The Princess. The bump. Your body. How long does it really take to recover after pregnancy and birth?

THERE has been much furore surrounding Princess Kate and her post baby body since she emerged, glowing, from the Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital last week. In fact perhaps more media attention has focused on Kate’s body than on beautiful baby Prince George.

So newsflash, the female body takes time to recover after 9 months of growing a person and squeezing it out of a very small hole, or even out of the sun roof. But just how long? Weeks, months or years?

The doctor can sign you off as soon as six weeks post birth when initial recovery has taken place but a study published last year by Salford University, suggested it could take up to a year for women to recover both physically and mentally. Some experts suggest this may even be two years, since it takes this long for your abdominal muscles to fully return to their pre-pregnancy state. And then there’s breastfeeding – pregnancy hormones remain in your system for up to four months after you stop nursing your child.

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So here’s a little guidance on how long it really takes for beautiful female bodies to recover after birth:

Early days

In the early days after giving birth your body is in full recovery mode. You may have lost a lot of blood and fluids and you’ll definitely be short on sleep and energy. You’ll most likely be sore and swollen so now is the time to enjoy some confinement and TLC.

0-6 weeks

There’s a lot going on during the first six weeks of post natal recovery. Whilst your uterus is contracting (cause of the painful, cramping sensations you’ll be getting) the rest of your internal organs, which got squidged out of the way during pregnancy are returning to their rightful place. Your pelvis will be recovering and returning to it’s pre-labour state and your urethra, vagina and anus, which again will have moved slightly during pregnancy will be returning to their original homes. Any intense activity during this stage could hinder the healing process. Walking and gentle stretching is fine but definitely nothing bouncy.

You’ll also be bleeding heavily and may also be anaemic, so plenty of iron-rich foods and dark green vegetable to aid iron absorption are critical during this time.

You’ll be quite inflamed and possibly held together by stitches for a few weeks. You’ll need to keep them as clean as possible with salt baths and lavender or calendula compresses and drink plenty of fluids for breast milk and to flush out any nasties and minimize your risk of infection.

Some women get haemorrhoids, mastitis, back ache or other complications and all women will suffer with some degree of sleep deprivation so rest, recuperation and realism are the order of the day for the early weeks.

Up to 4 months post breastfeeding

Your pregnancy hormones, most noticeably relaxin stay in your body until up to four months after you finish breast feeding. This means any associated symptoms, such as reduced stability in your pelvis and joints, also linger for this amount of time. So high impact activities are best enjoyed with caution until you feel ready to go – experts disagree on this point but you know your body best and if you are at all at risk of or unsure of your pelvic floor stability, focus on this side of your training through Pilates or resistance training before you hit the tennis court.

You may also find that the extra ‘insurance’ fat that your body gained in the early days of pregnancy also sticks around until baby is weaned, this is because your clever body is still holding on fat stores vital for hormone and milk production. Fat is not just stubborn lumpy stuff with no purpose, it’s an organ in its own right, storing and generating hormones and of course energy.

Up to a year post birth

The University of Salford study, conducted by Dr Julie Wray, interviewed women during their first year post birth and concluded that women need a year to recover both physically and emotionally after child-birth. Her study found that women felt unsupported by medical services and very much left to get on with it. This is where social networks made through local health clinics or organisations such as the NCT offering Bumps and Babies groups can be a vital part of the healing process. Relationships, personal self-worth, finances and health are all put through the mill in the first 12 months. It takes time to re-find your feet with a new member of your family.

Up to two years post birth

When you are pregnant, your growing baby forces your abdominal wall to stretch. The body responds by creating new muscle cells, or sarcomeres, literally lengthening your abdominals. According to health practitioner Paul Chek (author of How to Eat, Move and be Healthy) it can take up to two years for your abdominals to fully recover. Three big factors that can prevent this recovery, causing an abdominal distention are: Having two babies within two years (or falling pregnant within two years of the last pregnancy); gaining a large amount of weight during pregnancy; or a C-section (C-sections can cause internal scarring or adhesions which can add to abdominal distention).

Two years and beyond

Complications such as diastasis recti (split in the abdominal wall), adhesions, post stitches pain or pelvic floor dysfunction (such as prolapse) can cause problems well beyond two years.

