After having a baby, most women wish they could follow in the footsteps of celebrity new moms who shrink back to pre-baby size nearly immediately after the birth. However, the majority of us take a little longer to lose the weight, particularly in the abdominal area. But it is not hopeless. With the proper diet and exercise program, women can get their body back after having a baby.
During pregnancy, the muscles of the abdomen go through dramatic changes. A hormone called relaxin allows the connective tissue in the muscles to stretch in all directions to accommodate the growing baby. After pregnancy, it takes approximately eight weeks for these muscles to recover.
Addressing the weight gain within the first months after delivery is important. Research has shown that women who do not shed their pregnancy weight within six months are likely to still be carrying it around 10 or 15 years later. But how soon you can begin toning and strengthening exercises for these muscles depends upon a lot of factors, including the type of delivery you had and how fit the muscles were prior to pregnancy.
At your first postpartum appointment with your obstetrician, usually around six weeks after deliver, discuss your desire to exercise and get his or her recommendations. Once you are given the go-ahead, build a comprehensive workout program using the following guidelines.
First, start with a good overall cardiovascular fitness program. Weight gained during pregnancy is not centered in the abdominal area, and including aerobic exercise is the best way to burn calories for appropriate weight loss. Of course, finding time to exercise can be difficult with a newborn baby keeping you busy every minute of the day. But if the weather is nice, push baby in a stroller around your neighborhood or a local park for 30 minutes to an hour a day. Want company? Try a group program for new moms called “Stroller Strides”. There are also a variety of home videos that can be used while baby is napping.
Next, design an abdominal strengthening routine that targets all of the core muscles. Simply doing crunches will primarily work the rectus abdominus which may be still healing from pregnancy. One of the most overlooked group of abdominal muscles are the transverse muscles that lie horizontally and help to keep your organs in place. These deep muscles act like a girdle to your entire midsection and need to be strengthened and toned if you want a flatter stomach.
Lastly, but not least important, remember to also strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that support the uterus, bladder, bowel and kidneys. Include Kegel exercises into your daily workout plan.
For specific workout routines, try the “Ab Rehab” from Parents.com or WomenFitnes.com’s Top 10 Post Natal Abdominal Exercises. Pilates is also a recommended core strengthening exercise program after having a baby.
No fitness program is complete without the appropriate diet. While breastfeeding women should not actively “diet”, it is still best to eat a well-balanced, reduced-fat diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.