4 Tips For Better Babywearing Fitness

Two weeks ago I talked about babywearing and how it can affect your postpartum recovery.  If you’d like to learn more about my better babywearing tips, please go here to find out more.  This week we are going to follow up our babywearing discussion as it pertains to babywearing fitness classes.  I wanted to talk about this because the topic came up recently while I was chatting with a group of mothers in my area that participate in some outdoor babywearing fitness classes.  Again, it’s one of those postpartum topics that no one really talks about and so most of us ladies just assume that you simply “strap the baby on and get to it!”  However, I want to dig a little deeper and cover some important information regarding this topic. The next time you participate in one of these classes, I want you to feel more confident and to also know when it might be more appropriate to choose exercise alternatives.

Before we proceed any further, I want to say right up front that I absolutely understand that some moms need to do these types of classes. Their babies may need more comforting. Some moms may want to do them as another way to bond with their little ones. And sometimes, it’s the only way that moms can get a workout done.  I’m right there with you!  I loved wearing my babies when they were tiny, and in fact, I wore my first born quite often. He had higher comforting needs and I needed to keep my sanity!  I remember trying to juggle getting a workout in while also wearing him so that he wouldn’t fuss so much.

However, I do think you need to be realistic with yourself and the way that you are feeling when you are wearing your baby.  I believe this holds true even more so when you add exercise to the equation!  We don’t want to be doing anything that is going to cause more discomfort, pain, and create more issues for your core and pelvic floor while you are healing. If you’re not careful, babywearing can result in these complications.

Most of the time, babywearing fitness classes are taken by women that are early in their postpartum recovery.  I actually consider early postpartum to be one year or less.  We need to know during this time if a core and pelvic floor issue is prevalent so that it can be corrected early on and isn’t made worse by babywearing exercise.  It can be challenging enough to keep your alignment in check simply just wearing your baby, but to try and throw exercise into the mix as well can make it even more challenging.

So if you currently participate in/are considering participating in a babywearing fitness class, then there are a few things that you want to keep in mind:

  1. Mind You Alignment: I talk about this a lot because good alignment is so important, especially when you are wearing your baby.  If you’re going to throw exercise into the mix, then you need to be even more cognizant of your alignment.  So what does good alignment look like?
  • Shoulders SLIGHTLY drawn down and back.
  • Ribcage stacked nicely over the hips, not flaring the ribs or pulling them down hard towards pelvis.
  • A natural arch in your lower back. Don’t flatten your lower back or excessively arch it.
  • Glutes are untucked and left behind your upper back.
  1. Make Sure You Are Using Your Core Breathing Technique: If you have ready any of my previous posts, you will know that I talk a lot about the importance of breathing.  This is even more important while you are simultaneously babywearing and exercising because we want to be sure that you are managing the pressure within your abdomen well.  Your breathing pattern should go something like this:
  • Inhale through your nose and think about expanding your ribcage like an umbrella with air. Try to keep the shoulders and chest relatively quiet while you breathe into the ribcage.  Also let your pelvic floor relax and expand with each inhalation.
  • On your exhale breath, breathe all the air out as if you are breathing through a straw and simultaneously contract the pelvic floor (think kegel) and contract you transverse abs. Exert or perform the hardest part of your exercise during your exhale (i.e. inhale and relax at the bottom of your squat.  Then exhale and contract as you stand up out of the squat).
  1. Modify As Much As Possible: There is already a lot of pressure on your core and pelvic floor simply from wearing or holding your baby.  If you haven’t really thought about this -take notice the next time you are wearing your baby or holding your baby out in front.  Do you feel like things are pushing down on your lower abdomen when you have the extra weight of your baby on top of you?  Some food for thought here:
  • The first few months postpartum are a vulnerable time for your core and pelvic floor because the muscles and tissues are still quite lax; simply standing, walking around, and carrying your baby is more than enough pressure and stress for this area. For those first few weeks into months postpartum, there’s a reason why your doctor or healthcare provider will tell you to stay off your feet as much as possible.
  • It’s perfectly okay (and in fact necessary) to take the time during those first few months postpartum to focus only on YOU a little bit throughout the day and during your workouts. During these early weeks and months, it’s important to lay the foundation and make sure you are retraining your core and pelvic floor to function “normally” again. Be sure also that you are rebuilding and gaining strength, as well as focusing on your alignment and your breathing mechanics.  Let me tell you, this takes a lot of work and focus on your part -and when you add wearing baby + exercise to the mix, all of this much needed attention on yourself very easily get thrown by the wayside.
  • If you have any sort of pelvic organ prolapse going on, then babywearing fitness classes probably aren’t your best option. Simply being on your feet a lot combined with babywearing is more than enough pressure on your pelvic floor.  When you are wearing your baby, take notice of how you are feeling downstairs.  Do you feel any heaviness, bulging, dragging, or like things might be falling?  Then it’s probably a good idea to first make an appointment with a physical therapist specializing in pelvic floor health. It would also probably be prudent to back off of the babywearing until your symptoms are better managed.
  • For ladies with a prolapse or those that are early postpartum, I highly recommend that many of your exercises be done in positions that will help ease the pressure on your core and pelvic floor. These types of positions include seated, on your back, or in a side lying position.  I also suggest that you back off any lower body exercises like squats, lunges, and step ups while wearing your baby as well.
  1. Programming Pointers For Babywearing Fitness: Most babywearing fitness classes tend to be anywhere from 30 minutes to an a hour long.  And like we talked about above, there is a lot of pressure pushing down on your pelvic floor when you are in a standing position.  So being on your feet for an extended amount of time, combined with babywearing and exercises isn’t exactly the best scenario for an early postpartum core and pelvic floor.  Here are a few things you will want to consider for your next class and don’t be afraid to talk with the instructor about it either:
  • Get off your feet as much as possible. So, try and mix in some seated exercises with standing ones. A good rule of thumb is to try and use a 2:1 ratio where you have 2 seated exercises for every one standing exercise.  It gives you the chance to get off your feet a little bit more.  Now, I know this can be a bit tricky while wearing baby, but here are some seated exercise options you can do while still wearing baby include:
  • Lower Body Exercises:
  • Seated hip abductions or clamshells
  • Seated hamstring curls
  • Seated leg extensions
  • Core Exercises:
  • Seated Alternating Foot Raise with core + pelvic floor contraction
  • Seated Heel Slides with core + pelvic floor contraction
  • For a video demonstration of these exercises click here
  • Upper Body Exercises:
  • Seated chest press variations
  • Seated row variations
  • Seated lateral and front raises

Again, I completely understand that some mamas need and want to participate in babywearing fitness classes.  I just want to help arm you with the right knowledge so that you can assess whether these classes might be an appropriate fit for you.  Just make sure that you are really listening to your body and paying attention to any feelings or sensations you may have in your core and pelvic floor.  This is your body’s way of telling you that it’s not quite ready for babywearing fitness classes quite yet!

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