So mummies, let’s lay off the ‘lose weight now,’ or, ‘get fit quick’ resolutions. You’ll know when you’re ready to get in shape or just get more energy, your local gym’s marketing team don’t. This post isn’t intended to be a license to eat cake and ice cream forever, that won’t do much for your body either but do wear your physical changes like a badge of honour, enjoy the early years with your baby and be like the clever tortoise, not the media hungry hare.

If you liked this post, check out The New Mummy Diet.

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com

Get updates from the alittlefitter post natal newsletter: http://eepurl.com/YVmD9

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Everyday chemicals that could be putting your health and your unborn baby’s health at risk.

LAST week the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), the ‘gold standard’ of ante natal advice, published a scientific paper advising pregnant women to choose safety first when it comes to the use of toiletries, cleaning products and even pre-packed fresh foods. The report came under fire for being alarmist and misleading but scientists have known for a long time about the health risks of so called ‘everyday chemicals’. Anti-persperant deodorants, plastic bottles, packaged meat, cling-film, even baby bath often contain chemicals which have been shown to be toxic to the human body.

It’s not just unborn babies who are at risk, it’s humans in general but the developing baby is obviously much more vulnerable to toxicity.

So what’s underneath the study, what are the chemicals to look out for.

PARABENS

Parabens are a preservative found in many cosmetic products. Research has found that parabens are absorbed through the skin and their chemical structure is unchanged by the human metabolic system. A 2004 UK study detected traces of five parabens in the breast cancer tumors of 19 out of 20 women studied, there is no direct link but the results were significant because of the fact that the parabens had not been metabolised and remained intact in human tissue. Parabens are also known to disrupt hormone balance. They mimic the female hormone oestrogen. High levels of oestrogen have been linked to some cancers, including breast cancer.

How to avoid: Look for organic or ‘pure’ products. Many high street chains do own brand cosmetics and skin care which are paraben free. For more information check out this article: http://safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=291

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SODIUM LAURYL SULPHATE

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) or Sodium Laureth Sulphate is a foaming agent commonly found in soaps, shampoos and washing detergents. Research has found that SLS can react with other chemicals in household products to product potentially carcinogenic compounds (cancer causing). Aside from this, SLS has been shown to cause common skin complaints such as itching, redness and inflammation and younger individuals tend to react stronger to these chemicals, so definitely one to watch if you or your little ones suffer with any skin complaints like eczema or itchy skin.

How to avoid: As with parabens, check out the labels on products. Compounds such as ammonium lauryl and laureth sulphates have larger molecules which can’t be absorbed by the skin and so are considered safer options. For more information check out this article: http://www.greenpeople.co.uk/info_features_sls.aspx

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BISPHENOL A (BPA) and PHTHALATES

BPA and phthalates are the chemicals which have headed up the plastic food storage controversy in recent years. It’s well known that the body absorbs small amounts of plastics when we consume food which has been in contact with plastic (worse in salty or fatty foods or foods which have been heated in plastic containers – microwave anyone?). Many studies have shown the main culprit for BPA is plastic lined cans.

BPA gets into our bloodstream. Regular monitoring by the CDC shows that more than 90% of us have detectable levels of BPA in our bodies. BPA disrupts hormones, again it’s oestrogen which comes out on top and one large, well-conducted study in humans showed that people who had high levels of BPA in the urine had a higher rate of diabetes, heart disease, and liver toxicity.

Phthalates are plasticisers used in everything from pipes to perfume. They have been banned in the EU since 2005 however we are still exposed to phthalates, pesticides (crop spraying) and plastic packaging are thought to be the main culprits. Phthalates disrupt hormones but mainly the male hormone testosterone and some studies have shown minor genital birth defects in baby  boys due to exposure to phthalates.

How to avoid: 

  • Eat less canned foods.
  • Use cookware made of cast-iron rather than teflon coated pans.
  • Reduce your consumption of fast foods and microwave meals.
  • Don’t use plastic bottles with a number 3 or 7 on them. Number 1 on plastic is single use only.
  • Avoid heating food in plastic containers or with cling-film.
  • Opt for pyrex or glass food containers.
  • Hand wash plastics to avoid wear and tear.
  • Discard damaged containers.
  • Do not heat plastic bottles.

