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My postnatal body: great exercises to do with your baby!

by Viviane Höger

We’ve all been there… You’re feeling tired, overwhelmed, achy, sleep deprived, stressed out… All of these things combined, and more!

So yes, exercise is understandably the last thing on your mind… But precisely because your wellbeing has such an enormous effect on how well you are able to cope with the many demands of motherhood, ensuring a strong body and healthy mind is absolutely vital.

Here’s a simple, effective and timesaving 15-minute routine you could do anywhere and with your baby in tow. All you need is an exercise mat and a blanket for your baby. So, baby let’s move!

Well Mama 15-Minute Postnatal Fitness Routine

This routine is suitable for mamas who have had their postnatal check and babies who are at least 6-weeks old. Please ensure you have your doctor’s consent to begin a formal exercise programme prior to trying out this routine.

Warm-up: 2 minutes

March

Baby’s position: you can hold your baby in your arms, wear her in a sling/baby carrier (please follow manufacturer’s guidelines for safety) or place her on the floor and step far enough away so you can safely move on the spot. Make sure she can see you!

Starting position: straighten your back and tighten your abdominal muscles by imagining you are bringing your belly button to your spine (avoid clenching your buttocks!). Relax your shoulders. If you are carrying or wearing the baby, make sure you are supporting her head with both hands as you march.

Action: march in place for 60 seconds. If you’re not carrying your baby, pump your arms at your sides.

Side Leg-Lift (Tick-Tocks)

Baby’s position: you can hold your baby in your arms, wear him in a sling/baby carrier (please follow manufacturer’s guidelines for safety) or place him on the floor and step far enough away so you can safely move on the spot. Make sure he can see you!

Starting position: straighten your back and tighten your abdominal muscles by imagining you are bringing your belly button to your spine (avoid clenching your buttocks!). Relax your shoulders.

Action: stand with feet hip-width apart. Putting your weight on your left foot, lift your right leg out to the side, keeping it straight and parallel to the left leg. Slowly return to start. Aim for two sets of 15 on each side.

Pelvic Floor and Transversus Abdominis (TrA) Activation: 3 minutes

Basic Pelvic Floor Exercise

Works: the pelvic floor

Baby’s position: place the baby lying on the floor next to you; make sure she can see you!

Starting position: seated with your legs crossed or standing with soft knees (not locked in place) and neutral spine position.  

Action: inhale to prepare and as you exhale tighten the muscles around your vagina and back passage (rectum) as if you're stopping yourself passing water and wind at the same time. The movement is an upward and inward contraction. Try not to hold your breath - you should be able to talk to your baby at the same time! Don't tighten the tummy, thigh or buttock muscles – you'll be exercising the wrong muscle groups! Try to hold the contraction for a few seconds building your way up to 10 seconds per contraction.

Four Point Kneeling ‘Tummy Compression’

Works: deep abdominal muscles (Transversus Abdominis), pelvic floor muscles

Baby’s position: baby is lying on the floor between your hands facing you; align the baby’s face under yours.

Starting position: you’re kneeling on all fours with hands and knees on the floor and spine in neutral alignment. Hands are aligned under your shoulders and knees under your hips.

Action: inhale to prepare and as you exhale recruit your deep abdominal muscles by imagining you are bringing your bellybutton towards your spine. You should feel a gentle ‘pull’ in your lower abdominals. Aim for 5-8 repetitions. 

Four-Point Kneeling Pelvic Tilt

Works: lower and deep abdominal muscles (Transversus Abdominis), pelvic floor muscles

Baby’s position: baby is lying on the floor between your hands facing you; align the baby’s face under yours.

Starting position: you’re kneeling on all fours with hands and knees on the floor and spine in neutral alignment. Hands are aligned under your shoulders and knees under your hips.

Action: inhale to prepare and as you exhale recruit your deep abdominal muscles by imagining you are bringing your belly button towards your spine. Tilt your pelvis under, curling the tailbone to bring hips closer to ribs. Keep elbows slightly bent to prevent them from locking. Hold for a few seconds, continuing to breathe. Lower with control to the starting position, taking care not to let the back arch. Aim for 5-8 repetitions.

Resistance Exercises: 4 minutes

Plié Squats

Works: tights, buttocks

Baby’s position: you can hold your baby in your arms, wear her in a sling/baby carrier (please follow manufacturer’s guidelines for safety); or place her on the floor (over a blanket) resting on her back.

Starting position: you’re standing upright with a neutral spine and feet slightly wider apart than shoulders. Align your heels at your baby’s ankles so she can easily see you. Delight her by wiggling your fingers as you lift your hands with each squat.    

Action: inhale to prepare and as you exhale recruit your deep abdominal muscles by imagining you are bringing your bellybutton towards your spine as you slowly bend your legs and raise your arms in front of you just below shoulder height. Ensure your knees are not protruding over your toes by moving your butt backwards as you descend (pretend you’re sitting on a chair). Pressure should be felt on your heels and not on your toes.

Four Point Kneeling Leg and Arm Raise

Works: deep abdominal muscles, back, buttocks

Baby’s position: baby is lying on the floor between your hands facing you; align the baby’s face under yours.

