post birth fitness

Post birth fitness

Exercising post birth will help you to return to your pre-pregnancy shape and boost your energy levels. Pre and post-natal fitness trainer Stephanie Sinnott offers up the following workout advice for new mums.

You might be thinking about getting back into an exercise routine, or it might be the furthest thing from your mind, but when you do, you want to make sure it’s safe.

I gave birth to my second child in October 2014. All of these tips that I outline here are coming from years of teaching pre and postnatal fitness classes, learning and researching constantly, and from my own experiences with exercise and training after two babies.

Always consult with your hospital physiotherapist or your GP at your six-week check up. You should try to attend post-natal exercise classes in your hospital. There, you will be shown safe exercises to do in those first post-natal weeks. Once you have been doing these exercises regularly, you can then move on to further exercise routines about six weeks after the birth.

post birth fitness

Invest in a good sports bra, and get measured for it. If you are breastfeeding, wear a nursing bra, with a sports bra over it, while you are working out. The hormone relaxin is present for up to 12 weeks after birth, and will continue to be present when breastfeeding – this is the hormone, which literally relaxes your joints, ligaments and muscles, and makes it very easy to pull a muscle. So when you are stretching after your workout, (not before), make sure you only do light stretches.


We’ve all heard of the many benefits of exercise, and there are specific advantages for new mothers;

  • Improves your physical and mental wellbeing – exercise releases ‘happy hormones’, which helps combat baby blues, and can help a lot with postnatal depression.
  • Helps you to lose excess weight – you will feel better about yourself when you see a small difference in your weight each week.
  • Improves your fitness and strength levels – it helps with the physical demands of looking after a new baby.
  • Restores your muscle strength – your arms become strong, which is needed when carrying car seats, buggies, baby bags and even shopping bags.
  • Strengthens your abdominals and core – helps to ease back pain.
  • Improves your posture.
  • You will get the opportunity to socialise with like-minded mothers in a postnatal exercise class.

post birth fitness

When you’ve had a bad night with a baby who wakes up every hour, you will be exhausted yourself. The good news is that exercise gives you energy. There were so many times I just wanted to lie on the couch, and do nothing, and I did, but there were many times I went for a walk, did a small workout at home, or went to a postnatal exercise class, and I felt much better and more productive afterwards.

Good post-natal workouts

1. Walk: First of all, get out walking with that buggy! It’s easy, it’s free and it’s well worth spending an hour in your local park. Look up a mother and baby-walking group, or recruit your friends to go along with you.

2. Join a post-natal fitness class: Some postnatal exercise classes allow you to bring your baby along with you.

3. Do a home workout: Or, close your curtains and get sweaty in your front room. When your little one has nodded off, or is happily playing on a mat, give yourself 20 minutes to get fit and strong. Always listen to your body and ease yourself back into fitness, working at your own pace.

Breastfeeding advice

If you’re breastfeeding, feed your baby or express before you exercise. Moving about with full breasts can be uncomfortable. A sports bra over your nursing bra will give you extra support.

post birth fitness

How to exercise safely

According to Liz Barry, Deputy Physiotherapy Manager, Physiotherapy Department in Cork University Maternity Hospital, women should take the following precautions for post-natal exercise:

  • Exercise should always be undertaken gradually.
  • Walking is the best exercise to start with. You can start as soon as you feel able. To begin with go at a nice gentle pace for 5-10 minutes. Gradually progress at a pace that suits you. Always remember to walk tall and draw in your lower tummy.
  • If doing weight training start with just your own body weight or very light weights from 8-10 weeks. Gradually increase as you are able. Avoid heavy weights for about five to six months.
  • Wear a supportive bra. It is essential that you wear a properly fitted sports bra when exercising especially if you are breastfeeding.
  • Avoid high impact exercise e.g. running, jumping, contact sports, aerobics classes for 12 weeks post delivery. This is to allow time for your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles to recover.
  • Low impact activities such as swimming or cycling can be resumed once your stitches have healed and you can sit comfortably – this is usually after your 6 -week check-up with your GP.
  • Strengthen your core. Start working on the core muscles as they need to be strengthened after the pregnancy. Keep working on the pelvic floor muscles. Go to page 59 to find out how to exercise your pelvic floor muscle.
  • Make sure that you warm up gently, cool down and stretch gently after exercise.
  • Support your feet. It is important to wear properly fitting shoes as sometimes your feet might have grown during pregnancy.
  • Make sure that you stay well hydrated – drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Watch out for these warning signs; breathlessness, dizziness and nausea. These are signs that the body is overstressed during cardio. If any of these happen during exercise, stop immediately and wait a sufficient period until you have enough strength.

According to Margaret Mason, Physiotherapy Manager at the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital, it is vital that new mums make sure their bodies have healed up properly before undertaking any type of exercise. “It is essential that the uterus has retracted into the pelvis, the bleeding and discharge has ceased and that the stitches have healed before resuming any exercise routine.” Margaret also stresses the importance of listening to your body, “Be aware that you will be suffering from fatigue with a new baby. Have patience and do what you can. You will have more energy some days and less on other days.”

More like this:

Using your buggy to get fit
Yoga with baby
How to lose weight fast

Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.



A rundown and images from The National Parenting Product Awards 2016


Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.