To find out more read this thorough article at Web MD: http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/cookware-plastics-shoppers-guide-to-food-safety?page=2

You can view the original RCOG report here: http://www.rcog.org.uk/news/rcog-release-mothers-be-should-be-aware-unintentional-chemical-exposures-say-experts

Sit ups … the fastest way to a flat tummy after having a baby (I lied)

I’m starting with a little rant. Sit ups, crunches and ab curls, call them what you will, are possibly the worst exercise choice you could make after having a baby. Unfortunately, large organisations like Bounty are still recommending sit ups as a tried and tested way of getting a flat and toned tummy.  This is not only incorrect but (in my opinion) shows a failure to care for the needs of a new mum. Show me the folk that this has been tested on and I might change my mind but until then, let me share with you some information based on fact and science which I hope will empower you to make an informed choice about your tummy muscles.

No amount of sit ups will give you a flat tummy. It is scientifically impossible. Your post baby tummy is not flat for the following reasons:

  1. It has spent the last nine months learning how to stretch (muscles have long memories). Your six pack actually grows extra cells, causing the muscles to lengthen in order to accommodate your baby bump. According to scientists this takes two years to return to it’s pre-pregnancy state.
  2. It takes time for your uterus to shrink back to its regular size and go back to it’s pre-pregnancy place.
  3. The most common reason for a fat tummy is FAT – and the only places you’ll lose fat are in the kitchen (nutrition is 80% of fat loss) and in the gym/park/church hall, wherever you choose to workout.

The humble sit up is literally a contraction of your rectus abdominus or six-pack muscles. If these are distended (as they commonly are post baby), performing sit ups could make the distention worse. If there’s fat on these muscles then all a sit up does is squidge the fat into big rolls and makes you feel rubbish about yourself.

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Sit ups could make common post natal conditions like diastasis recti or pelvic floor dysfunction worse.

Pelvic floor dysfunction is the broad term used for any pelvic floor issues, ranging from accidental pees when you sneeze (stress incontinence) to pelvic organ prolapse. These issues are most common in post natal women and post menopausal women. When you perform a sit up, you increase the pressure inside your torso (you are literally squeezing it). Any weakness in the pelvic floor area could be worsened by repeated pressure on the area. There are worse things you can do for a weakened pelvic floor (running, jumping or high impact exercise being the top three) but ask any Pilates teacher which exercise is most likely to produce accidental farts from participants, and generally it involves loaded forward bending, like a crunch or roll-up.

Diastasis recti is the term used when the sheath that connects both sides of the six pack (which commonly stretches during pregnancy) does not return back to its pre-pregnancy state after birth. This means some women are left with a gap between the left and right sides of the six-pack. It won’t kill you but it is really important to focus on the deeper abdominal muscles, like the transversus abdominis (the big corset like muscles) and the pelvic floor before considering any loaded forward flexion or sit ups. Both my experience and the experience of the physiotherapists I work with has shown that focusing on the pelvic floor can really help ‘flatten’ any abdominal doming caused my diastasis recti.

But my doctor said …

I fully respect medical doctors but they are doctors of medicine and illness. There is a reason doctors refer their patients out to exercise specialists – because a doctor or GP is not an exercise specialist. I am! I would never prescribe you with drugs I know only through personal experience or try to diagnose your illness based on a few symptoms but I can explain a great deal about the post natal body and the associated exercise implications, which is why I work with, and educate medical professionals in my field of expertise.

What’s the difference between Pilates and sit ups?

Pilates is a whole body form of exercise. If you come away thinking, ‘ooh what a great ab workout’ you’ve possibly missed the point. It’s so much more than that. Too much for one rather longer than usual post about flat tummies (for more information check this post out: https://alittlefitter.com/2012/08/30/pilates-whats-all-the-fuss-about-why-bother/). In my post natal classes we start slowly, focusing acutely on the deep abdominal muscles and pelvic floor, really making sure that they are working effectively before sending you out to ‘melt fat’ (love that term – means nothing but wanted to get it into a post one day). No you won’t feel ‘the burn’ like you might in a gym abs blast class but you will be taking care of your still very delicate and very wonderful body.

For more information on nutrition for flat tummies check my post: 10 ways to lose fat and get more energy.

And for more about post natal recover check out this popular post: https://alittlefitter.com/2013/08/02/the-princess-the-bump-your-body-how-long-does-it-really-take-to-recover-after-pregnancy-and-birth/

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool

Ante Natal Pilates: What’s all the fuss about?

alittlefitter

So you’re pregnant. Yay!  Congratulations. How are you feeling?