Starting position: you’re kneeling on all fours with hands and knees on the floor and spine in neutral alignment. Hands are aligned under your shoulders and knees under your hips.

Action: 1. Inhale to prepare and as you exhale recruit your deep abdominal muscles by imagining you are bringing your bellybutton towards your spine and slide one arm forwards, lengthening from the fingertips as the arm lifts. Aim to lift until it is parallel to the floor. Lower and repeat on alternate sides. 2. Inhale to prepare and as you exhale recruit your deep abdominal muscles by imagining you are bringing your bellybutton towards your spine and slide one foot out along the floor, keeping the pelvis level and lengthening the leg away from you. Progression: combine the two movements, using opposite arm and leg. Aim for 5-8 repetitions.

Kiss Me Baby Push-Ups

Works: chest, shoulders, arms

Baby’s position: baby is lying on the floor between your hands facing you; align the baby’s face under yours.

Starting position: you’re kneeling on all fours with hands and knees on the floor and spine in neutral alignment. Hands are slightly wider apart than shoulder-width and knees are directly under your hips.

Action: inhale to prepare and as you exhale recruit your deep abdominal muscles by imagining you are bringing your bellybutton towards your spine and slowly bend your arms to about ninety-degrees, maintaining your back and neck straight. Give your baby a big kiss! Then as you inhale, straighten your arms and return to the starting position. Aim for 5-8 repetitions.

Bridges

Works: buttocks, back of tights, lower back

Baby’s position: your can snuggle your little one close to your chest, or if your baby is sitting on his own, he can also sit on your pelvis with his back supported by the front of your tights. Ensure both your hands are keeping your baby secure.

Starting position: you’re lying on your back in neutral spine alignment, your legs are bent and separated at hip-width, and the soles of your feet are on the floor. Your arms are ensuring your baby is secure.

Action: inhale to prepare and as you exhale recruit your deep abdominal muscles by imagining you are bringing your bellybutton towards your spine and begin to tilt your pubic bone towards your sternum. Feel your back lengthening along the floor. Imagine you’re ‘peeling’ your spine off the floor one vertebra at a time. Pause as you come to the tips of the shoulder blades and inhale. As you exhale begin to slowly lower your spine one vertebra at a time down to the floor. Release and return to neutral spine. Aim for 5-8 repetitions.

Cool Down: 1 minute

Kneeling Back Stretch (Cat/Cow)

Stretches: low, middles and upper back

Baby’s position: baby is lying on the floor between your hands facing you; align the baby’s face under yours.

Starting position: you’re kneeling on all fours with hands and knees on the floor and spine in neutral alignment. Hands are aligned under your shoulders and knees under your hips.

Action: inhale to prepare and as you exhale recruit your deep abdominal muscles by imagining you are bringing your bellybutton towards your spine and begin to round your back, creating a C-curve in your spine. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Now reverse the pose by gently arching your spine to create a small downward dip in your lower back while looking upward. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Aim for 3-4 repetitions.  

Seated Neck Stretch

Stretches: sides of the neck

Baby’s position: lying comfortably next to or in front of you.

Starting position: you’re sitting comfortably on the floor with crossed legs, kneeling or any other position that allows you to maintain a neutral spine.

Action: start with your head in a neutral position (i.e. looking straight ahead), rest your left arm down by your side. Your arms should be straight with your palm gently pressing into the mat. Gently tilt your head to bring your right ear toward your right shoulder. You can place your right hand on your head, applying very gentle pressure, to help increase the stretch. Release and switch sides.

Seated Triceps Stretch

Stretches: back of the upper arms

Baby’s position: lying comfortably next to or in front of you.

Starting position: you’re sitting tall on the floor with your legs crossed in front of you or in kneeling position.

Action: raise your right arm above your head, and then bend the right elbow, bringing your right hand behind your back, palm facing your body. Then place your left hand on your right elbow, gently pressing your right arm back to intensify the stretch. Avoid dropping your chin toward your chest. Switch sides.

Lying Gluteal and Hip Stretch

Stretches: butt, hips, inner thighs and lower back

Baby’s position: lying comfortably next to you.

Starting position: you’re lying on the floor with bent knees and feet on floor. Then cross your right leg over your left tight. Grasp the back of your left tight with both hands.

Action: pull your left leg toward your torso and hold the stretch. Repeat with the opposite leg.

MEDICAL DISCLAIMER: All of the information on this blog post assumes that the mother and baby are in good physical health. The content is for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer medical advice, or replace the recommendations of your doctor, midwife, physical therapist or nurse practitioner. Always consult your doctor before beginning any exercise programme. If you have limitations, or conditions and are in care of a doctor, please always consult him/her before beginning any exercise programme.

Would you like to learn more postnatal-safe exercises and share your journey with other lovely mamas in the region?

Well Mama will be offering an Indoor Postnatal Fitness Class at the Familien-Oase in Wädenswil starting from the 24th October!

Classes will take place on Mondays from 10:00-11:00
Course duration:  24th October - 12th December 
8 x lessons: 190CHF

Familien-Oase has a lovely and bright playroom where older children can be looked after by a qualified child-minder for the duration of the class at 5CHF/child. 

To sign-up or for more information please contact Viviane at info@wellmama.ch or call 079 945 0805.

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