What every mom needs to know about returning to exercise postpartum

If you're anything like me, you had a baby and your world flipped inside out. Your priorities and energy shift to all things baby. You forget to eat, drink and can't even imagine making time to exercise. Thank gawd, because immediately after childbirth, your body needs to rest, recover and prepare to recharge. Ya know how some phones always seem to be in the red zone, on the verge of shutting down and will drop any call you attempt to make? Well, after having a baby, you need to give your body time to get out of the red zone. You gave it your all to have a baby, no matter the method of childbirth. You're wiped out and deserve a reboot!

Finding time for YOU between the poopy diapers, milky moments, snuggles, extra laundry, cries, and coos is work in itself. So, start with fueling your body with colorful foods, sleep and oxygen (I'm talking about breathing). The first few weeks is your rest and recovery time. Get your mind off of exercise and onto your pillow for a nap. Caring for your baby is enough exercise: lifting baby, bending over wiping tushies, bathtime, car seat transfers, etc.

After the rest and recovery phase (a minimum of 2 weeks, but I give you permission to extend this as long as needed), begin a pelvic floor program and progress at the pace that's appropriate for your body. I advise that you seek a professional that's competent in postpartum training and a pelvic floor PT for individualized assessment and advice. But in the meantime, its safe and necessary to intentionally tap into your breath.

Why is breathwork vital for postpartum moms?

It isn't just the belly that grows during pregnancy, the organs get moved around. As your baby grows, your abdominal organs get pushed up toward the ribs crowding the diaphragm. It's hard to take a deep breath when pregnant. The diaphragm doesn't have much space to move to allow a deep breath in. Our bodies learn to take shallow breaths. Our incredible body does what it needs for survival and therefore we adapt. High five for our incredible female forms!

After childbirth, space may be available for the diaphragm to move more, but its still stuck in the shallow breathing pattern it adapted to during pregnancy. This means, it needs training. There's fun ways to train the diaphragm, but we'll save that for another blog or video.

Why connect your mind to your breath to your pelvic floor to your core?

You've gotta connect your mind to your breath to your pelvic floor and core. Consider this a rewiring of the network that's confused with the new mom body. Belly and pelvic floor muscles get stretched during pregnancy like a blown up balloon. By default, these muscles become taut (not necessarily strong, but the firmness gives some psuedo strength to your system). Imagine you let half the air out of the balloon, the result is a soft balloon. That's your belly and pelvic floor. The abdominal and pelvic floor muscles didn't magically disappear postpartum, but they've lost their mojo. In this new arrangement, they need to figure out how to work so your system can feel strong again.

The big hunk of pink inside your skull is the control center for you muscles. The brain sends signals to your muscles to do what they're supposed to do and postpartum the muscles need more brain power since they've gone through a transformation. In the first breathwork execise I explained above, you purely focused on getting more diaphragmatic expansion. When you connect that with your pelvic floor and core muscles, you take it to the next level.

How do you do that? You've been working on your diaphragm movement with inhales and exhales. Expanding through inhales and hugging inward on exhales. From that practice you add an intentional contraction of your pelvic floor and core on the exhale. Think inhale release and expand, exhale engage pelvic floor and core. You should feel like your lifting from below and hugging around your midsection.

This is tricky to explain in words, as I often see that moms need a variety of different cuing to get it right. Also, some moms do better lying on their back with bent knees, some sitting, some sidelying and others on all fours. Honestly, to get this part right, seek help from a real live professional that can see and feel that you're working your muscles properly.

Oh, but this is just the beginning, my friend.

You must finding your core breath and begin to boost endurance. Then bring it into functional movements such as lifting, squatting, pushing, pulling, rotational movements and ideas are limitless.

Be strong and breath on!