Nauseous? Overwhelmed? Excited? Relieved?

It’s a time of your life when there are so many expectations on you and of how it will feel to be pregnant but when it actually happens, and your body is invaded by a beautiful, yet essentially parasitic baby who is draining all your resources, it can leave you feeling, well, confused.

This is where someone like me steps in. A fitness professional with a passion for all things women’s health, which basically means I care about you being as comfortable and happy as possible during your pregnancy. I also care about ensuring your experience of labour and birth is the best it can be for you and perhaps most importantly, I care about you, as a woman, recovering after birth and getting back to being you!

Yes, ostensibly I’m a Pilates teacher, but given my…

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Is your pelvic floor ready for high impact exercise?

So you’ve had the baby, the stitches have healed, you’ve done a few pelvic floor exercises and you’ve attempted ‘relations’ with daddy. All seems good so far … then one day you get onto a trampoline with your tot or perhaps even attempt jump jacks at the local circuit class and suddenly it hits you. Things just aren’t the same anymore!

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If you don’t know what I’m referring to then you’ve either had a C-section or you’re one of the lucky ones. Exceptionally fast or very slow pushing phases of labour, high reactivity to hormones during pregnancy, big or multiple babies, age at which first baby was delivered vaginally, intervention such as ventouse or forceps and occasionally even a baby coming out at an awkward angle can all damage you up there. And I say up there because that’s the point, it’s just so hard to know what’s going on up there because we can’t see it and until you try to do something energetic you might think all is well!

So is there anyway of screening pelvic floor health to know if you’re safe to start energetic exercise again? The simple answer is no, it’s all very individual and unless you have an ultra-scound scan it can be difficult to get any conclusive, measurable evidence. But all is not lost. There are some good places to start!

How is it all supposed to work?

Think of your trunk or your core like a box of Pringles. The sides of the box are, for the sake of simplicity, your deep abdominal muscles and lower back muscles. The top is your diaphragm and the bottom, is your pelvic floor. If you were to stamp on the packet (not that you would do this) and the bottom was not completely secure, it would pop off, expelling crushed Pringles all over the floor and making a nasty mess.

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The same is true of your pelvic floor. Think of it like a hammock, or a trampoline, it has more give than a Pringle pot’s bottom to allow for some pressure build up but still needs to be able to clamp shut and secure the pressure within. If there’s a little bit of damage, an over stretch or similar then when put under extreme or continuous pressure, like a set of ten jump jacks, it might not hold up to the intensity.

How do I know if mine is damaged?

Again, you don’t know until you try. When it comes to high impact exercise we need to consider how your fast twitch pelvic floor muscles are working. Here are a few key pointers:

  • Do you leak a little when you sneeze?
  • Do you leak a little when you sneeze in a squatting position?
  • Can you bounce on a trampoline with confidence?
  • Can you do a squat jump, jump jack or series of jump jacks without leaking?

Pelvic Organ Prolapse

Now I’m all for exercise. It makes you feel great, helps manage weight and fat stores, can be sociable etc etc but too much high impact exercise when your pelvic floor isn’t competent could lead to further, avoidable problems, such as pelvic organ prolapse. I should also mention at this point that it’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, I spoke with a top level physiotherapist/Pilates expert who experience a vaginal prolapse following the birth of her second child due to running too soon. It doesn’t mean you’re unfit, it just means you’ve been injured. You wouldn’t try running with a torn hamstring.

What to do now?

In my next post I’ll be going into more detail on specific exercises you can do to build strength and competence in your core and pelvic floor. But in the mean time, get familiar with what’s ‘up there’. Do do your pelvic floor exercises and whenever you’re exercising remember to engage your core, from your floor. So literally pull up from your tail and your tummy to make sure everything is tucked in! Remember to do slow wave like exercises first, followed by the quick squeeze all the way up and all the way back down AND do exercise to fatigue. A quick squeeze isn’t going to cut the mustard if you’re injured.

Can coconut water make you more beautiful and cure your hangover?

Elixir of youth. Hangover cure. Labour and birthing aid. Sports drink. Drink of choice for the Hollywood starlet. Coconut water is fast gaining reputation as the ‘super drink’ of choice, with its many benefits now being backed up by scientific studies.

