30 Jan 5 ways to help your mum tum
Having a baby
New babies are a full-time occupation and to begin with, all of your time, thoughts and emotions are wrapped up in adjusting to the new, tiny but demanding, bundle of joy.
In time, and as the shock wears off and you begin to feel a bit more like a separate person, rather than full-time baby attachment, your thoughts may begin to turn to getting “your body back”. And in particular, to your tummy, which may well be bearing the signs of doing an amazing job and possibly isn’t as flat as it was previously. Perhaps the reflection in the mirror looks unfamiliar or you just want to feel better.
Maybe you’ve seen the celebrities and instagram stars who seem to ping back into shape after their babies like they’re made of human elastic, and you want some of that action for yourself. Or you were the queen of the gym pre-pregnancy? Exercise could be an alien concept but one you are keen to try. Or maybe you fall somewhere in the middle and just want to start getting back to yourself?
Wherever you fall on the spectrum, the temptation can be overwhelming to sign up for some high intensity classes and try to jump and sweat your way back to your pre-baby self. We all know HIIT burns all the fat right. But before you sign yourself up for an all-singing, all-impact HIIT class, or throw yourself into crossfit, or any other exercise class, there are a few things you need to consider.
Slow down mama
It is so tempting to rush back into exercise. I know, I’ve been there. But in a kind of tortoise and hare cliche, returning to exercise post-baby really is a case of “slow and steady wins the race”. Once a postnatal body, always a postnatal body.
And there are considerations that a postnatal body needs, that perhaps your pre-baby body didn’t. That absolutely doesn’t mean your body can’t be stronger, fitter, faster, “better” than ever before. It just needs a slightly different approach.
Build a strong foundation
You wouldn’t build a new house without any foundations. It might look great for a while, but eventually the strain would show and the walls would begin to collapse. The same is true for your postnatal body. It has been through a lot and it needs some TLC to help it heal and recover fully. If you spend time now rebuilding the foundations of your core and pelvic floor, it will allow you to build your ideal, strong, functional body and help you avoid any future issues.
Jump into unsuitable, intense exercise too soon and the ‘walls’ may very well collapse and create dysfunction – incontinence, back pain, pelvic pain, prolapse – even if there was none present before.
Pelvic floor physiotherapy
If you possibly can, I highly recommend visiting a pelvic floor physiotherapist. They can fully assess how well your foundation is functioning and help correct any dysfunction that is occurring. They can also advise on correct exercise technique for you personally.
You are amazing and your body is amazing. It has grown a human and birthed that human (in whatever way). We are often fooled into thinking that the 6-week check means our bodies are healed and good to go. It took months for your body to do the amazing thing and it only seems fair that we also give it months to heal from the experience.
Allowing the body to fully heal, and bearing in mind the fact you are postnatal will mean a much stronger recovery. It doesn’t mean don’t exercise. It does mean doing the right exercises at the right level.
If you have just had a baby, or you had a baby a while ago, even years ago, but have not exercised, or have attempted exercise but struggled with leaking/pain/feeling weak in the core etc. then you need to begin with gentle restorative movement that will re-connect you with your pelvic floor and core.
Start with the core
Often the appearance of a ‘mummy tummy’ is much more than just excess weight and stretched skin. It can be a sign of diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles) which if not healed correctly can lead to pelvic floor dysfunction. It can also lead to back pain and a feeling of weakness in the core.
The pelvic floor is part of your core and works in tandem with the diaphragm (the muscles under the ribs) at the top, the abdominals and obliques to the front and sides and the multifidus muscles of the back to support your whole body. If one part of it isn’t working well then the whole system suffers. A well-functioning core and pelvic floor will help to make the ‘mummy tummy’ less of an issue.
AUTHOR: EMILY GILLILAND
PERSONAL TRAINER, SURREY
Emily Gilliland runs EmilyG Fitness and is a qualified Level 3 Personal Trainer with specialisms in pregnancy and the postnatal period, as well exercise for medical referrals and older people.