The tears were flowing freely, my eyes were swollen both from lack of sleep and of course the crying; the feeling of frustration was palpable. My son was still latched and nursing at my bosom and today was one of those days he seemed to have everlasting hunger and I was overly concerned with his two episodes of regurgitation; oh, the challenges of motherhood!
Is he getting enough?
Will I keep up with the demand?
Many more of such questions did their rounds in my mind. I got jolted back to reality when the bedroom door got knocked and my older son checked in, I wiped my tears before he could notice them and pulled myself together. After all aren’t mums meant to have it all together? He’s usually excited, bubbly but sensitive too. He paused to check how I was doing before he told me a few funny stories about the happenings in school, he even offered to watch his kid bro (never mind that I didn’t think he’d manage) ……… and truly cheered me up. Those first few months after delivery can be truly hectic, and going through it while exercising and breastfeeding my twins helped me come up with some few tips that I would like to share with you.
I know all mothers understand the challenges of breastfeeding, and how difficult it can be to juggle many responsibilities during this period. So how do you make time to exercise and be fit during this period?
- It starts with small, steady but deliberate steps.
10 minutes is all you need to get started. Unless your doctor has advised otherwise, start walking as early as day one following delivery. You’ve heard of the 6 weeks of waiting out before exercise and yes it still remains, but walking on safe level ground in the company of family or friend is low impact and keeps the blood flowing to expedite recovery even as you wait to get into more structured body toning exercises after puerperium.
Build momentum slowly, until you are able to exercise for 4 to 5 days of the week. Incorporate cardio and strengthening exercises for optimal results. Have fun while at it, do the kind of physical activities you enjoy, be it dance, aerobics, swimming or zumba. Just keep moving!
- Set goals
During my most recent pregnancy, I had sworn to myself to shed all the baby weight by the time my son turned 6 months. Now, unless you are one of those ‘skinny folks’ gifted with super-fast metabolism (which I don’t have), you’d bear with me that this was ambitious, but isn’t that what goals are for? To get you challenged enough to press harder?
What made it harder was my commitment to exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months for utmost benefits to my baby’s immunity, nutrition etc. and of course as per WHO (world health organization) recommendations. Therefore, I not only had to consider my desire to tighten my waistline, but also the wellbeing and weight gain of my baby; a tight balance, huh!
I succeeded on both fronts, but not without ups and downs and close to quitting moments. I remained cognizant of the lots of misconceptions about the effects of exercise on breastfeeding. I therefore was private about my ventures until people started noticing my body was shrinking away and my baby was adoringly chubby purely on breastmilk. So, while at it I convinced a few doubting Thomases (wink, wink).
So set goals, write them for motivation, pin them up and work at it.
- Ensure adequate hydration
There are those who think that exercise will decrease breast milk supply. This is not true. Aim for good water intake and breastfeeding the baby on demand or expressing milk every 2 hours to sustain good supply of breast milk. If the baby is changing wet diapers, with pale urine every 4-6 hours, you probably need not worry, more so when the weight gain is steady.
In the first month 3-4 four stools/ day is fine but this may space out with time to one bowel movement daily or every 3rd to 4th day. Always consult your pediatrician to allay anxiety.
- Get a Support System
It is important to get some support systems around to help you in your journey. An understanding spouse or a close friend, your sister or even the nanny! You just need someone who will be there to help you, to take care of the baby while you exercise, to encourage you when you falter and cheer you on with every milestone achieved. Other mothers going through the same experience can also help, and we now have many support forums where ideas are exchanged. Do not run this race alone.
- Get the right attire and attitude
Get a nice supportive bra is essential as you begin to up the tempo of your workouts. Its also important to have a good pair of sneakers that is flat and supportive to the ankle joint. Ensure that you have a well aerated room for exercise.
The right mindset is a must have, accept that this is a journey. This baby weight will not disappear overnight, and we all respond at different rates to exercise programs. The aim is progress and living healthy fulfilled lives. The effort is worth it in every way!
THAT FLAT BELLY
This article would be incomplete without addressing this most frequently asked question. The baby is here and you can’t wait to stop looking pregnant or wearing your maternity clothes.
It takes a while and the shortest route there is not sit-ups or abdominal crunches! These exercises could actually do harm in the earlier months post-delivery. Strengthening the back and other deeper tummy muscles plus a healthy calorie/portion controlled diet should take precedence and when mastered, then one can graduate to sit-ups. Do not believe the myth of eating for two! Those Uji flasks and multiple rations of soup and juice pack more fat on the belly than help with milk formation. I have breastfed my twins exclusively for 6 months, believe me, adequate hydration and quality nutrition is all one needs. I do not advocate for dieting this period, but overindulgence with calorie dense foods is a recipe for disaster.
In conclusion, exercise during breastfeeding is surrounded by multiple folktales that are baseless. It takes commitment and support from loved ones but is beneficial to both mommy and baby.
Getting started is all you need, it doesn’t matter how slow you progress so long as you keep moving.