As a coconut water fan, I jumped at the chance to go to an event hosted by Vita Coco on Wednesday to learn more about the science behind it. I also got to sup on various delicious flavours of coconut water (although I have to confess my favourite is still straight up, natural).

1. Yes it could be considered something of a beauty elixir – amongst other Hollywood A-listers Madge, Gwinny, Ri-Ri and Sienna are huge fans. Coconut water is naturally rich in antioxidants, recently backed up by laboratory studies. It contains plant chemicals cytokinins, which have shown anti-aging and anti-carcinogenic effects, vitamins B and C and the minerals potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosporous and sodium.

2. Coconut water is naturally isotonic. To be considered isotonic, a drink needs to contain 5-6% sugars. Coconut water is 5% naturally occurring sugars. An isotonic drink is quickly absorbed by the body making it both thirst quenching and more importantly rehydrating. So at times of need, such as after sports or illness, during labour or in the post natal period (or a big night out), an isotonic drink can be more effective than plain water. A recent study, published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in December 2012, found coconut water to be as effective in rehydrating athletes as conventional sports drinks.

According to www.consciouscoconuts.com, coconut water is a universal donor and is identical to human blood plasma.  It has the same level of electrolytic balance that we have in our blood and apparently, during the Pacific War of 1941-45, coconut water was used to give emergency plasma transfusions to wounded soldiers. Coconut water was also reportedly used as an IV drip in WWII.

3. Coconut water is chemical and sugar free. Unlike conventional sports drinks which contain a cocktail of sugars, sweeteners, artificial flavourings and basically chemicals which can be very acid forming in the body, coconut water contains no nasties. Recent studies have shown runners who suffered with gastric issues from conventional sports drinks reacted much better to coconut water as a rehydration drink with fewer tummy complaints.

4. Coconut water is rich in potassium. Recent WHO guidelines state we should all consume 3500mg potassium, daily. It’s a vital mineral for controlling blood pressure and heart disease. One 350ml of pure coconut water contains 50% more potassium than a banana!

5. One 35oml portion of Vita Coco also contains your entire RDA of vitamin C!

6. Anecdotal mum research fact (on my test subject of one) – coconut water is much easier to get down a poorly baby/toddler than conventional rehydration salts!

You can buy Vita Coco (my favourite brand, since it’s ethically produced and not from concentrate) in Waitrose, larger supermarkets, Holland and Barrett and online via Amazon at www.vitacoco.com/uk.

Sports Nutrition expert Anita Bean

Sports Nutrition expert Anita Bean

Pelvic floor: the key to great orgasms for life.

Last Thursday, I stepped into my presenter boots and discussed the finer points of women’s health to a bright and attentive, female audience at Moody’s, London. Mid way through the presentation I realised I was actually discussing the female orgasm, with full Karen style hand actions, half way up 1 Canada Square! The last time I’d been presenting in a similar environment I’d been discussing user interfaces and SQL programming – oh how life has changed! So it’s time to share some of the more intimate and fun facts about your lady organs.

Orgasms. You’ve probably heard it said somewhere that sporty folk have great sex, or perhaps conversely that older women just can’t be bothered – it’s not worth the effort anymore. Did you know that problems during intercourse could be an indicator of a bigger issue, such as pelvic organ prolapse? Or (and here’s the juicy bit) that you can actually improve the quality and intensity of your orgasms by strengthening your pelvic floor?

Painful sex (dyspareunia)

For some women, penetrative sex is painful. In many cases this can be because of a psychological barrier but there’s a specific pelvic floor condition known as hyper-tonic pelvic floor where the pelvic floor muscles are so tight that any type of penetration is painful. This specific condition needs diagnosis and treatment by a gynaecologist and/or women’s health physiotherapist.

