Get thee out of the house
Postpartum experts also encourage new moms to get out as soon as possible, with and without the baby. Best of all is to turn some of your outings into exercise. A 1999 University of Michigan study of 1,000 new mothers compared women who were exercising regularly at six weeks postpartum with those who weren’t and found that physically active new moms did better all around.
They adapted more successfully to their new roles, retained less body weight (8.6 pounds compared with 11.3) and were more likely to be out engaging in fun activities, including hobbies and social events. And, importantly, regular exercise did not interfere with successful breastfeeding, says Carolyn M. Sampselle, Ph.D., R.N.C, professor of nursing in obstetrics-gynecology at the University of Michigan and lead researcher of the study.
Other experts agree. “To be a great mom, you need energy. To have energy, you need to be physically fit,” says Adelaide Nardone, M.D., an OB-GYN in Mount Kisco, N.Y., and mother of three.
The ideal workout is one you can do with other new moms. After giving birth to her son four years ago, Potts, now 29, hooked up with a walking group through her hospital. Like many hospitals with well-developed maternal-child education programs, Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, Calif., coordinates a Mother/Baby Fitness Walk in several surrounding cities. Potts joined a group based in the city of Irvine — 40 to 50 women, plus their infants and other children, who get together weekly for a brisk 45-minute walk, followed by a talk.
“It’s the highlight of my week,” says Potts, who plans to continue walking through her current pregnancy. “Just talking to other new moms is a great lift. Until you do, you think yours is the only child who wakes you up five times a night.”
Take the baby with you
Obviously, getting to the gym is a little bit more complicated once you have a baby. But with a little creativity, you can make time for fitness. Consider the following:
- If you like to hike, invest in a front-held baby sling or carrier. When baby gets older, move him to a baby backpack.
- Jogging strollers are a great investment for those who plan to put in a lot of miles walking or jogging. (Pushing strollers uphill is a great upper- and lower-body workout.)
- If cycling is your sport of choice, consider buying a bike trailer.
- Many gyms have good nursery facilities, so your baby can be cared for while you get a workout (just make sure the caregivers are experienced in caring for babies).
- Hospitals often offer Mommy and Me exercise classes for postpartum moms and babes.
- If you just can’t get out of the house, get an exercise video or stationary bike or treadmill.