“Having a newborn is like nothing I’ve ever experienced.”
Fitness trainer Ness Birch of Momentum Bootcamps reflects on the body after pregnancy
Our beautiful baby boy Ari was born five months ago, and I can recall only a handful of times where I’ve slept from midnight to 5am uninterrupted. After my last sleep-in I ended up with a spectacular case of mastitis. That’ll teach me!
Ari is our third child, and our first biological baby, and he has rocked our world in every awesome way imaginable. He is such a happy and relaxed little fella but he also feeds like a machine day and night. Nothing can ever prepare you for a newborn; the heart-exploding love you feel towards your little one, compounded with sleep deprivation, raging hormones, the intensity of breastfeeding, not to mention two high-energy toddlers added to the line-up. I often wonder if it’s too late to drink coffee, or too early to pour wine.
Motherhood is amazing and deeply fulfilling, utterly exhausting, and at times, lonely. For some mothers after giving birth, the prospect of trying to get back into some sort of fitness regime post-pregnancy can be met with intimidation, apathy or dread. For others, fitness can be a lifeline; a means to reconnect with your former self, breathe and start to rebuild your strength and confidence in mind and body. The latter has been my experience. Carving out a small amount of “me time” every week to exercise has been essential for my mental health (first and foremost), along with my physical wellbeing.
It can be incredibly daunting to know where to begin, so as a personal trainer and mum, here’s my advice:
1. SEE A PHYSIO
Once you’ve reached 6 weeks postpartum, book in to see a women’s health physio to have your pelvic floor and core assessed. If there are any issues like diastasis recti, hernia or incontinence, you can work together on a game plan to get you moving again without causing further injury.
2. REBUILD YOUR CORE (the right way)
After I was six weeks along, I performed these exercises 2-3 times a week for a couple of months. They helped to reconnect my mind, core and pelvic floor. This is essential for creating a solid foundation for you to build on.
3. EAT WELL
What you eat will directly determine your mood and energy levels. Consuming green leafy veggies, protein and complex carbs is essential for your brain, body and baby. Having a well balanced diet is your secret weapon to getting back into shape.
4. STAY HYDRATED
Water is essential for kidney and liver function, eliminating waste, and is also responsible for helping to stabilize energy. Dehydration can also be mistaken for hunger, so keep a water bottle nearby and drink up.
5. FIND YOUR TRIBE
Whether it’s joining a supportive fitness community, engaging a personal trainer or recruiting a couple of mates to work out with – find your tribe. This has been a game changer for me. You’re more likely to stay motivated and accountable (even when you’re feeling like an emotional, sleepless wreck) when you have mates in your corner cheering you on.
6. ENERGY CREATES ENERGY
Just start moving. Whether it’s going for a walk around the block, following a 20-minute YouTube workout or performing 50 squats before lunch – start firing up your furnace. Exercise helps you think clearer, assists with weight loss, and improves your mood, mental health, memory. Don’t overthink it; you don’t need the perfect conditions or active wear to start exercising – you just need to start.
7. STOP COMPARING
It’s not a race to get back into skinny jeans two seconds after giving birth. Comparison is the thief of joy and it’ll rob you from embracing this new journey you are on with your bub. Go at your own pace, delete Instagram if you have to, and celebrate the wins, no matter how small. For some of us, getting out of your PJ’s and showering is a win!
There are going to be days or weeks where a power nap is going to be 10 times more beneficial than a power walk. Listen to your body and rest when you need to. Your mental health and happiness is paramount.
As a mum of three children under the age of 4, I’m prioritising exercise as it’ll help me feel strong, energetic and happy, and I know this pays dividends in my family life. To all parents who are riding this crazy newborn wave – or those who may be years ahead of me – I salute you and encourage you to get moving by doing something you love every week. Something that makes you sweat, smile and feel alive; and you’ll be back in your fitness groove in no time.
Lead image by Andrew Tanglao via Unsplash. All other images courtesy of the author.