One of my most read blog posts on my website is “Breastfeeding and exercise” and I guess you could say that today’s article is a long-awaited follow up to this.
I wrote that original article many many years ago to give new mums answers about how to exercise comfortably whilst breastfeeding, whether exercise affects milk supply and how many calories need to be consumed to enable the system to continue to lactate etc.
A few years down the track and a lot more education later, I’m back with a new instalment which I’m actually pleased to say is some of my best work if I’m honest.
Producing milk isn’t so much a struggle for many of you as such (although I could write a whole piece on that if you wish), but many more of you often comment and ask me questions about how to stop getting pain in your shoulders, neck and back whilst feeding.
So, today I’m here with a video I’d like you to tune into to learn:
*why you get pain when feeding your baby,
*what positions you should try feeding your baby in,
*the difference between “bottle” and “breast” milk as it pertains to research,
*how you can prepare your body better for breastfeeding during pregnancy,
*the benefits the action of breastfeeding provides for your baby, and
*the difference between the development of a baby who’s breast or bottle fed
And, there you have it!
I’d really appreciate your comments, so drop me a line if you have any questions, or you need clarification of anything I mentioned in the video.
I’m more than happy to help, as you know.
If you’re pregnant and concerned that you don’t have the strength to be able to withstand the physical demands of breastfeeding, book your space on any of my pregnancy fitness or pregnancy Pilates classes, where you’ll learn first-hand, what it is you need to do now to improve matters.
My Bump to Babe pregnancy fitness classes on Mondays and Wednesdays in Lady Bay provide cardio, toning, Pilates, stretching and tonnes of education about what happens to your body during pregnancy.
If you’ve had your baby and you feel you need to address your shoulder/neck/back pain, come along to my Beginners Pilates classes on a Tuesday at 8:30pm in West Bridgford where you’ll learn about posture, alignment and what positions you may be placing yourself in caring for your newborn are adding to the tension.
20 Apr 2017
The technical name for abdominal separation is: diastasis recti.
Today, I’m going to be sharing with you 4 exercises that WON’T fix abdominal separation (all of which are pictured in this photo).
First up is supine pelvic tilts:
This is where you’re on your back, and you flatten the lower back down against the floor and then return the pelvis back to neutral.
This exercise WON’T heal your mummy-tummy.
There’s another one similar. You know that exercise you do, lying on your back again with your knees bent and you slide one leg along the floor, sometimes called leg slides?
Yeah, that doesn’t really fix abdominal separation.
Have you been guilty of doing lots of hands and knees-based exercises where you lift a leg or arm away from your centre, to work your core and to help heal your tummy separation?
Well, that exercise probably won’t ‘fix’ abdominal separation either.
What about that move where you set yourself up in any position (standing, seated, prone, supine or all fours) and you breathe in to prepare, pull your tummy in, and hold it for 5-10 seconds, then relax your belly?
Well, that’s not really going to help your core unit in the long run either (in fact it might be the reason your tummy’s still a little pooched, if I’m completely honest with you).
I don’t ‘cue’ my clients to ‘draw their tummy in’ anymore in a pre or postnatal setting, and haven’t done so for several years since delving deeper into biomechanics.
In your quest to fix your tummy distension, and to get your core ‘functioning’ better, my message here is very simple:
Exercise alone will NOT fix abdominal separation
The answer lies really in going deeper to rehabilitate your system, to build a reflexive core.
“What’s a reflexive core?”, I hear you ask:
Well, it’s a unit of muscles that switches on at the right moment, when needed.
So, say for example, when the wheel on your buggy (or shopping trolley at the supermarket) goes wonky and you stop dead, potentially injuring your back.
Well, you want the abdominal muscles to switch on here instinctively to protect your back.
You certainly don’t want your lower back muscles to kick it – that hurts, and that’s not a functioning core muscle unit.
The problem is, you will NOT always know when this scenario presents itself.
