I’m now at 10 weeks post birth of my beautiful baby Ruby, I think it’s probably time to give you an update on how it all went.
My birth was ok, not the zen water-birth I had hoped for as I needed to be induced (ouch!) and had all sorts of cables and monitors on me, I had an 8 hour intense active labour, no drug pain relief, I used the TENs machine and deep breathing, and I got a healthy baby at the end! Yippee. (I’ll write more on what I used to make my birth easier soon.)
Here we are, a few hours after the birth, and then how she is now at 10 weeks. Such a cutie…
Now, aside from looking after baby, I’m focused on getting back my post baby body, and I figure you might like to see what my belly really looked like after I’d just given birth…
So, here’s the progression of pics… gulp.
Please remember these photos are just my journey, and the post below is just what I’m doing after my own research. Every body is different, and every pregnancy is different. Health and fitness is a very high priority in my life and it is my first child. I imagine it might be different for the next ones… If you have had a different experience of your pregnancies, please be kind to yourself and only take whatever tips you find useful to inspire you to a healthier body now. Also, I am not a Personal Trainer, Physio or Exercise Physiologist, so please check with your health care professional before making changes to your exercise habits, especially during pregnancy.
Crazy hey! I thought my belly would be a bit more deflated in the 4 hours after picture with the baby already out, but it’s still pretty big because the uterus is still baby-sized, not avocado-sized like it usually is, and there’s still lots of blood and fluid, etc. But I got it back to close to flat within 4 days as you can see. The uterus takes about a week to shrink back to normal size and for all the fluid to release, but even after this many new Mums struggle with their post-baby bellies.
I kept doing core work all the way through my pregnancy. Supermans, plank, just keeping it sucked in, “hugging the baby” with my muscles. I kept it sucked in so much that I had to consciously tell myself to relax the muscles every now and then to give her more room to move around! I think this was critical to my post baby bounce back. I read a good e-book with specific core workout plans from Pregnancy without Pounds. Contrary to popular “let it hang out” thoughts, you can do a lot of core work while pregnant, except crunches and twists, anything that might squash the baby is out, but there’s still heaps of exercises that you can do. Core work stopped me getting a bad back during my pregnancy too, it’s super important. The e-book above gives good advice and workout plans to avoid abdominal separation which is a common problem during pregnancy as your belly stretches and the relaxin hormone kicks in to loosen you up for birth.
Obviously it’s easiest to regain your figure if you don’t put on too much weight during your pregnancy. Eating clean, healthy foods, not overeating or “eating for two”, and continuing to exercise are critical to have a healthy pregnancy. I have posted already about healthy weight gain during pregnancy here. My exercise routine through my pregnancy included 4-5 sessions each week; a mix of total body weights sessions, Yoga & swimming. I kept my habit of exercising the same, and just altered the intensity and pretty much dropped most of my cardio work, sticking to swimming for my cardio workout. Swimming was great to get horizontal, take the weight off my belly, and work and stretch my body. You don’t have to drop the cardio, I just like my cardio really intense, and I get a bit too excited when I’m running or spinning to stay within the safe, moderate intensity recommended while pregnant, so I figured I’d get enough cardio from weights, swimming and yoga.
If you’re already a runner or walker before getting pregnant it’s great to keep it up, at the moderate intensity and not getting too hot. I had been using a heart rate monitor before, and used it all the time I trained while I was pregnant, I liked being able to monitor my heart rate.
It is recommended not to begin exercises that you have never done before while pregnant. This is because your centre of gravity is changing day by day and the relaxin hormone makes all your muscles and ligaments more stretchy than they usually are, so it can destabilise your joints and possibly lead to a higher likelihood of injury. If you have been exercising before your pregnancy it is fine to keep doing what you were doing before, just make sure not to get too hot, and keep it at a moderate intensity. This is because your little growing baby can’t regulate his/her temperature inside you, if you get too hot, you can heat them up too much. Also their little hearts are beating much, much faster than yours, sometimes as much as double, so you don’t want to stress your heart and cause theirs to go too fast. So keep it moderate and stick to exercises you already know how to do. If you’ve never exercised before and want to begin something, moderate paced daily walks has been proven to help with a healthy pregnancy, and it’s great for your mindset too.
