Love your new baby, but hate your post-pregnancy tummy? The good news is you can have a flat stomach again without joining the gym.
It’s not a quick fix. Remember, it took nine months to make your baby’s house and it could take at least nine months to demolish it!
Step 1: Tone up while you mother
Here’s a quick exercise you can use to strengthen your tummy muscles while your baby is lying or playing on the floor beside you.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Try to relax your lower back.
- Draw in your abdominals and tilt your pelvis so your pubic bone lifts upwards and your lower back presses into the floor. Lift your buttocks and slowly peel your back off the floor, one vertebra at a time, until the tips of your shoulder blades are just off the floor.
- Pause at the top, keeping your hips lifted and your tummy muscles lightly held in.
- To lower, keep your tummy muscles scooped in and lower your back to the floor, one vertebra at a time. Breathe throughout. Rest and repeat several times.
- Pull funny faces at your baby as you’re doing it and you’ll turn it into a fun game.
Step 2: Hold it in exercise
Your abdominal muscles need to remember what it’s like to be pulled in. Old-school sit-ups are not advisable for this as they work the superficial muscles down the front of the body and not the deeper abdominal muscles that give you a smooth, flat tummy. So, retrain those deep abs with this gentle exercise.
- Stand up and draw your tummy in towards your spine. This should be a soft jelly sinking feeling, rather than a strong bracing action. Keep breathing throughout.
- Hold for a few seconds, continuing to breathe.
- Release gently. Don’t just let it all sag out with one big, uncontrolled sigh!
- Repeat as frequently as possible throughout the day.
Step 3: Eat tummy-friendly foods
This is not the time for crash diets. Your energy reserves have been depleted during pregnancy and labour, so a healthy, balanced diet is the only way to get your flat tummy back.
Don’t exclude any food group from your diet, especially carbohydrates. You just need to make sure you have the right, slow-energy release carbohydrates and avoid stomach-bloating refined carbs.
Good slow-energy release carbohydrates include:
- Wholemeal bread
- Wholemeal pasta
- Brown rice
- Basmati rice
If you’re breastfeeding, make sure you’re getting enough water. Five to six months after your baby’s birth, assess your food intake as your milk levels are established and your baby will be at the weaning stage. If you continue to eat 600 extra calories at this point, you may start to gain weight.
Step 4: Join a postnatal exercise class
Nothing helps you stick at exercise better than having other mums around to encourage you along. Find your nearest postnatal exercise class.
Also, check out the classes at your local sports centre. Let the teacher know you’ve just had a baby and check the session is low-impact (i.e. no jumping) resistance work to protect and strengthen joints, plus core stability abdominal work (with no sit-ups or crunches).
Step 5: Work out with your buggy
Just three walks a week can reduce your waist and hip circumference, a study by Queen’s University, Belfast, found. So get out and walk with that buggy – with your baby in it, of course! Remember, hold in those core tummy muscles to tone your belly.
Outdoor workouts benefit you more, as the different temperatures and wind resistance make moving harder, raising your heart rate and burning more calories.
And if you want company, join other mums in a buggy workout group.
“I put on weight after breastfeeding”
“I tried a postnatal DVD, but it can be hard to find time to put it on. What worked in the end was using a treadmill three times a week, combined with healthy eating. I lost nearly 2st. After the birth of my second child, I was only a few pounds heavier than my pre-pregnancy weight. This remained constant while I was breastfeeding. But as Alexander has begun to eat solids and I’m breastfeeding him less, I’ve begun to put on weight. My advice to new mums is give it time. Once baby is sleeping through the night, you’ll find the energy and time to get back on track”
Jo, 36, mum to Natalie, 3, and Alexander, 6 months