Let’s face it trip hazards and wonky wheels are everywhere, so it’s better to build a core that is able to deal with any situation that’s thrown at it…
…rather than interrupting that very signal that should occur naturally to protect spine by walking around with your abs pulled in slightly ALL. OF. THE. TIME!
What’s sitting above your abdominal cavity, and what’s hanging underneath it all have a distinct role to play here.
We’re looking at getting the skeleton better aligned, to enable the muscles that attach to your bones from head to toe, working in sync/harmony/synergy.
I’d want you decreasing the pressure in your abdomen too if you have diastasis recti, so learning how to breathe correctly is a must.
Are you pregnant and still chest breathing? Yes? Well, that’s why I focus so much on this aspect in my prenatal classes.
So much of what you learn in my antenatal sessions can actually be applied and help you lessen your chances of getting abdominal separation, post-birth.
The clients I see in my Mummies and Buggies don’t just get a new ‘core’ or a ‘flatter stomach’- they get a whole new change of mindset, because I educate them beyond ‘the abdominals are the problem here’, ok?
If you’ve been following a program of exercises at home in an effort to flatten your stomach, and you’re seeing very few results, or indeed a plateau effect is happening…a new approach is needed, don’t you think?
I cover ‘reflexive core’ and breathing.
I check your tummy for abdominal separation (many Doctor’s don’t bother with this assessment any more).
I get you holding and carrying your baby better so as not to make the load on your weak core unit worse (this is key!).
I get you experimenting with feeding positions for the sake of your shoulders, neck, back and pelvis (which are inadvertently all attached to your abdominals, remember).
Can you see how a full-body approach is taking into consideration a number of factors from your feet to your forehead, that can affect the load that’s placed on your abdominals?
I cover these and many more aspects, in the same fun, factual way in my Mummies and Buggies.
Wednesdays at 11am at the All Hallows Church Hall in Lady Bay with flexible attendance provided, because life with a newborn is never straightforward, is it?
If you’re looking a class that educates as well as exercises you – this is for you!
If you’d prefer a more individualised program of exercises set especially for you, with a full assessment, click here.
I received an email a month or so ago from a new mummy client of mine who comes to Mummies and Buggies with this question:
I think one thing that I would like is more advice on what to eat whilst breastfeeding. Us mums are craving carbs and sugar, and eating loads of rubbish like that is obviously not good for us, but I also find it can make me feel a bit down in the dumps/not sleep well etc.
A feature on what are the best foods to eat whilst breastfeeding to keep our energy levels going & stop snacking as much would be very welcome I’m sure.
So, I’m here today to give my top tips on beating the sugar cravings, and give you ideas on what sorts of foods you should be eating as a new mum who’s breastfeeding, or a pregnant mum who’s busy growing a human or two inside themselves.
‘Snacking’ isn’t really what I’m going with here, by the way. We’re not cows, ok? Three meals a day should be more than enough.
Sure, the guidelines in late pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding state that you need around an extra 200 calories per day to sustain the demands on your body.
I’ve never been one to count calories – what your body needs is solid nutrients – that is the difference in the message I’m sending here.
Here’s an example:
- One chicken breast = 197 calories, 0.00g carbs, 7.79g fat, 29.80g protein
- One aero bar = 221 calories, 25.2g of carbs, 12.30g fat and 2.10g protein
Your feet have 26 bones, 33 joints and hundreds of muscles.
They’re your platform and serve you well most of the time (if you treat them fairly back, obviously).
The vast majority of people are born with the ability to stand and walk with their feet pointing straight ahead.
Your baby/children’s feet will also be parallel.
What’s up with your feet?
What do YOUR feet look like?
When I chat to many of you in class about my eating habits and lifestyle, you’re often a little startled about what I eat, when I eat and why, so I thought I’d write a series of articles giving you a little bit more information about the nutrition plan I follow, how it’s helped me, and how it can ultimately help you too.
Clean eating works on the principle that you cut out all processed foods from your diet and go for more natural ingredients that are fresh, healthy and chemical-free.