Posture can make a hyper-tonic pelvic floor worse, particularly for those with shortened hamstrings who tend to sit on the sacrum rather than the sitting bones, so a slouchy posture. For women with hyper-tonic pelvic floor, focusing on relaxing the muscles of the pelvic floor is key. This exercise, usually reserved for women in their last months of pregnancy is a good place to start: https://alittlefitter.com/2012/06/12/ready-for-birth-connecting-with-your-rose/

Pelvic organ prolapse

For some women the most obvious signs of a pelvic organ prolapse will be during intercourse. If, for example, the prolapse is coming through the vaginal wall, this will be felt during penetrative sex. Vaginal flatus (fanny farts) during sex are another sign of pelvic floor dysfunction. You need to get these issues checked out. First by your doctor for a referral or you could make a private appointment with a women’s health physiotherapist. Pelvic floor exercises are generally the first course of treatment for any prolapse and classes like Pilates which focus on the pelvic floor and core are a great way of maintaining good pelvic floor health for anyone recovering from prolapse. Here are some great tips on pelvic floor training from women’s health physiotherapist Melissa Millman: https://alittlefitter.com/2012/10/19/how-to-train-your-pelvic-floor-like-an-olympian/G spot and P spot sign

Orgasms

Eve Ensler (of Vagina Monologues fame) reminded the world of the fact that the clitoris has around 8,000 nerve fibres, twice as many as those found on the head of a penis. This little pleasure button is where it all starts. It also happens to be surrounded by the muscles of the pelvic floor AND that the pudendal nerve, the nerve that triggers orgasm, is deeply rooted in the muscles of the pelvic floor. Take your attention further upstairs and it’s the muscle of the pelvic floor and the uterus contracting which gives you (and your partner) that Bingo! moment.

Weakened pelvic floor muscles will generally result in weaker contractions and it’s thought that these primary contractions during the female orgasm, stimulate secondary contractions, as in the big ‘O’. Put simply, the reason sporty girls have great sex isn’t just about their physical stamina, it’s about their great pelvic floor tone.

As women age, have babies or go through the menopause, the muscles of the pelvic floor are prone to becoming weaker and less elastic BUT staying active and keeping up with classes like Pilates can really help improve things in the bedroom department by maintaining or improving pelvic floor strength and tone. I have plenty of anecdotal research (husbands paying for Pilates renewals) to back up this point! It’s not just for older ladies though. If you’ve found sex is leaving you more ‘oh’ than ‘AUUURRGGGHH’ then it’s time to rev up the volume on your core training.

For loads of ideas on training your pelvic floor take a look at the following posts:

https://alittlefitter.com/2012/09/04/ten-ways-to-find-your-pelvic-floor-for-your-friends/

https://alittlefitter.com/2012/08/01/why-women-should-get-intimate-with-themselves/

Breast feeding help: early days

If you’ve decided that you want to breast feed your baby but something goes wrong in the early days it can be really frustrating trying to get back on track. Sometimes you can’t get a latch and it doesn’t seem like baby is feeding well.

I’m not a breast feeding expert so I sent out some feelers to my ‘ladies in the know’ and the responses I got back were quick, thorough and brilliant! So if you or someone you know is finding it tough but really wants to breast feed, here are a few bits of advice:

1. Get support in the early days.

From the midwives, health visitors and support staff while you’re still in hospital to friends and mums who have done it before. If you’re not quite getting it when you’re in hospital then it will be even harder when you get home, your breasts are tight with milk and you can’t stop crying (when those hormones rush in). A friend of mine stayed in for two nights after her first baby just to make sure she had it sorted and she’s now fully breast fed two beautiful girls for 13 months each.

2. Skin to skin.

This is back to basics for babies. They are born with an instinct to search out your boobs and to suckle. It’s a two way process. You want to feed them, they want to feed. Getting naked with your baby not only feels good but stimulates their early instincts. So if a C-section or time away from mum with bottles has interfered with their instincts, lots of time skin to skin can help their little systems figure it all out again.

3. Massage

If you are tight with milk (bullet boobs) gentle massage in a warm bath can really help to relieve the pressure. Bathing in salt baths can help soften boobs – it’s also great for gently cleansing your lady parts.

4. Pumping

Like massage, relieving your breasts of milk can help with the engorgement, ease pain, make boobs easier for babies to get their chops around and can also help keep up your milk supply (keep the milk in bags or bottles for future feeds). If you don’t have a pump you can do this manually but you can hire pumps from the hospital or from Bababoom.

5. Sleep and rest

When you sleep, your milk supply will increase. There’s a good reason why in simpler times women wouldn’t leave the house after child birth. Some cultures still have a month of complete rest for mums. When baby sleeps, you need to sleep. Chores can wait (or be outsourced).

