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Helping yourself feel fit is one of the best things you can do for your baby. A little exercise will tone your muscles. You’ll feel stronger and more energized. You’ll also feel more awake and aware. Don’t worry about your weight right now. Your goal is to feel healthy. Part of feeling good is dressing for comfort. If you dress “smart,” you can be a busy new mom and still look great.
You probably were told to do Kegel exercises during pregnancy. These exercises strengthen the muscles that are strained by carrying and delivering the baby. You can return to your Kegels as soon as you feel ready. Why not start today? Squeeze your pelvic floor muscles (the ones that control your urine stream) for at least 5 seconds. Relax, then squeeze again. Work your way up to 50 or 100 Kegels a day.
Exercise helps you get in shape. It also strengthens your muscles, so you are better fit for lifting the baby. As an added benefit, exercise gives you a sense that you’re doing something good for yourself. Take your baby for a short walk, or spend 10 minutes stretching. If you were active during pregnancy, you can probably begin light exercise as soon as you feel ready. But be sure to check with your doctor before you begin.
For the first month, think about regaining energy, not about losing weight. Losing weight too soon can make you feel more tired. Instead, focus on caring for your baby and eating balanced meals. You may lose some weight without even trying, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Once your energy level’s back to normal, you can begin to lose weight. A gradual weight loss of 4 or 5 pounds a month is safest.
Lie on your back, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Now tighten the muscles in your abdomen and buttocks. As you inhale, press down until your low back flattens against the floor. Hold for a moment, then relax. Repeat 5 times twice a day.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Cross your arms over your chest. Exhale and tighten the muscles in your abdomen. Gently raise your shoulders off the floor. Hold for 5 counts. Slowly lower your shoulders. Relax, then repeat 3 to 5 times twice a day.
You’ll want to be comfortable during the first days after delivery. Wear a robe, pajamas, or sweats—whatever feels best. Soon you may want to look more like your prepregnant self. Do your hair and wear makeup, if you normally do. A loose-fitting dress may feel good. But do yourself a favor: Don’t reach for your jeans. It’s likely to be a month or more before you can wear them. If leaking breasts are a problem, put pads inside your bra and dress in layers. If you’re breastfeeding, shirts that open in front or pullover tops are good choices. A scarf or shawl can be used as a drape if you breastfeed when others are present.
Remember to schedule your postpartum visit. If you delivered by cesarean, be seen within 2 weeks. For vaginal delivery, be seen 4–6 weeks after the birth. Also, call your doctor or healthcare provider if you have bleeding that turns bright red or gets heavier.