I don’t really like the word “diet” in any context to be honest, and would argue that clean eating isn’t actually a diet, because I, and many other people I know around me, have been following clean eating for well over 4 years now, and seeing and feeling fantastic as a result.
I once met a client who came to my postnatal Pilates classes who had all 3 of these things:
I’ve rehabilitated and lessened the symptoms all of these 3 issues in a lot of women (and men) over the past few years.
They’re all linked.
Let me explain a little further:
TOO MUCH PRESSURE
The human body has 3 cavities:
1) thoracic (chest and ribcage area)
If you have too much pressure building up in one of those cavities, there are 3 ways of that pressure is going places once it’s reached the pressure cooker stage:
12 Jan 2017
I like to describe the “core” as a bit like a house.
A house has a foundation, walls at the sides and front/back, there are support beams in the middle and a roof on top.
Your “core” is made up of several different muscles in your abdominals and back.
Here’s a little bit more about each one:
DIAPHRAGM – These are your breathing muscles and they form the “lid” or roof of your core, if you like. Ever wondered why I keep banging on about the importance of optimal breathing in class?! Well, now you know why.
01 Jan 2017
And, I do appreciate, if you’re a new mum attending my CoreBaby Pilates or Mummies and Buggies sessions, I know first hand, your sleeping pattern is not what it used to be, unless you have one of those angel babies who “sleeps through the night”.
I can’t help you with your baby’s sleeping schedule unfortunately, because that’s out of my remit as an Ante/Postnatal Fitness Expert, but I thought you might be interested to learn some tips on getting a better night’s sleep, because it’s oh so important, so here goes:
- Maintain a consistent daily schedule – Your body needs to learn when it’s in sleep mode and awake mode, and the best way to do this is to go to bed at the same time, and wake up at the same time each day.
- Reduce caffeine intake – Avoiding caffeine altogether is best really if you’re struggling to get to sleep. Caffeine is a stimulant and plays havoc with your sleep cycle and makes it harder for you to nod off the more you consume it.
- Turn off the computer/television/tablet/mobile – The bright light/backlighting associated with laptops, tablets and mobile phones these days doesn’t send you off to sleep, they stimulate your brain, so keep them switched off when you’re in your bedroom.
- Don’t go to bed on a full stomach – Your digestive system needs time to process your food, and if you eat too close to bed time, it’s actually quite dangerous, particularly if you have any heart conditions.
- Read fiction – Reading fiction is a means of escape for a lot of people and a great way of settling you off to sleep. Choose books that are easy to read and ones that you enjoy. Keep text books and work reports out of the bedroom.
- Engage in regular exercise – The benefits of exercise are numerous, and studies definitely show there’s a link between engaging in regular exercise ending in a better nights sleep.
- Limit beverage consumption before bed – If you’re getting up numerous times in the night for the loo, you might want to reduce your fluid intake a few hours before bedtime. It’s important to stay hydrated obviously, and work your pelvic floor muscles too, for the same reason.
- Keep your bedroom dark and quiet – Invest in some black out blinds, install double-glazing and/or wear an eye mask. You’ll look like a superhero and wake up like one too.
- Invest in a firmer mattress – During pregnancy, you’re busy growing a bump at the moment, and when you lie on your side particularly, the weight of your pelvis sinks down lower into a mattress if it’s really soft, causing back, pelvic and neck pain. The firmer your mattress, the more comfortable you are, and the better chance you have of catching some zeds.
- Go to sleep and wake up using your internal alarm clock – Not always possible if you work set hours or shifts (why do you think I’m self-employed?!), but it makes sense to allow yourself to wake up naturally, doesn’t it, so you’re not rushing around and/or adding stress to your day.
And there you have it: My Top 10 Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep!
Try out some of the techniques and let me know how you get on.
And, if you’re a new mum suffering with neck, shoulder and back strain from constantly lifting your baby, click here to check out how learning about your posture and alignment at CoreBaby Pilates and Mummies and Buggies can really help you!
