Reconnect and Connect with Post-Natal Pilates

By Amie Wang

The first few weeks after just having a baby (whether it’s your first or second or third) can be a blur. It’s also a time when we get concerned about our body and wonder whether it will ever get back to its pre-baby shape.

That was exactly where my head was three years ago after having my second child. Although I returned to pre-pregnancy weight about 5-6 months post-partum, my posture was terrible and my lower back constantly felt strained. I was also depressed about the shape of my body. Granted, I was not a young mom and had no naiveté about ever getting my old body back, I still wondered what I could do to improve how I felt about my body. More importantly, I wanted a strong body to play with my boys, who are very active, without being prone to injury.

I finally went back to regular Pilates practice once a week. It was during that time, I realized that I could actively shape (or re-shape) my body into something that works for my life and feels good to be in. In addition to weekly instructor classes, I started incorporating 2 simple moves at home with my baby. I still do these now even though my ‘baby’ is 3 years old.

These simple moves can be done at home anytime.

Reconnect Pelvic Floor and Deep Abdominal Muscles (Breathing)

One of the things I noticed during the first year after childbirth is that I constantly held my baby’s weight on my stomach, tilting my pelvis forward and leaning on my lower back to support that posture.

Once I became aware of this, I would consciously tilt my pelvis back to its neutral position, where my tailbone is pointing towards the floor). Then, I would breathe in deeply and exhale with control, visualize pulling my hips towards each other, to lift my pelvic floor and activate my transversus abdominis (the deepest abdominal muscles). This helped me shift the work of holding my baby from my lower back to my core (and arms of course).

  1. Hold the baby (cradle or upright, depending on whether your baby can hold up his/her hand and his/her preference) so that his/her weight is roughly centered in front of your. Stand with your feet about hip distance apart. Maintain a neutral pelvis by pointing your tailbone down towards the floor.
  2. Roll your shoulders back to stabilize your shoulder blades. This ensures that your arms are working rather than your shoulders or back.
  3. Inhale deeply.
  4. Exhale and imagine pulling your hips in towards the middle of your body, and pull your belly away from the baby.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 as long as your baby cooperates being held without moving.

For a further challenge, try to pull your belly away from the baby on the inhale and then keep it away on the exhale.

This is a gentle exercise and can be done in the first few weeks after giving birth. It re-builds the strength of your tummy and pelvis area from the inside out. You can do this exercise anytime you’re holding the baby as well as weary the baby in a carrier.

Connect with Baby in a Boat (Rolling Like a  Ball Prep)

This one is super fun because you get to make funny faces or just smile at your baby. I also still do this with both my kids (not at the same time, of course, as that would be a lot of weight).

  1. Sit with your feet on the mat (or play mat), knees bent. First have your weight on your sit-bones. Then, shift the weight back of your sit-bones. Scoop your tummy to make space for the baby. Sit the baby facing you with his/her back relaxing against your thigh. Bring your arms to behind your thigh. Keep the elbows wide and soft.
  2. Inhale, prepare.
  3. Exhale, pull your belly away from the baby. The baby’s weight will help your belly sink.
  4. Inhale, keep the belly away
  5. Repeat steps 3-4 10 times. Use the baby’s weight to help keep your belly down when you inhale.

You can start this exercise after you’ve been cleared at the doctor at the 6-week (or 8-week if caesarean birth) check-up. Be sure you get checked for possible diastasis recti, separation of the most outer abdominal muscles (the 6-pack).

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