The postpartum fitness space can be a murky area to navigate, as a pre and postnatal fitness specialist and a mom of 2 under 4, I get it. So, if you are pregnant or a new mom, here are 5 of the biggest postpartum fitness truths to keep in mind.
One thing I was really surprised by when I had my first baby was how fast the focus shifted from my own health to…. just the babies. While (obviously) babies need a lot of attention and care, I had just delivered a baby, my life had just been turned upside down, and my health needs seemed to not matter.
Since becoming a pre and postnatal trainer I have spoken to hundreds of women about their six week postpartum appointment and, for the most part, heard very similar stories.
Going into your six week postpartum appointment I strongly suggest educating yourself. Write down any questions you have, pain or discomforts you are experiencing, and make sure you ask to be checked for postpartum issues (diastasis recti being a key one).. Just because a lot of attention shifts to the baby, your health still needs to be kept in focus.
The condition diastasis recti(where your rectus abdominal muscles are pulled apart from a growing core) is pretty well known. It is not very well known that you can actually give yourself diastasis recti in the postpartum period by doing the wrong exercises too soon, too hard. In general this is true as long as you have the hormone relaxin in your system (up to six months postpartum or as long as you’re breastfeeding).
When getting back into a fitness routine I suggest avoiding exercises to involve any flexion (where your core folds over itself – think sit-ups etc) for the first six months. There are so many modifications you can do in this time – it just involves educating yourself or working with someone who knows how to keep an eye on this.
As a lifelong runner I thought that after a very active pregnancy and relatively smooth vbac I’d be up and running (pun intended) right after I was cleared to workout. I had no idea how uncomfortable breastfeeding would make running for me, and how often I’d feel like I was going to pee my pants!
Here is what I wish I could go back and tell myself: postpartum cardio is a marathon, not a sprint (another pun). It will always be there and it is much more important to build it back up slowly than to injure yourself. Start with long walks with the baby- then slowly add in slow jogging for a few minutes until you feel comfortable.
Oh- and invest in a comfortable sports bra!! 😉
There is no proof to back up the myth that working out will reduce your milk supply. However, the fear is very common. Research points to being dehydrated and not consuming enough calories can truly affect your milk supply – both of which are possible when you are working out without setting up a program that works for your body.
When working out and breastfeeding, aim to drink your body weight in ounces of water a day (you heard me it’s a lot) and always consume a healthy balanced snack after you workout. An apple and peanut butter was a favorite of mine.
I can’t tell you how many women reach out to me to train – but start by saying “I don’t know if your program is right for me because I didn’t JUST have a baby.” Here is the truth – once you have a baby you are always postpartum. If you have lingering core issues – time usually won’t heal them, so it’s important to get the help you need.
Many women have a hard time committing the time and energy to reach the fitness levels they want until their babies are a little older. The good news? You can ALWAYS work on your postpartum fitness and get to where you want to be – it’s never too late!!
Katie is a pre and postnatal fitness instructor and coach.
She trains clients virtually through 1:1 coaching and group coaching programs. You can check her out at www.methodbykatiebreard.com.
You can learn more about katie at https://www.instagram.com/methodbykatiebreard/
Katie lives in Boston with her husband and kids, Bailey and Beau.