Even the biggest fitness buffs among us sometimes know how hard it can be to squeeze regular workouts into busy schedules. And once you add a newborn baby to the equation, you’re automatically armed with a whole arsenal of reasons to stay on the couch: connecting with your infant is more valuable than doing squats and lunges; you don’t have time to work out between feedings, diaper changes, and naps; and, most of all, you can’t be expected to exercise when you barely have the energy to walk out your front door.
As taxing as new parenthood can be, these excuses for postpartum inactivity are becoming increasingly hard to sustain. All over the United States, mom-and-baby workouts are gaining popularity at yoga studios and gyms, in books and DVDs, and even on city sidewalks. Now, mothers with infants as young as six weeks can bond with their babies, get back in shape, and turbo-charge their endorphins all at once. If you have Internet access, you have a world of workouts to choose from.
Mom-and-baby yoga classes are among the most relaxing forms of partner exercise—the same physical and psychological benefits that keep millions of adults grounded soothe infants as well. In some of these classes, mothers lay their babies on blankets at the top of their yoga mats; in others, moms actually incorporate their babies into the poses. Some infants are happy to lie on their back for the entire class, but others may fuss, in which case mothers are free to rock, feed, or change their children without leaving the room. If your baby can’t adjust to a yoga studio, don’t despair—at-home resources for mothers who want to practice yoga with their kids abound. For starters, try the DVD Yoga for Mom and Baby or the book, Baby Om: Yoga for Mothers and Babies.
Walk It Off
If you have an infant, you have a stroller, and if you have a stroller, you can exercise with your baby anytime. Recognizing the convenience of this equation, walking-workout programs for mothers of newborns are proliferating rapidly. A typical class lasts forty-five minutes and strengthens and sculpts “mommy muscles” by taking advantage of a stroller’s resistance and stability. Three programs that offer classes nationwide are StrollerFit, Strollercize, and Stroller Strides; class-averse mothers may prefer the DVD Sara Holliday’s Stroller Workout for Moms.
The womb is full of liquid, so it makes sense that babies feel comfortable in an aquatic environment early on; some research even suggests that newborns instinctually know not to breathe underwater and can therefore be submerged safely for a few seconds. Joint mother-and-baby swimming is an excellent, low-impact form of body conditioning and confidence building; some moms get in the water when their infants are only two months old. Always make sure the water in the pool is between 84 and 86º F and start off with very short (ten-minute) sessions; as soon as your baby begins to shiver, bundle her up with a towel.
Carry That Weight
It’s common for new mothers to worry that certain types of physical activity will endanger their babies, but even infants who are just a few months old are resilient enough to be incorporated into moms’ workouts as “free weights.” What’s more, they may find it so soothing that they actually fall asleep in the process. And because you can do these exercises in your own home, you can double-book your baby for simultaneous mom time and nap time.
- With your baby strapped to your chest or your back in a carrier, do lunges or squats, or walk repeatedly up and down the stairs in your house.
- With your baby strapped to your chest, grip a stable chair and do tricep dips.
- Lay your infant on the floor and do push-ups over him, kissing him on the nose each time you lower your body.
- Lie on your back and hold your baby over your chest with your arms bent. Lift your torso off the floor and straighten your arms at the same time to work your core, then lower yourself slowly back down.
- Sit on a rubber exercise ball with your feet planted firmly on the ground, holding your baby against your chest, and bounce up and down while flexing and releasing your abdominal muscles.
If you can’t get out of the house, you can still get to your computer to buy a mom-and-baby exercise DVD online. Make a list of the types of exercise you gravitate to (are you a yogini or a cardio lover?) and your post-pregnancy fitness goals (are your abs your problem area, or would you rather focus on leg strength?) and go from there. Generalized workouts for mothers and infants include Mommy Baby Body Builders and Back in Shape with Baby.
Most doctors discourage postpartum exercise for the first six weeks after a woman gives birth, so no matter how eager you are to “get your body back,” consult with your physician first about when it’s appropriate for you to become active again after your delivery. After you’ve gotten the green light to exercise with your baby, always be alert to your infant’s emotional state during your adventures, and be prepared to modify your workout if it leaves your child overtired or agitated. After all, you’re a team now, and you’re in this together.