I had a picture of a beautiful healthy pregnant woman right next to an abs of steel picture to remind myself of my before and after pregnancy goals. I kept the picture in my kitchen on the inside door of my breakfast cupboard with my vitamins. Each morning I would look at it and remind myself of my goal. I also read Oxygen magazine to learn about new workouts, healthy recipes and get inspired by the buff bods. I am determined to have better abs now after my baby than I had before, and while I was pregnant I was reading stories like those of BuffMother Michelle Berger to inspire myself that it can be done. ( I don’t have them yet but I’ll keep you posted! 🙂 )
I brought the Belly Bandit with me to the hospital and I put it on right after I took that belly shot and only took it off to shower for the whole first week. Ate, slept, breastfed, everything with it on. It helped my poor abs remember where they used to be, and reminded me to keep sucking in my belly.
Every time I fed my baby, I would suck in my abs the whole time, and do my pelvic floor exercises. I still do. I would visualise my stomach shrinking back down, and mentally connect with all the layers of muscle, feeling it all go back into place. At first when I did this my rectus abdonimus, the bit that runs down the middle felt like it was a big sloppy mess, I couldn’t even feel it as muscle at all, it just felt like a big mushy hole, but after a few weeks of sucking it in, it started to feel more normal again.
Breastfeeding is excellent in many ways to help shed baby pounds, there are estimates that breastfeeding mothers need an extra 500 cals of good nutritious food on top of usual basal metabolic rate requirements.
These are my go-to exercises post baby. I began training again a few weeks after the birth, as I healed quickly and was feeling good, and had the Doc’s ok. Remember to wait for your 6 week doctors visit before doing anything strenuous, but you can get started with some ab work and walking pretty much as soon as you feel able. Long walks outside with baby are excellent to get fresh air and light exercise to get you back into it. Pilates is excellent for deep core work and pelvic floor, which are both crucial to work on post-baby. I have been training 5 times per week, sometimes in the morning while my husband is still at home with Ruby, and sometimes in the evening after he gets home. It’s tough sometimes to go to the gym at night, but I have a very big and compelling goal. It means a lot to me to do this, so I take action and do what needs to be done.
If you’ve had a c-section definitely get your doctors ok before beginning any exercise and give yourself time to heal properly. Once you have healed you can get your abs back, though it will take a lot of work to work through the scar tissue. Michelle Berger has a great little book of her journey back to abs after a bunch of kids, twins and 2 c-sections. Cheesy cover but great exercise, dietary and mindset advice.
Everyone knows abs are made in the kitchen!! I do have a little layer of fat still on top of my belly, but it’s the same as the rest of my body, it’s all a little soft. I think I’m at about 19 – 20% body fat. I’m getting it tested soon and getting a program from a BioSignature Practitioner to help me get really lean. So the only thing to do now is eat clean and train hard. I have been eating 90% clean the whole time, but now I’m ramping up the action and am aiming for 95% clean, and no processed sugars at all. To help keep myself accountable I’m keeping a food diary with My Fitness Pal, you can find me here. I’ve made my food diary open to my friends, feel free to add me if you’re keeping a food diary on it too. My focus isn’t counting calories, as that’s not recommended while breastfeeding, rather just keeping a record, it is interesting to see how my cals mostly balance out each day between what I eat and the exercise I do.
It is tough sometimes to eat clean when you are tired from the many night feeds, but I remind myself that what I eat is creating the food for my baby and if I don’t eat nourishing foods it will come out of me, and leave me depleted of energy and nutrients. The key is having lots of healthy food around and pre-planned easy options for hunger. I have frozen vegetable soups and fritattas in the fridge and freezer all the time. Also getting a good breakfast with lots of protein is critical. This sets you up for a good day with balanced blood sugar and energy. My favourite breakfasts are 2 fried eggs with 2 cups of spinach, mushies and tomato, and a sprinkle of smoked cheddar cheese, or porridge with protein powder & half a banana. I eat a lot of roasted almonds for an easy snack, I have a huge jar of them in my kitchen and will grab a small handful of about 10 when I’m starving hungry from feeding at night.
Omega-3’s are crucial for brain health and happiness. They help you to regulate your mood and go through the breastmilk to help baby brain development too. These are really important supplements as a breastfeeding Mum. I take approximately 20grams per day, that’s 2 big tablespoons of straight oil. After testing a lot of brands I like the Bioceuticals fish oil. I also take JuicePlus Whole Food Supplements and a Breastfeeding Multivitamin just to make sure I’m getting all the things I need on top of the mountain of veggies I eat.
So those are my tips to regain your belly and body post-baby. It all begins with your mindset, self-talk and goals as I’ve discussed in many articles before, but that’s the actual how-to of what I’ve been up to. Get your goal clear and have a big enough reason why and anything is possible. I’ll keep you posted with my journey to a better body after baby than I had before…
I hope that’s been useful. If you’re a mum, feel free to share your experience of your post baby body experiences and any tips you have for other mums.
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