These days, social media is flooded with celebrities and fitness models rocking fit and firm bodies shortly after pregnancy. If you’re a new mom, it can be easy to feel pressured to get back to your pre-baby shape, with so many women on Instagram flaunting tight abs just weeks after giving birth and stepping on stage at a fitness competition a few months postpartum. You may be wondering: Is this the new norm? And is it realistic?
Before you stress yourself out, it’s important to realize there are many factors that determine your post-baby shape, and therefore how quickly you will bounce back. These factors include genetics and age, your pre-pregnancy shape, how active you were during your pregnancy, and how long doctors recommend you take to heal before returning to regular workouts.
Next, take your time and ease back into a fitness routine—don’t rush it. The general rule is to wait six weeks postpartum to begin exercising, but get the green light from your doctor before starting any kind of fitness program. Once you’re cleared to start working out, follow these tips for getting your body back in shape and in time, your results will come.
• Listen to your body. Don’t expect to pick up where you left off before pregnancy. Every woman’s body is different. Where one mom may jump back into a high intensity spin class, another may start out with gentle stretching. Your body will let you know what it is ready for.
• Begin with home workouts. You don’t need a gym to start being active again. Download a postnatal yoga workout, set up a bodyweight circuit in your living room, or take a lap around the neighborhood with your jogging stroller. Once your strength and stamina return, so will your confidence to hit the gym.
• Start working on your core, carefully. Many women experience diastasis recti following pregnancy, which is when the abdominal muscles separate. If this is the case, it is important to avoid exercises that make the stomach bulge during contraction—such as crunches. It is essential to engage your transverse abdominals to help bring those muscles back together. Begin with exercises like pelvic tilts, prone single-leg raises, and bridges, then work your way up to forearm and side planks.
• Don’t skimp on rest. Your body just made a human, and now it is being forced to function on very little sleep. Nap when your baby naps, then when he is wide awake, prop him up in the bouncy seat or play pen and workout while he watches.
• Eat! This is not a time to limit calories and food groups. Hitting those 5-6 small meals a day consisting of high quality protein, veggies, fruits, healthy fats, and lots of water, will get you back in the game more efficiently. If you are breastfeeding, make sure to take in an extra few hundred calories to keep milk production high.
• Be kind to yourself. Take the time you need to adjust to a new schedule, and bond with your baby. It is not a race to see who can get their six-pack back the fastest. Nourish your body and get back into a workout routine.
No matter where you are on your post-baby journey, keep plugging along. Whether you end up rocking a six-pack or not, a strong, fit mom is a great example for her kids and fellow moms.