Thursday, August 8, 2013

Bounce Back After a Baby

Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts and Cate Blanchett have unveiled post-baby bodies in the past that have surprised women worldwide.

Squeezing back into your favourite little black dress so soon after childbirth may not be a realistic option for new mums who don't have the luxury and expertise of a full-time dietician, nanny and personal trainer, on hand, 24/7. Especially, if you are a more mature new mum, being part of the strong, modern trend of having kids later in life.

New mums, at any age, are often overwhelmed with their changed body shape and extra baby weight. According to fitness expert Angela Houseman, the average woman should not use celebrities as role models. "It's inevitable that women will envy superstars who go from being 9 months pregnant to a size 6 overnight," said Ms Houseman.

Angela Houseman has had two children and understands the pressures that are placed on women who have just given birth. "When I had both my children, I suffered envy when I read magazines of celebrity mums who had given birth and looked terrific. But the reality is, the average person does not have a host of staff to help out with everyday living."

According to Embracing Motherhood, an organisation that supports mums after giving birth, most new mums will go through dramatic changes both emotionally and physically before, during and after the birth process. The more mums look after themselves, the greater their chances of a recovery in both areas.

It is the norm in our culture for the attention to move away from the mum and onto the new born baby after childbirth, often to the detriment of the mum. In traditional cultures within Asia, South America, the Middle East and India there is recognition that mums will need a longer period of time to rest and recover after childbirth. This can be anywhere from a few weeks up to a few months for their rest and recovery.

"A woman's body can take as long to recover as it does to make a baby: but in particular, the six week postnatal period is extremely important for supporting new mums back to health," says Ms Flack from Embracing Motherhood. "Women who give birth go through a complete physical and emotional change and require enormous support during the postnatal period. Unfortunately, often society does not acknowledge this need."

Six facts for new mums:

o Up to 20% of women have postnatal weight retention.
o Up to 76% of new mums report ongoing fatigue in the postnatal period. Fatigue is a major contributor to depression.
o At least 15% of Australian mums suffer Postnatal Depression.
o 83% of new mums initiate breastfeeding and less than 18% of mums continue to breastfeed after 6 months.
o Approximately 50% of new mums report ongoing backache.
o More than 40% of women have caesareans leading to longer recovery times.

Amy Hopes, wife of Grinspoon drummer Kristian, recently undertook the 30 day postnatal recovery program with Embracing Motherhood, after giving birth to her first child in September last year. The aim of the postnatal recovery program is to support mums in getting their body and mind back to a full recovery. Amy feels her inexperience is typical of most first time mums. "I had the perfect pregnancy and presumed I would have the perfect birth. But I was in for a big shock. I had a terrible, gruelling 36 hour labour. In the end, the doctors had to break my waters and use suction to get the baby out. I was very traumatised by it and can really only now, after 4 months, start to re-live it in my mind."

Amy found it shocking that professionals encouraged her not to talk about her traumatic birth, suggesting that she would upset other first time mums. "When I went to see the midwife I burst into tears, I was so overwhelmed. The midwife said, "Don't tell other mums, you'll only put them off," which was completely shocking to me. I think mums really need to know and understand what can happen both physically and mentally. It is not focusing on the negative, but preparing yourself for what might happen."

Surprising for Amy, it was the psychological impact of childbirth that was most challenging. "Physically, I recovered well and my postnatal program was instrumental in that smooth recovery. I was very healthy and fit before I gave birth too, doing yoga exercises each day and I think this helped."

For a new mum, a feeling of isolation is inevitable. "The most important thing is knowing that someone is looking out for you and you are not on your own," says 32 year old Amy. "The problem is that if you do gain a lot of weight and you don't bounce back easily, you are stuck at home and can't get out to do any exercise. Then your weight gain can start to spiral. I think how fit and healthy you are before the baby comes has a lot to do with it."

Weightwatchers Australia recommends that you gain between 11-16 kilos during your pregnancy and advises that too much weight gain affects your ability to bounce back after birth. "On average, after the birthing process it is around .5 to 3 kilos that women struggle to lose, although some hold on to a lot more weight. Coming into pregnancy with excess weight and gaining a lot of weight during pregnancy can make it harder to lose weight afterwards." Weightwatchers suggest that achieving a healthy pre-pregnancy weight, not gaining too much weight during pregnancy, making wise food choices and getting plenty of exercise in the months following delivery, are all useful strategies for maintaining a healthy weight throughout the child-bearing years."

"If you put in the effort, you will see your post baby body start to take shape again," says personal trainer Adriana Solorzano from Optimum Personal Training. "Much of the recovery process is tied in with the mum's body type and her level of fitness and health during the pregnancy. If you've really embraced the 'eating for two' concept, it is likely you have developed some bad eating habits during your pregnancy. Many mums think the weight will fall off but bad eating habits will make it hard to lose weight, especially when you are at home with your baby and are unable to get out and exercise. The isolation and uncertainty can make new mums comfort eat too. When I get new mums to keep a food diary, they are often shocked by how much their eating habits have changed."

Physically and mentally new mums need to allow themselves time to recover and adjust after giving birth. It's important to remember that YOU are just as important in the post birth recovery process, as your precious new baby. There is plenty of support available here in Brisbane so spend some time researching and tapping into this before your baby arrives. A happy and healthy mum will be the best carer of a new born.

'Me time' for Mums in Brisbane:

Spas: Mummabubba beauty spa in Windsor allows mums to have some serious pampering time while their baby is being minded.

Coffee Break: There is an increasing number of child-friendly cafes, such as Cafe Mama at Windsor and Breathing Space at Kenmore, combining the much deserved coffee break or lunch experience with childminding in a 'kid friendly' atmosphere, so mums can relax.

Movies: 'Babes in arms' has become very popular in Brisbane for mums still wanting to be able to go to the movies and enjoy some relaxing time without having to worry about disrupting other movie goers. In Brisbane, Babes in Arms sessions are run regularly at Palace Centro in The Valley, Palace Barracks at Paddington, Birch Carol and Coyle Cinemas Carindale, Chermside, Garden City, George Street and Loganholme.

Gyms: Most gyms in Brisbane now offer childcare facilities, so check your local gym or find one close by that offers this.

Staying in touch: The Bub Hub ( is an online information centre for new Brisbane parents. The site is endorsed by the Australian College of Midwives, the Australian Lactation Consultants Association and the Playgroup Association. It now has 40 000 registered users.

Playgroups: Check out to find a local playgroup for you and your baby. It is a great way to get you out of the house and meeting other new mums.

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