I have a few friends who have recently had children or who are pregnant now (soooooo exciting!)
These beautiful women are literally creating life whilst massively changing their own. Like, massively. There is so much change, discovery, heartache, joy, exhaustion in the first months after giving birth. So much for new mums to contend with, so many challenges to face.
Why is one of them the pressure to have a flat tummy? It seems we’re a bit obsessed.
Recently, the lovely Kimmy Smith, a post-natal health and fitness expert, shared her tips for how to be a mindful mum (and therefore be a calmer one!). Today, I’ve asked her to give some advice and demonstrate some safe core exercises for new mums to help ease them back into shape.
But please, by no means is your worth as a mumma or a woman determined by your abs. So take it easy, start moving to feel good and get some exercise. Take time to look after yourself as well as marvel in the love of your new gorgeous bub.
Thanks again, Kimmy, over to you:
Stretch marks, separation, cellulite, hernias – it goes without saying that most mums tend to have at least one complaint about their post-baby bellies. Before falling pregnant, I had spent ten years playing professional netball and working as a personal trainer. When I fell pregnant, I was certain that I was going to be one of those women who just magically ‘bounced back’. Except I wasn’t.
I had stomach separation, an umbilical hernia and a prolapsed bladder. At six months postpartum, I was still wearing my recovery shorts just to avoid awkward questions about whether I was pregnant again.
As women, we have the habit of judging our health, fitness and happiness on the shape and tone of our stomachs. If our stomach is flat, then we feel lean and toned. If our belly is bloated, then we feel sluggish and overweight.
It’s time to shift our perspective on the way that we view our bodies. We have grown a human and have spent nine months growing and stretching. We need to give ourselves a break and shift our focus to one of appreciation and gratitude for all that your body has done for you. As you begin to move into a state of appreciation, you can also begin to strengthen and heal your body from the inside out.
Can you get your waist back?
The good news is that there is a lot you can do to create a strong and lean belly after baby. As a mum of two and the creator of the Fit Mummy Project App, I have spent a lot of time helping new mums to create a strong and toned mid-section.
Here are my top four tips to help reduce stomach separation and create a strong and toned belly after baby.
Tip #1: Start Early
I don’t mean doing planks in the hospital corridor, but within 48 hours of a natural delivery you can start to gently activate the deep core muscles of your stomach.
Activating these muscles will help to protect your lower back and start to reduce any separation. Check out my tips at the bottom of this page.
Bonus Tip: I highly recommend seeing a Women’s Physiotherapist to show you how to properly activate your pelvic floor and core. They will give you the confidence that you are doing these exercises correctly.
Tip #2: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
Just like your baby, your core needs daily care and love. Using a tool like the Fit Mummy Project App will help to keep you motivated to practice your core exercises daily with early post-natal core workouts that you can do from home.
Tip #3: Elongate, not Contract
Similar to when you were pregnant, you want to avoid any crunching or twisting movements whilst you are recovering from birth. Crunches and plank holds cannot only be bad for your pelvic floor in those early postpartum days, but they are also bad for stomach separation.
Check out the bottom of this post for core exercises that will help to reduce stomach separation.
Tip #4: Don’t Go Too Hard, Too Early
Some signs that you might be trying to work your core too hard are:
- You’re getting a doming effect through the middle of your belly where you have separation
- Your back is popping off the ground when you are doing exercises lying on your back
- Your hip flexors are doing all the work or are getting super tight
Practice the exercises below to build your core strength up in a safe way.
Core Exercises for New Mums
Before you start any core exercises, practice engaging the deep abdominal muscles called your Transversus Abdominis.
Step 1: Place your hands on your lower belly, just below your belly button. Take a deep breath in and feel your belly rise into your hand. As you exhale gently draw your belly away from your hand towards your spine.
Step 2: Hold your belly in this gentle contraction for a count of ten before slowly releasing. Continue to breathe normally.
Step 3: Take a deep breath in and then as you exhale gently lift your pelvic floor whilst simultaneously drawing your belly button toward your spine. Keep the rest of your body relaxed and your breath natural.
Step 4: Repeat five rounds on your back, five rounds on all fours and five rounds lying on your side.
Exercise 1: Single Leg Extensions in Quadruped
- Start on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips
- Take a deep breath in. As you exhale, gently draw your belly button toward your spine
- Maintain this gentle abdominal contraction whilst sliding your right leg behind you. Keep your toes in contact with the ground
- Lift your right leg to hip height
- Slide your right leg back to the start position. Repeat ten reps on the right side, before practicing ten reps on the left side.
Exercise 2: Hip Raises
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor
- Place your hands by your side with your palms pressing down into the mat
- Engage through your belly following the tips above
- Press through your heels to lift your hips. Aim to have a straight line from your knees to your collarbones
- Slowly lower your hips to the ground
- Repeat 10-20 reps
Exercise 3: Supported Side Plank
- Lie on your right side with your knees bent
- Engage your core and press your weight up onto your right elbow
- Make sure that your right elbow is directly under your right shoulder
- Lift your hips up off the ground so that you have a straight line from your knees to your shoulders
- Practice ten tiny pulses up and down before lowering down and repeating on the left side
Kimmy Smith is the founder of the Fit Mummy Project App – the complete post-natal fitness and wellbeing App.
Kimmy is also an ex-professional athlete, fitness instructor, qualified yoga teacher and mother to two girls. Kimmy is on a mission to support and empower women to embrace the journey of motherhood.
In 2016, Kimmy launched the postnatal fitness and wellbeing hub, www.kimmysmithfit.com, an online destination that encompasses fitness, food and healthy mindset essentials including tips, advice, workouts, meal plans and recipes. It aims to help all new mums create a beautiful, fit and strong new body and life.
Connect with Kimmy: