The immediate postpartum period can definitely be a blur. Your focus is very necessarily on your baby first and everything else now comes second. Having good help with things like meals, cleaning, laundry, etc. in the postpartum period is invaluable. Looking back on my postpartum experience, those first couple of weeks where our family kept brought home-cooked meals, someone else was doing laundry (if you asked me who right now, I’d have no idea), and there was nothing else to think about except feeding, changing, and loving a baby. However, that is not to say it was easy in any way, but those first few weeks with a sleepy newborn were not too bad.

Furthermore, while it’s important that life focuses almost completely around your new baby in the beginning, you can’t forget about your own recovery too. For 9-10 months, your body changed drastically. Muscles and tissue were strained, joints were stressed, and breathing was difficult. Then, there’s labor and finally birthing your baby. Regardless of mode of delivery- vaginal or C-section, your body was asked to do a lot. That’s why your recovery is important. Ultimately, you need to take care of yourself so that you’re best positioned to take care of your new family.

The postpartum period, especially the first few weeks, are certainly challenging times, but there are some things you can start to do help heal your body. I could go deeper into vaginal and C-section healing, and I will in a future post. Today’s post, however, is really more about 5 simple exercises that you can start almost immediately postpartum. This is all assuming there are no medical complications that would prohibit you from any of these things.

  • Diaphragmatic Breathing
    • Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as belly breathing, fully engages the diaphragm and abdominal wall. This is incredibly easy to start in the immediate postpartum period.
    • Benefits:
      1. Helps you relax
      2. Decreases heart rate, lowers blood pressures
      3. Improves core muscle activation
      4. Helps with stress relief
    • How To:
      1. Sit or lay in a comfortable position. Relax the shoulders. Relax the jaw. Place a hand on your chest and a hand on your belly.
      2. Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4, expanding the belly and the ribcage forward and out to the sides.
      3. Exhale through the mouth for a count of 4.
      4. Continue for 10 deep breaths or a few minutes.

  • Deep Abdominal Activation
    • Deep Abdominal activation involves turning on a muscle called the transverse abdominis. The transverse abdominis wraps around the spine and attaches to the pelvis. You can think of the transverse abdominis like a corset that surrounds the low back and pelvis.
    • Benefits
      • Stabilizes the low back and pelvis to decrease pain during movement
      • Begin to improve tension in the fascia and muscle after pregnancy
    • How To:
      • Begin seated or laying down
      • Gently draw the belly button towards the spine, “bracing” the abdomen as you exhale
      • Another cue: exhale as if you’re trying to fog up a mirror to feel a slight tightening in the lower abdomen
      • Hold for an exhale
      • Repeat 10 times

  • Pelvic Floor Contraction (Kegels)
    • Pelvic floor contractions are the way to turn on the muscles of the pelvic floor. These muscles are crucial for bowel, bladder, and sexual function.
    • Benefits:
      • Kegels help to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles
      • Decrease urinary leakage
      • help to heal perineal tissue postpartum
    • How To:
      • I’d suggest trying this first laying down, but you can certainly do them seated
      • Inhale deeply
      • On the exhale, squeeze and lift the pelvic floor as if you’re trying to stop the flow of urine
      • Hold for the duration of the exhale
      • Complete 5-10 repetitions

  • Shoulder Blade Squeezes
    • You’ll probably find you spend a lot more time sitting after having baby. Shoulder blade squeezes are an easy exercise to do to improve posture and strengthen the upper back.
    • Benefits
      • Strengthen upper back and postural muscles
      • Improves sitting posture to decrease forward head/ forward shoulders position
    • How To:
      • Sit upright with shoulders over hips, ears over shoulders
      • Draw the shoulder blades together and squeeze
      • Hold for a count of 3
      • Repeat 10-15 times

  • Chin Tucks
    • Another great, simple exercise for postural awareness! And you can do it while breastfeeding or bottle feeding.
    • Benefits:
      • Strengthen the deep neck muscles
      • Stretches back of neck where a lot of tension can live
      • Improve postural awareness
    • How To:
      • Sit upright with the same posture as described above
      • Gently draw chin in as if you’re actually trying to give yourself a double chin
      • Avoid looking down and draw the chin straight back

This list is not exhaustive of every possible thing you can do postpartum. These are five simple things that I think are easy to add to your daily routine without interrupting caring for your baby in those early weeks. Returning to pre-baby fitness is another great topic, but these exercises can help your body heal while preventing some aches and pains common to new mamas.

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