Night night. Sleep tight. Zzzz.
When it comes to training the pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy and after birth, I’m here to tell you, as a trained Ante/Postnatal Fitness Expert who keeps her education and skills fresh and up-to-date, things in recent years have most definitely changed.
Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles for postnatal women should be of paramount importance.
No news there.
Keeping your pelvic floor muscles in check during pregnancy is vital too.
Again, no surprises.
Stress incontinence (that’s where you when you laugh, cough, sneeze or do exercise and a bit of wee or poo comes out too), is quite common with 30% of new mums suffering with the condition for up to 3 months after birth.
I personally believe this figure is more like 50-60% though and because it’s such a taboo subject, there are a lot of women out there suffering in silence.
Not sure if your abdominal muscles have knitted back together properly after birth?
Didn’t get your tummy looked at at your 6-week check up?
Know you need to do exercises, but not sure where to start?
Fixing mummies’ tummies is kind of my speciality!
And, I’m here to help.
Well, when it comes to fixing abdominal separation, gone are the days when I can just say:
“Here’s a program of 4 exercises for you. Do them every day for the next month and get back to me.”
Sorry – was that what you were after?
No, no – wait…!
Focussing solely on your mid-section and training just your abdominal muscles in an effort to ‘fix’ any distension in your tummy muscles is what’s called ‘spot reducing’.
Put simply, ‘spot reducing’ is where you focus on just one muscle group, one body part, or just one area of your body and try and tone the hell out of it!
Oh, and if you’re doing sit ups and suspect you have abdominal separation – they aren’t the answer.
In fact, sit ups will make abdominal separation worse.
The human body is made up of hundreds of muscles and bones. And, let me tell you – if the muscles in your body can find an easy way of doing something – they will.
And, they’ll do it over and over and over again until a nice little muscle imbalance has found its way in there.
How do you think these everyday mummy movements affect your overall posture?
- always holding baby with your dominate arm,
- winding baby over the same shoulder all the time (did some one say colic?),
- sitting slumped over feeding baby…for hours and hours and hours (no one tells you that, do they?),
- propping baby up on one hip,
- pushing a buggy uphill with your arms out-stretched and shoulders lifted….(and your bum out for all to see!)
These things all create muscular imbalances, don’t they?
If even one of your muscles is tight, weak or stretched, does it make sense that other muscles will try and compensate?
Because, indeed they do.
Everyday’s a school day, eh?
Do you want some good news though?
Ok, well fortunately for you – there are many ways of fixing abdominal separation.
Education is key here particularly when it comes to discovering the ‘cause and effect’ of abdominal separation – and all of your other postural traits.
Here are some points I consider when treating you for abdominal separation:
- Is this your first/second/third/fourth baby?
- Do you suspect you had abdominal separation that went untreated if it’s not your first baby?
- What exercise did you do prior to getting pregnant?
- How’s your posture right now?
- Can you breathe correctly?
- Do you actually have any ‘core’ strength?
- What muscles are really tight for you?
- Which muscles dominate your entire system, without you realising it?
- What tasks are you doing with a newborn that might be attributing to your abdominal separation?
- Is your pelvic floor ok, or do you need help with that too?
Can you see what I mean?
Assessing, treating and rehabilitating a new mum for abdominal separation needs to move away just doing tummy exercises.
It needs a broader, full-body approach to get your system working and functioning in a more optimal way.
I’ve had success ‘fixing’ clients’ abdominal separations back to normal – from as quickly as 7 weeks which is pretty cool, right?
What’s also encouraging is that I’ve created a 7 Steps to Fixing Abdominal Separation method myself and this is exactly what I’m talking about:
A whole-body, ‘everything working as one’, proper unit-type system…
….That gets results!
If you suspect you have abdominal separation, don’t be concerned. I can help.
Book a 1-2-1 individualised personal training session with me either in person, or via Skype, where we can sit down, get you assessed and get your body back on the road to recovery.