If you’re expecting or have recently given birth, congratulations on your little bundle of joy. It’s probably already apparent that your life – and your body – will never be the same. However, there are ways to stay healthy despite your sudden lack of sleep and inability to move without pinching a sciatic nerve or pressing against your newly-weakened bladder.

Easy does it

The first four to six weeks postpartum are not the time to jump into an intense workout regimen. Your body is still recovering from a 40-week gestation and the trauma of giving birth. Ease yourself into a new exercise routine by starting slow. You may begin taking short walks with your baby a few days after delivery if you’re feeling up to it. Start with the stroller, which you can use for support if you begin to feel fatigued. You can work your way up to longer walks using a baby carrier once you know your limits. What To Expect points out that recovery from a C-section takes longer, so always check with your doctor or midwife before pounding the pavement.

Belly jelly

We’ve all heard the phrase “mommy tummy.” As it turns out, there’s a reason for the midsection sag after giving birth. It’s called diet diastasis recti. According to NPR Health News, it’s a condition that results when the abdominal muscles spread apart to accommodate the growing baby in your belly. Often, these muscles go back into place naturally, but when they don’t, it adds jiggle to your step that can make you feel uncomfortable and self-conscious. There are a number of exercises that can help you realign your abdominal muscles, including modified yoga planks. It’s important to note, however, that extreme twisting poses, such as crossover crunches, can actually exacerbate the condition and make it more difficult to regain proper muscle positioning.

Hit the floor

We’re talking about your pelvic floor. When you’re pregnant, your enlarged midsection puts pressure on your pelvic, or Kegel, muscles. This is the reason you found it harder to hold your bladder during and after gestation. The National Association for Continence explains that these muscles are related to your ability to stop the flow of urine.

Kegel exercises, fortunately, are very simple and extremely effective at re-strengthening the area. To identify which muscles to focus on, simply go to the bathroom and stop yourself from peeing midstream. Congratulations, you’ve just flexed you Kegel muscles. With an empty bladder, tighten the same muscles for a few seconds and relax for approximately the same amount of time. Eventually, you can work yourself up to 10 to 12 seconds at a time three times a day for 10 repetitions.

Self-care

In addition to exercising, it’s important for you and your baby that you take extra steps to care for your physical and mental health. Start by making your home a stress-free zone. Decluttering is the first step toward reducing stress and creating a peaceful abode. Take some time for yourself each day, even if it’s just 15 minutes in the shower while your partner or another responsible adult cares for the baby. It may be hard to separate yourself from your infant, but you need a mental break in order to just be you. Last but not least, eat well. Don’t neglect your own diet while you focus on your child. This is especially important if you’re breastfeeding. Fitness offers great information here on what foods to include in your diet to keep your nutrition up while working toward losing the baby weight.

The old cliché that having a baby changes everything is true. However, these changes need not usher in an era of self-neglect. Ease into your exercise routine, get as much sleep as possible, and pay attention to yourself. You’ll find that the stresses of parenthood aren’t quite the burden you might have expected.

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