Bond with your baby while you strengthen your abs, chest, lower back and legs.
Here's an excellent at-home postpartum workout that will not only help you grab some moments of decompression during the crazy, early months of motherhood, but will also give you great bonding time with your baby.
The only other exercise "equipment" you need besides your litte one is a chair. Begin at six weeks postpartum (or earlier if bleeding has stopped and your C-section scar—if you have one—is healing).
As you get stronger, also try taking walks; just be sure to get your doctor's approval before starting. The following exercises are designed to increase your overall strength and help get you back into shape. Bonus: they can also help prevent aches and pains, including back strain from holding your baby.
1. Baby Lifts Sit on a chair, knees bent, feet flat on the floor under knees. Hold your baby in front of you at chest level; bend your elbows. Contract your abdominals to stay upright, then lift the baby, straightening your arms. Bend your elbows to return to starting position. Do 1 set of 8 repetitions, building to 2 sets of 8. Strengthens shoulders, upper back and biceps.
2. Sit Squats Stand with your back to the seat of a chair, feet hip-width apart, legs straight but not locked. Hold your baby close to your chest. Contract your abdominals so your tailbone points toward the floor and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Keeping your back straight and your body weight toward your heels, bend your knees, lowering your torso into a squat as if to sit on the chair. (Your torso will lean forward slightly.) When the backs of your thighs barely touch the chair, straighten legs and return to starting position. Do 1 set of 12 reps, building to 2–3 sets of 12. Strengthens quadriceps, hamstrings and buttocks.
3. Baby Crunches Sit on the floor, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your baby on your lower legs, holding her sides for support. Contract your abs, tilt your pelvis and roll backward until you're lying flat on the floor, with your baby still on your shins. Curl your head, neck and shoulders off the floor; exhale at the top of the lift. Inhale, return to starting position and repeat. Do 2 sets of 8 reps, building to 4 sets of 8. Strengthens abs.
4. Baby Rides Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Hold your baby under her armpits, legs straddling you just above your pubic bone. Contract your abs and buttocks and tilt your pelvis to curl your tailbone, buttocks and lower back off the floor. Release and return to starting position. Do 2 sets of 8 reps. Strengthens abs, buttocks, lower back, inner and outer thighs and ankles.
5. Kiss-the-Baby Push-Ups Kneel on your hands and knees, arms straight and directly under your shoulders, knees behind your hips, with your baby lying faceup on the floor between your hands. Contract your abs. Inhale and bend elbows, keeping them close to your rib cage; lower yourself to kiss your baby. Exhale, push back up to starting position and repeat. Do 1 set of 8 reps, building to 2 sets of 8. Strengthens chest and triceps.