After nine months of carrying a baby around, it may be hard to remember what your body looked like before pregnancy. Women gain an average of 30 pounds while they’re pregnant, according to the American Council on Exercise. Eighteen to 20 pounds will melt away within a month of giving birth, but losing those last 10 can be torture.
Trying to watch your weight yet still consume enough calories to meet your baby’s breastfeeding needs may seem impossible—especially if you’re also facing emotional hurdles such as sadness, irritability or even postpartum depression.
Exercise can rev up your metabolism, get your heart pumping and boost your spirits.
Make sure you get your post-partum checkup, usually six weeks after delivery. Your doctor will check any incisions and can tell you whether you’re ready to start an exercise program.
Even if you continued to exercise throughout your pregnancy, plan to ease into your postdelivery routine. Childbirth puts your body through a lot of stress, and you need time to heal.
Your healthcare provider may start you off with short, slow walks. Try bundling baby into the stroller and going for a walk. You’ll get to squeeze in some cardio and bond with your infant.
After you get the go-ahead for more vigorous workouts, try these exercises:
- Core strengtheners. After pregnancy, the uterus no longer presses against the abdominal wall. The wall loosens and may no longer effectively support the lower back, which can cause back pain and posture problems. Try adding lower-back and range-of-motion exercises into your routine. To relieve upper-back pain caused by fatigue and heavier breasts, perform shoulder exercises and chest and back stretches.
- Cardio. Walking, cycling and water aerobics a few times a week are good ways to start. Go slowly, and if your body responds well, you can increase the number of days and workout durations.
- Abdominal exercises. Your stomach is another obvious area that may need toning.
- Kegel exercises. Kegels are performed by squeezing and tightening motions, similar to how you would stop urine flow. They help repair and strengthen the muscles across the pelvic opening.
Although cutting calories is one of the first steps you would normally take to lose weight, it’s not recommended while you’re breastfeeding. Breastfeeding and becoming more active in the postpartum period require more energy, and you have to make sure your baby is getting all his or her necessary nutrients. To meet these needs, you should consume an additional 500 calories a day. Eating a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and low in saturated fats will not only give baby a healthy meal but make you feel good, too. And a healthier you means you’ll have more energy to enjoy that bundle of joy.