No matter how complicated or straightforward your birth, your body needs a lot of healing and recovery. At the same time, you are adapting to the physical, mental, and emotional demands of parenting a new child.
Make recovery as easy as possible on yourself
It's challenging to make time to move, and that's why it's important to focus on simple movements that you can work into your day-to-day parenting life.
For starters, parenting already has many hard tasks. During postpartum recovery, small, gentle movements are key. When doing recovery movements, nurture your body and don't push it.
Try this stretch that helped my own post-partum recovery
In February 2017, I gave birth to my second child. As part of my part-partum recovery, I did regular stretches on the floor. I also spent time in bed napping and baby-gazing (as much as my toddler would let me, anyway!).
One favorite stretch I did was to lie on my back with baby on my chest and belly. This stretch is just like one of the #mamamovescards. It's great when you are doing a ton of baby-holding, baby-wearing, and/or breastfeeding. You can try it too:
Over to you
What helped your post-partum recovery?
Busy mamas can be too busy to "exercise," and I would assert that you should not rely on exercise alone anyway. We all move though (especially once our little ones start crawling and walking), and day-to-day movement can be key to improving your physical and mental health.
It's easier than you might think to transform everyday movements into intentional, health-enhancing, strength-building moments. After all, a little movement every day is better than occasional exercise (and certainly better than no exercise). Here are 7 reasons why:
1. When longer exercise routines fall apart, the little movements are still there.
I strongly recommend attaching movements to already established routines. For example: do a one-legged balance while brushing your teeth, or always do a proper "squat" to sit in or stand from a chair. Little movements like these typically integrate into your day and won't get skipped as easily as a longer routine.
2. When you include shorter practices within your day, your brain has more potential to remember how to move well all the time.
Let's say that each day you do an hour-long exercise session. During that hour you might be very body-aware and integrated... but what happens during the rest of the day? For the other 23 hours of your busy day, it can be easy for the body to "forget" that crucial integration and awareness that builds you toward better health.
Alternatively, if you did one or two Mama Moves Cards per hour, you would keep aware all day of how you are moving your body. You'll also be far more likely to continue integrating mindful movements into your busy day.
3. Simple movements beautifully fit into "idle body" time.
We all do it: Standing in line at the grocery store. Chatting with other moms at the park. Sitting and reading with kids. These are all examples of times where the body could be considered "idle." However, I see these times as perfect opportunities to integrate simple movements that enhance your health, strength, and well-being.
After all, when you're waiting your turn at the supermarket checkout counter you probably aren't going to start doing jumping jacks or a set of sun salutations. But you can do a simple standing balance.
Chatting with other moms at the park? It's easy to integrate some stretches and exercises (especially if there is a playground). The added bonus of doing this with moms and kids around is that it can also inspire others to move more.
Even when you're sitting and reading with your kids, you can shift that couch, chair, or floor time into some stretching poses. Wherever you are, there's an opportunity to practice mindful movement.
4. Mundane tasks become movement opportunities.
When I fold laundry, I like to put my laundry at a level where I can bend forward just enough to get a well-aligned hamstring stretch. I try to do that for a few minutes, then switch into a lunge stretch.
Now, that doesn't mean I'm a fan of folding laundry, but it does mean that when I can work in some stretches I find that I also feel more motivated to do household chores. The laundry gets folded and I've practiced some self-care in the process—it's a win-win!
You don't have to stretch or do movements the whole time, either. If you're folding laundry for 20 minutes and stretch for 5–10, that is still healthy movement that helps your body.
You can put this to work across many of chores and tasks. These day-to-day moments and errands become exercise time—while adding value to tasks already on your list, not adding more tasks to your list!
5. Your kids see self-care and movement as an important element of everyday life.
If you only have discreet exercise sessions, and those sessions are away from your kids, they don't get to see you moving. Don't get me wrong, I love taking time to exercise on my own, and I definitely advocate taking solo-self-care-movement time, but I also like to do my self-care throughout the day so that my kids see it and do it too.
For example, I like to hang from a pull-up bar daily. When I do it in front of my toddler, she wants to try it too. This moment of shared movement not only improves our upper body strength, it builds our mama-child bond and encourages her to be active and value her body's health.
6. Small doses of movement throughout the day provide a chance to center the self.
One of the habits I am cultivating right now is to always do a couple #mamamovescards and alignment checks when baby is sleeping in the carrier. Here I am demonstrating one of the cards which can be done as a shoulder stretch, or this one: get a yoga block, pack of diapers etc...something lightweight and about 12 inches or so. With STRAIGHT elbows and wrists squeeze the object while maintaining open shoulders. Try it and you'll be surprised how much it works the triceps. #yearofselfcare #alignment #shoulderstretch #triceps
I just installed a "mindfulness bell" app on my phone. Why? I installed it to give my daughter and me reminders to take a breather and slow down regularly throughout the day.
Every 30 minutes, the app rings a pleasant bell sound. That is our cue to close our eyes and take a deep breath. It is working wonders for both of us, because it reminds us to take a moment to let go, regroup, and refresh.
It works the same way when you sneak tiny movement breaks into your day. Parenting can be so exhausting and relentless. But when I take even 2 minutes to stretch just a couple of times a day, my body and mind can regroup in a way that makes it possible to have a fresh mental perspective, more centered emotions, and a refreshed, more capable body.
7. You can spend more total time in motion.
If you exercise for 1 hour per day, 5 days per week, that's 5 hours (300 minutes) of movement. I don't know about you, but while I'm trained in fitness and movement, with two small kids at home I certainly don't always get in one hour per day of dedicated "exercise" time!
However, if you are integrating, say, 10 minutes of movement every hour during your waking time (which is totally possible when you use the idle moments, sitting down/standing up from chairs, and all the things listed above and shown in a deck of Mama Moves Cards), that comes out to...
100 minutes per day, or, 500 minutes across those same 5 days. (If you do it every day, 7 days a week, that comes out to 700 minutes a week!) And as suggested above, adding more movement will make more activities "mindful movement" or "exercise". Truly, anything can be an opportunity for mindful movement.
Everyday movement can become better health
I don't know about you, but I also have times where I feel busy and overwhelmed with parenting. Something that eases that overwhelm is when I can weave tasks together, so that my to-do list is manageable and sane. I like to feel good about what I do and how I do it. I also want to have a healthy and strong body, in order to happily care for my children for years to come. It also helps me model for my kids a healthy, strong, integrated, and relaxed life.
Exercise is great... but health should not be limited to just exercise. Work a little movement into your day-to-day life, and you can find improved health, a calmer mind, and a better you.