6. Food and drink

Eat to recover and to ensure a constant milk supply. Now is not the time to diet. You need plenty of protein, ideally red meat to recover from labour and birth and plenty of good fats in your diet. Send partners or good intentioned relatives out to the shops on your behalf and get them to work in the kitchen.

7. Get specialist help

If you are still struggling it’s time to call in the Cavalry. And do it sooner rather than later. Here are some great local resources to call on.

Breast feeding support phone lines: 03001000212 or 03001000210

Local (West Essex) breast feeding counsellors Jo Eley on 01279 698625 or Philippa Hyams on 0208 522 3217.

Bosom Buddies, a breast feeding support group held in St Margarets every Friday from 11-12.30. Get advice from other mums, health visitors, midwives and specialist breast feeding counsellors.

NCT breastfeeding counsellors. NCT Helpline: 0300 330 0700.

La Leche League

Local independent midwife Becky also offers one to one breastfeeding support. Contact Becky via Bababoom.

With thanks to:

Zara Kaplan, Sandra Clayson and Becky at Bababoom

Ante Natal Pilates: What’s all the fuss about?

So you’re pregnant. Yay!  Congratulations. How are you feeling?

Nauseous? Overwhelmed? Excited? Relieved?

It’s a time of your life when there are so many expectations on you and of how it will feel to be pregnant but when it actually happens, and your body is invaded by a beautiful, yet essentially parasitic baby who is draining all your resources, it can leave you feeling, well, confused.

This is where someone like me steps in. A fitness professional with a passion for all things women’s health, which basically means I care about you being as comfortable and happy as possible during your pregnancy. I also care about ensuring your experience of labour and birth is the best it can be for you and perhaps most importantly, I care about you, as a woman, recovering after birth and getting back to being you!

Yes, ostensibly I’m a Pilates teacher, but given my experience of now 100’s of different pregnancies (I hasten to add just one of my own but 100’s of women I’ve seen through classes and one to one training), my second and third jobs of health writer and mummy, and my growing networks of fellow health professionals I can call on for advice, I like to think of myself as a one stop shop.

So, back to Pilates, if you’ve never done it before you might be puzzled as to why it’s so damned good for those in the pudding club.

Here are just a few reasons based on my experience and the experiences of my beautiful bumps and ladies!

MAKING YOU MORE COMFORTABLE DURING PREGNANCY

  • Pilates is a gentle, mat based class (although can be adapted to use swiss balls etc), and as such is very controlled form of exercise. Perfect for mums-to-be who want to do something positive for their bodies, without risk of injury.
  • When you’re in a class, you’re not exercising alone, so if anything does happen, there are experts on hand to support you.
  • Pilates specifically focuses on muscles in the trunk and pelvic floor, which can all help mum’s body to support a growing baby.
  • During classes we focus on exercises to relieve common aches and pains, like back ache or pelvic pain. Many women, after trying a class, find the relief so great that they sign up for two a week!

LABOUR AND BIRTH

  • Pilates focuses on breathing and relaxation, some of the techniques we use can be used during labour to help you relax, thereby enabling you to cope with pain better (or just take in gas and air without feeling sick)!
  • We incorporate exercises that encourage optimal baby positioning for birth and you can do these at home too. We’ve had quite a few stubborn breach babies go head down after class!
  • We also do gentle pelvis mobility exercises which are essential for easing baby’s head out of that very small space!
  • A strong and healthy pelvic floor is better equipped to both stretch and push during birth. In my classes we don’t just squeeze, we all understand how to train and engage our pelvic floor muscles. Did you know they go virtually all the way up to your cervix!

POST NATAL RECOVERY

  • Whilst Pilates won’t strip belly fat, healthy abdominal muscles do make your waist appear smaller. I’ve lost count of the number of women who have received compliments after doing Pilates because they appear slimmer, even when they’ve not lost any weight!
  • Getting your abdominals and pelvic floor strong again post delivery will ensure you can go back to all your favourite activities without fear of incontinence or prolapse and without risking distended abdominals.

So what would you do in my ante natal Pilates classes? Here’s my take on things: Pilates for Pregnancy

For more general information on exercising safely during pregnancy, check out https://alittlefitter.com/pregnancy-health-fitness/
For more information on classes visit https://alittlefitter.com/classes-and-training/