoid arching your back). As you lift your leg up, bend your elbows and lean into your baby’s chubby cheeks for a surprise kiss. Slowly lower your leg down and repeat (switch legs at the end of the set). Continue for 12 to 14 reps on each side.
*Alternative: For an added challenge, lower your leg only two inches and raise it back up slowly. The slower the exercise, the more challenging.
Baby twist and shout (mason twist)
Positioning: Sit on a mat on the floor and balance on your sit bones (you may want to fold the mat for added comfort on your tailbone). Extend up through your torso and roll your shoulders back for proper positioning. Start with both feet on the floor and knees bent. (If you are carrying some of your baby fat in your midsection, you can hold a wider stance by spreading your feet wider.) Hold your baby under his arms and inhale before starting.
Action: Exhale as you start to lift your baby up and twist to the left; inhale as you twist to the right. Start slowly and gradually increase your speed. Maintain an upright position throughout, or take more breaks if your back is arching forward. Recommended: two sets of 10 rotations.
*Alternative: For increased difficulty, raise one leg off the ground. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, raise both feet off the ground.
**Additional alternative: For an easier exercise, sit on a stability ball and rotate from left to right
Baby roll (deadlift)
Positioning: Hold your baby in a cradle carry with her head resting in one elbow and her knees secured in your opposite elbow. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and contract your abdominals to avoid any back arching or rounding during your exercise.
Action: Tilt forward at your hips while keeping your baby close to your chest. Inhale as you tilt forward and exhale as you return to standing. Keep your legs straight throughout the exercise and push your heels into the ground on the upward movement to contract the muscles in the back of your legs (hamstrings).
Alternative: For increased difficulty, hold your baby under his arms and reach him out farther from your chest (start with 10 inches).
General guidelines for postnatal exercise:
- Maintain regular exercise three times per week
- Avoid any exercise that causes pain or discomfort
- Ensure proper hydration and rest breaks
- Breastfeeding women need ample breast support (avoid high-impact exercises to begin, such as plyometrics and running)
Do not continue exercise and consult a physician if you experience the following:
1. Heavy bleeding
3. Breast infection
For a free consultation and review of pre-/postnatal exercises, please email !
You can also check out my past article on prenatal fitness.
* Special thanks to the beautiful and endlessly wonderful Victoria Adilman-Chan and her wee one, Gus, for modelling the fitness poses here.Tags:Baby, Dynamic Duo, Family, Fitness, Health, Lifestyle, Parenting, Postnatal