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The right time to start exercising after having a baby

A conversation with Mary Jo Endahl, CNM

Mary Jo Endahl holds a master of science in nursing with a specialty in midwifery. We chatted with her about how to ease back into an exercise routine after welcoming a new little one.

Q: What should women think about when restarting exercise?

In the postpartum period, women want to care for their body but are often exhausted with trying to juggle breastfeeding, nourishing themselves, sleeping, cooking, and everything else. It’s important not to feel pushed to start working out. Your body has changed. It’s not the same shape it was before—and that’s okay.

Q: When can women safely start exercising after birth?

You can start going on light walks within the first couple weeks, but be sure to stop if bleeding increases. Getting out in the fresh air with a friend is a good way to get the social support you need while moving your body. You can also check out YouTube for fun and free aerobic exercise videos you can do with your baby.

It’s okay to start running or doing whatever you were before at about six weeks, also presuming bleeding has stopped. Women whose abdominal muscles have separated, a condition called diastasis recti, can resume many activities, but may want to focus on healing their stomachs with exercises tailored for this condition.

Q: What are your tips for staying motivated?

Try to choose something that’s fun. If it seems like a burden, you won’t do it. If you go from working out none to 5 minutes a day, celebrate that little victory. When you catch up with your partner at the end of the day, consider talking and walking instead of hanging out in the kitchen or on the couch. Local Zumba classes are a fun and reasonably priced option, too.

Q: Do you have special suggestions for nursing moms?

Get a good, supportive bra and drink lots of water. You already need a ton of water, but if you’re working out, you need a lot more. Remember that you are burning a ton of calories by breastfeeding alone. You don’t want to lose too much weight; it exhausts your body and you can get sick.

Q: Anything else moms should know?

Exercise and nutrition counseling are unique to each individual. Your midwife can talk to you about your family history, health and exercise goals, and personal preferences, and help you find the right options for you and your family.