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Oh, Baby: A Post-Partum Primer for your Abs

So much changes after having a baby. Most of the changes are positive, once you settle in. But some of the new stuff – like the lack of sleep and shortage of clean clothes – is less welcome.

Also potentially difficult is what having a baby can do to your body, even if you’ve had the best birth ever imagined. Repercussions can’t be avoided once you’ve carried a human infant, along with the placenta, amniotic fluid and everything else, around in your abdomen for nine months!

After birthing your baby, your core strength will suffer a decline. Your abs will not be up to the task of supporting your trunk, which in turn leads to your lower back overcompensating each time you need to move. Those muscles also keep your organs where they need to be. Even standing and sitting are tricky when your core is weak because your upper half wants to cave in to your lower half.

While a six-pack would be nice – eventually – what’s most important right now is improving your posture and reducing your chance of injury.

Fortunately, your core can be re-strengthened with some simple exercises — and most can be done in between naps, both yours and the baby’s.

Planks are excellent for increasing core strength and take about 5 minutes. You do, however, need to make sure your form is spot on. You can find a great primer here. Or, if you’d prefer a video version, here’s a great one. A good goal to shoot for is to hold your plank for 60 seconds and to do three repetitions, with a 60-second rest in between each plank. Start from where you are, however, and hold each plank for as long as you can maintain your form.

Pilates and yoga are also perfect for reminding your belly how its muscles used to work. Not only will this type of exercise stabilize your core, it can also lead to an improved state of mind and well-being. Womens Fitness Clubs of Canada offers plenty of these classes; you can also practice the form you’ve developed in class with a DVD at home while you are all adjusting to your new routines.

Finally, running and walking work all of your body but each step you take begins not in your feet but in your core. Once you are cleared by your doctor, lace up your shoes, put the baby in a stroller and move. Keep in mind that your endurance might not be as high at first as it was before having a baby but keep at it. Your body has done a lot of work and needs some time to recover.

Do your best to make the recovery an active one, and your abs will thank you. (And remember that if you want to bring your baby to the gym, our experienced childcare professionals would be delighted to look after your child if s/he is 6 weeks to 6 years!)