It could take a while for you to feel ready (and find some time!) for activities with your new baby, but you can gain a host of benefits from getting out and about. Once you’ve had the all-clear from your healthcare team, there are plenty of classes that will help you get back in shape, introduce you to other mums, and allow you to bring baby along too – great for bonding, providing stimulation and helping to introduce your little one to new scenarios and social situations.
To help you decide which is the best activity for you, we asked Angela Barden, 32, mum to four-month-old Isabella to try a few of the most popular mum-and-baby fitness classes and give us her verdict. Ask your midwife or health visitor about suitable classes near you, or check local notice boards to find out what’s on offer in your area. Many leisure centres and gyms also run classes for new mums.
- Best for: Bonding with baby
- Ages: From six weeks to four years old
- Class duration: 30 minutes
- You’ll need: A swim nappy
- Cost: £102 for 12 sessions
- More info: Dolphin Birthlight
- Baby Swimming school – visit www.dbbss.co.uk
‘I really enjoyed this class. It was a fun, safe environment in which to introduce Isabella to swimming, and there were other mums and babies for us to meet. ‘The class involved lots of different exercises and forms of stimulation that Isabella hadn’t been exposed to before, such as floating: she was able to stretch out completely in the pool.
‘The teacher, Amanda, was very friendly and gave clear demos of each exercise, often using a baby doll to show us what to do! And the nice thing was that there was a second helper nearby in case any help was needed.
‘I was surprised by the variety of exercises we did. Some of them were to nursery rhymes – babies always enjoy the rhythmical sound of rhymes and songs. If I’d been on my own in a pool, I just wouldn’t have thought of doing these exercises, or else I may not have had the confidence to do them, especially the first time. Amanda even showed us how to duck our babies under the water and float on our backs with them on our tummies – without holding on to them. I certainly wouldn’t have dared to do that on my own!
‘In terms of exercise, however, it wasn’t much of a workout for me. It mainly worked my thigh muscles as I was squatting, but I was supported by the water. The best part of it was the bonding time – I loved seeing how Isabella enjoyed the class. It was a great time for us to interact together, and with the other babies.
‘I wasn’t sure how Isabella would react to swimming, so I was really pleased that she enjoyed the session. Time passed really quickly and it was very relaxing – and it was great to get into the water again since being pregnant. I can’t wait to go swimming with her again!’
- Best for: A thorough workout
- Ages: From six weeks upwards
- Class duration: 1hr
- You’ll need: A pram or buggy, rain cover /sunshade, trainers
- Cost: £5 per session
- More info: Call 01844 202081 or visit www.buggyfit.co.uk
‘This class focused on mum rather than baby, and it was great to get a good workout. We started off with a warm-up in the park, and after a brisk walk up a short hill to a field we stopped to do lunges and squats – much to the amusement of passers-by! We then split into two groups: the faster group did some jogging with their buggies while the slower mums walked. The good thing was that we were all able to go at a pace to suit us.
‘Amanda, our trained instructor, took us through various exercises and gave us all a stretchy bungee so that we could do arm resistance exercises. She also provided mats for abdominal moves. It was great fun, and she even introduced games like tag, where you’d have to do a couple of press-ups if you got caught, which really raised the heart rate – and that doesn’t happen often!
‘Afterwards, I felt like I’d done a good cardiovascular workout – I hadn’t run for ages. I wasn’t pushing myself, but it’s something I’ll do again and I’ll push myself more next time. Buggy fit classes go out in all weathers, and it’s great to get out in the fresh air and chat to other mums. The exercises and route vary each week, so you’re not always doing the same thing.
‘It’s really hard to leave a young baby to go to the gym, especially if you’re breastfeeding, but this way you can get a workout and baby can come too (Isabella slept for most of the session). Exercising in a group means that you push yourself more than if you were just going for a walk – and it’s far more interesting than doing it on your own.’
- Best for: Relaxation
- Ages: From newborns to mobile babies
- Class duration: 1hr 30mins
- You’ll need: Comfy clothes
- Cost: £60 for six sessions
- More info: www.birthlight.com
‘I’ve done yoga before, so I expected the class to be similar to a normal class. It was very laid back, with mats placed in a circle and cushions provided for babies to lie on. All of the babies were four months or younger.
‘After spending a few minutes at the start of the class introducing ourselves and talking about our babies, Sally, our yoga teacher, introduced various positions and gentle stretches for the babies that we performed along with nursery rhymes.
‘Rather than being a yoga workout, the class was more of a bonding experience for mums and babies, with the focus on gentle fun and movements that we could do together. It was a great introduction for young babies, with plenty of gentle moves for arms and legs, and Sally came round to make sure that we were all doing them correctly.
‘It was also a really sociable class, with plenty of time for mums to chat afterwards, and it was easy to be able to feed or change Isabella during the class, which wouldn’t have been possible during the swimming or Buggy fit classes. Isabella’s favourite bit was when I was lying on my back with my knees bent, and she was balanced on top, looking down at me – she just kept laughing! ‘I really loved the 10 minutes of deep relaxation at the end for winding down – you could put your baby in the middle of the room, as there was a helper to watch them. Relaxation time is a rare thing for mums, so most took advantage of this!
‘I would go again to baby yoga, but I might try a class with older babies to get more of a yoga workout for me next time.’
Which workout is best?
Any activity that you do with your new arrival is bound to do you both good, but when it comes to actually getting fit and losing that baby bulge, the same rules apply as for normal exercise – you need to get moving.
‘In terms of getting a good workout, the buggy-based class is by far the most effective,’ says Liz Stuart, postnatal fitness expert and director of Power Pramming (www.powerpramming.co.uk). ‘If you’re a new mum and want a class that you’ll benefit from physically, this is the one to go to. These classes are really geared towards mum – you’re getting a great cardiovascular workout with power-walking and jogging, along with strength exercises and flexibility with the post-workout stretches. It’s the nearest thing to a full workout that you can do with a baby in tow.’
In terms of baby swimming, if you’re looking at classes as a means of getting fit, it’s not really going to happen, says Liz. ‘You’ll do lots of arm movements and you can work your abs while you’re lifting your baby in and out of the water, but in terms of cardio fitness, it’s not particularly beneficial. Socially, however, it’s a good way to meet other mums and babies.’
Baby yoga, meanwhile, is great for improving flexibility and getting back into an exercise regime after having a baby, says Liz, but it’s geared more towards baby than mum. ‘Lots of new mums who go to baby yoga classes love it, though, as babies are naturally very flexible and you’re taught gentle moves in a safe environment,’ she says. Other classes to try with your little one are baby dance classes, such as Latino Bambino (www.latinobambino.co.uk, from six months upwards); bring-along-baby fitness sessions at your local gym or hospital, or ‘new-mum-friendly’ personal training sessions (beez-kneez.co.uk), where classes take place at your house while your baby (in theory!) sleeps.