There’s no doubt that giving birth is hugely physically and emotionally demanding. If you’ve had a vaginal birth, you’re probably feeling a little tired and sore, especially if you’ve torn or had stitches. And if you’ve had a C-section, remember you’re recovering from major surgery and it will be six to eight weeks before you can return to normal activities such as driving and lifting heavier objects like groceries.
You might also look in the mirror and barely recognise your postpartum body. We’ve all been there! Your legs, bum and thighs might look softer and more swollen, thanks to water retention, and your tummy will certainly take time to resume its natural shape. This is because it takes time for stretched abdomen muscles to become strong again, so the good news is, that postpartum flabbiness isn’t there to stay.
Despite all these unfamiliar changes, your body has done a brilliant job of nourishing and carrying your little one for nine months, and with these top tips, you can bounce back after birth and feel good about yourself in no time!
Simple fashion ideas
“Simplify your style while caring for your newborn” says Johannesburg based stylist and mom of three, Pippa J. “With a newborn on your hands, just getting showered and out of your PJs in the morning can be a challenge itself. Choosing what to wear can be so overwhelming that it’s sometimes easier to just throw on yoga pants and a T-shirt, which is fine occasionally, but not as a longer-term solution,” she says. Sleep deprivation, time deprivation and a body that you don’t quite recognise right now – all these factors make it hard for you to feel good about yourself. But Pippa believes that you can look stylish and be comfortable at the same time.
Edit your wardrobe
You want to make your wardrobe functional and easy for the next few months so that deciding what to wear is not added to your list of daily stresses. Try taking some time out for yourself and spend an hour or two editing your wardrobe. Take out all the clothes in your wardrobe and only put back those clothes that you actually fit into, and that you enjoy wearing. You’re probably sick of maternity clothing, but hang onto these items for a few months after the birth. In a couple of months, you’ll be able to fit into a lot more of your pre-pregnancy clothes.
Right now though, you don’t need to open your wardrobe staring at those items you love, taunting you because you can’t get into them. Store everything else in an easily accessible area, be it another wardrobe, in boxes under your bed – just get them out of your sight for the time being.
If you have three things left in your wardrobe, don’t panic. A quick trip to somewhere like Mr Price or Pick ‘n Pay Clothing can get you a few more items that won’t cost you more than R500 to R1 000, just enough to tide you over until your figure gets back to a semblance of normality for you.
Choose stylish and functional
A couple of button-down blouses in a soft fabric are ideal to wear for outings or at home when guests visit. Choose one in a linen or viscose mix.
If you don’t like baring your tummy when breastfeeding, buy two or three breastfeeding camis. Wear these under all shirts or blouses and it makes feeding in public so much easier. Alternatively, the preggie band you used during pregnancy will work well as a tummy cover when breastfeeding too.
Boyfriend jeans will be your best friend right now. – they’re more forgiving over the hips and tummy than your favourite skinnies.
Wear flat shoes. Unless you’re a master at wearing heels, flats are just more comfortable and practical. A pair of on-trend pretty sandals or boots can add a stylish touch to a low-maintenance outfit.
Health and fitness tips
In her book, The Mommy Diet, TV host and actress Alison Sweeney details how she regained her body confidence after giving birth. This mom of two took her time to shed her baby weight safely with sensible eating and exercise methods. If you’re ready to give them a go, here’s some of her best tips:
“My trainer, Stevie Sant’Angelo says some new moms she works with begin a walking and light hiking programme as early as three weeks after having a baby. And that can be OK for those who were active before having a baby and had a vaginal delivery. If you need to wait a little longer to get started, that’s OK, too. Begin with light, easy walks outside with your baby in a sling, stroller or baby carrier.”
Sit on a Swiss ball (the big round balls you see at the gym) and bounce gently with your baby. This will help your abdominal muscles regain their shape as your core will be engaged all the time.
Use what you have at home to do some light weight-bearing exercises. Climb the stairs, or use a step to perform step-ups. You can also just use your body weight initially to complete the following exercises (which are ideal for fat burning); push ups, static lunges and squats, plank exercises, bridge exercises (lying on your back with your knees bent and raising your bum off the floor).
Special nutrient needs
Well-known nutritionist and author of Optimum Nutrition Before, During, and After Pregnancy, Patrick Holford says that because giving birth is so demanding, it’s nutritionally demanding too and your stores of vitamins and minerals will have been fully called upon. It’s important to eat nourishing foods rich in vitamins and antioxidants to feel better and regain your strength, especially while nursing around the clock.
Try to get your recommended daily amount of the following vitamins and minerals; zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium and B vitamins. Vitamin C will also be depleted and A and E are key, he says.
Vitamin A is vital for any wound healing and bruising and will also help to restore your abdomen, uterus and vagina to their former size.
Vitamin E helps healing too, but most of all, together with vitamin C, it encourages skin elasticity and the contraction of skin across the abdomen.