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After the initial excitement of bringing your brand-new baby home settles into a quiet contentment, you might start to notice a bulge in your belly that won't go away no matter how much you diet and exercise. That protruding belly could be caused by a diastasis, a separation of the outermost abdominal muscles that sometimes occurs during pregnancy. Unfortunately, the separation doesn't always disappear after you give birth. And left untreated, a diastasis will do nothing to ease the backaches you might continue to have after pregnancy.
Regaining your abdominal strength is crucial--those muscles support your back and help you avoid the aches and pains associated with the daily activities that come with motherhood. The following program can help. Based on the Tupler Technique, this unique series of exercises and safety tips will not only protect your back during day-to-day activities, it also will flatten your belly in no time.
Check with your physician before you start this or any other new physical activity. Most obstetricians recommend that a new mom wait six weeks after giving birth before beginning vigorous exercise, longer if she has had a Cesarean section.
The day-to-day stuff
Taking care of your baby requires lifting, twisting and bending, all of which can make an abdominal separation bigger. Follow these easy tips to make sure you're moving correctly.
1. Breastfeeding Sit in a supportive chair and do Elevators (see slideshow below) while you nurse. Use a nursing pillow to bring the baby close to your breasts so you don't slouch. (Bottle-feeding moms will benefit from this too.) If you feel stiff afterward, do a Standing Pelvic Tilt (see slideshow below).
2. Getting out of bed Hold your transverse in and roll over on your side into a fetal position without lifting your head. Swing both legs over the side of the bed at the same time, and use your arms to help you sit up (your head should be the last thing up). Put both feet on the floor and stand up.
3. Heavy lifting To pick your baby up off the floor, get down on one knee, draw in your transverse, put her on your front thigh, then lift her to your shoulder. Holding the baby with one hand, place the other hand on your front thigh for support as you stand. To get your baby out of her car seat, sit next to her and draw your transverse in while you lift her onto your lap. Swing both feet onto the ground and hold your transverse as you stand up with the baby held close to your chest. To get your baby in or out of a stroller, squat in front of it and slide the baby in or out.
4. Wearing a baby carrier or sling If you have an abdominal separation, you should wear a splint (see "How to Check for a Diastasis," in the box to the left) when using a front carrier because the baby's weight could pull your abdominal muscles farther apart. Slings allow you to shift the baby's weight from side to side; alternate sides each time you use it.