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Keeping Fit and Well Features
Lisa Hassan Scott, Wales, UK
Photos: Monica Duke

 

A baby changes everything.


A mother’s daily routines change completely, her nights may be restless and old habits necessarily have to alter to work around the newest, neediest member of the household. Self-care and keeping fit often drop off the to-do list altogether. But for a mother’s wellbeing, and for the benefit of her whole family, it’s worth taking small steps to try to fit a wellbeing practice into the day, even for just a few minutes.

I led a fairly active life before having children. Cycling, hill-walking, yoga and swimming were my favorite ways to keep fit and clear my head. Like many people, I took it for granted that I could just nip out for a swim for a few hours. When my first child was born, I found myself struggling with poor latch and a baby who needed to be held almost constantly. “Nipping out” were words I no longer uttered. Just getting out the door was a military-style operation, and when I got out into the wintry cold I’d often find that in my focus on the baby, I’d completely forgotten to wear a coat!

If I couldn’t even remember to wear a coat in a snowstorm, how on earth could I look after my own needs for fitness and wellbeing?

Over the years of mothering, and realizing that my self-care was essential to the happiness of my entire family, I have found several ways of fitting in a wellbeing practice to keep myself feeling fit and calm, while still attending to the needs of my babies. Here are a few ideas that might work for you.

Try going for a walk and consider progressing to a run. Getting out of the house, with baby in a sling or pushchair, and having a brisk walk can be a great way of staying close but also getting time for yourself. There is something so invigorating about a fast walk in the sun or crunching over autumn leaves. Time outdoors will clear your head, offer a change of scenery, and may even help a nap-resistant baby doze off.

Running/jogging is the most efficient form of exercise around. Even a 15–30 minute-run a couple of times a week can confer awesome benefits. If your baby has a reliably sound nap and you have a caring helper, consider a short run right from your front door. Or, take your baby with you! Jogging strollers can be expensive, but used ones often come up on online auction sites or through local connections.

If I couldn’t even remember to wear a coat in a snowstorm, how on earth could I look after my own needs for fitness and wellbeing?

Start the habit of an at-home practice. In inclement weather, or if you have several children’s needs to attend to, a short, frequent at-home practice can reap rewards. The market is awash with fitness DVDs and podcasts, including aerobics and yoga. I have some great memories of my children bouncing around the living room with me, trying to imitate the lycra-clad instructor on the screen. The belly laughs we had made me feel good and once I got into a daily habit of serving their breakfast, then doing my exercise, they came to accept that “this is what mummy does” and I’d be free in a few minutes. I have even practiced gentle yoga with my baby in a wrap sling, relishing a chance to breathe with awareness and stretch my body.*

Walk or cycle as much as possible. If you can, ditch the car for short trips. Walk to the bank, cycle to the store. It takes a little extra planning and time, but building a habit of using your body to get you around can help you feel really good. And walking with a toddler or young child, there is so much to discover: sycamore seed ‘helicopters’ to throw in the air, autumn leaves to jump in, snow to crunch through, puddles to splash in. If cycling is more your speed, or your distances are greater, there are baby bike-seats and trailers and some amazing cargo bikes on the market. I have a friend who cycles her six children around her city every day! Even if you live in a place where you need to use your car for most trips, try parking a little farther away from the store entrance, walking from errand to errand, or simply make a stop along the way at a local park, field, nature reserve or woodland for some outside time.

Mother playing in ocean water holding baby

Step outside and breathe. Sometimes none of these ideas will work for you. Maybe the weather is terrible, your child is ill, your mobility is limited, or you have older relatives to care for. Maybe you just have a really busy life, juggling working, pumping and motherhood. If you do only one thing to contribute to your overall wellbeing, make it this one: step outside, even for just a few minutes, and breathe. Take your morning coffee outside, stand outside your door, and notice what is happening around you. The moon, the rising sun, birds going about their business, the feeling of the wind or rain on your cheek, the stillness of falling snow—all of these are events we so often overlook, but can bring us right back to a sense of calm. Every day, try to get outside and just notice.

One of the most important things to recognize is that a baby’s needs change over time. He won’t be this needy forever, and gradually you may find that you have more and more time to give to your own wellness. When your baby is very young, it’s okay to focus on his needs and allow yourself time to adjust to motherhood. In spite of what celebrity magazines might tell us, it is natural for a mother’s body to change when she has a baby, and it will take time for you to return to your former fitness. It’s important to take it slowly, make sure you have the go-ahead from your health care practitioner and give your body credit where it’s due: it’s carried and birthed your beautiful baby and you continue to nourish him with your body. You are amazing!

* Do take advice from an experienced yoga teacher if you are considering practicing yoga with your baby. You may also find helpful books at your local library, or information about a local parent and child class.


Resources

Keep Fit

Marathon Mother

Postpartum Fitness and Beyond

Triathlete Breastfeeding Mom

Outdoors Baby and Family


Lisa Hassan Scott is an LLL Leader, writer, and yoga teacher living in Wales, UK with her husband and three children.


Comments

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