Postpartum and Exercise

The crazy world of the postpartum body… there is really nothing quite like it.

I didn’t even recognize myself after I had my son and was almost at a loss of where to start getting active again. I had always been an active person, but it was difficult at first to figure out how to incorporate that into my life now that I had a little one. Not only that, but my body was not even capable of doing all the things that it had been before. Not initially anyway.

First off, it is important to realize that “this too shall pass,” and with some work, you can be in better shape than you were before your baby. It will take time, and you just need to take baby steps! That’s what growing in this new life with a child is all about whether this is your first child or your seventh–each new little human is unique and so is the recovery and adjustment period that you and your body goes through.

Of course, this might not be the stage that many of you are in, but you can still take away some valuable information because postpartum care is just another phase of taking care of a woman’s body, and many women could use a little help in the areas that we are going to discuss.

After being pregnant, it is usually necessary to strengthen and bring the abdominal muscles back together. Also there is usually a need for strengthening the pelvic floor. Getting your balance back can be tricky, and it is always nice to tone up a bit, drop a few of the extra baby pounds and start feeling energized.

It is important to work on good posture and  strengthen your ham strings and calves as well as improve your balance and even walk so that you are being good to your knees and hips.

A great exercise to help with your back and a gentle core exercise is the cat stretch:

Perform these in a Tabata-style workout, meaning that you begin the exercise and continue for 20 seconds, rest for a full 10 seconds and then begin again. Start with 4 repetitions and work your way up to 8.

It is important to strengthen your pelvic floor as well and there is no better way to do that than with squats and lunges! That, and who doesn’t want a toned tush? And let’s face it: it goes a little mushy trying to be the counterbalance to your baby belly. Squats and lunges can be performed while wearing your baby. If you have more than one child, then get creative and do them outside while you are watching your other children play.

Before you do your squats and lunges walk a bit to warm up your legs and then do 20 seconds worth of the exercise, making sure that you have good form, and then rest for 10. Start with 4 repetitions and work your way up to 8.

Remember to get out and walk. Go for a walk around the block or to a park; walk to the store if you are able. Walk as much as possible and don’t forget to carry your little built-in weight! Whether you hold your munchkin or carry baby in a backpack, front pack or sling, you have the perfect amount of extra weight to make things challenging.

Start slowly with these few exercises. It won’t be long until you will start to see your body respond to the exercise, and you’ll be moving on to something more challenging. Enjoy!

What Are You Eating?

I have recently spent some time working at a whole foods co-op. This is supposedly a “health food” store. No additives in foods. Less sugar. You know… healthy. What I have been surprised to find is that half of the store is taken up with chips, soda and dips. A large section is dedicated to boxed foods the “just add water” etc. type and then there is the whole frozen section. Now, I understand that there are some days when a quick easy meal is very convenient and actually adds to family time because instead of stressing about what to get on the table for dinner you get to spend time with your family eating a dinner you could quickly throw together and I suppose that getting it from the health food store is better than a lot of choices you could make.

I, for one, think that food is an important part of family life. Family attachments are formed at the dinner table. Talking about the day. Joking. Having fun. Eating. Smelling. Touching. Tasting. It involves the senses. We laugh. Pheromones are free to float around the room. We are nourished by eating together. But it isn’t just the time that we spend together. We are also nourished by the healthy food that we prepare with good ingredients.

At first learning to cook meals can be a challenge but the more your practice you may be surprised to find that putting together a pot of curry and rice can be as quick as baking a pizza for 45 min. As summer rolls around, the grill is a quick, easy and healthy way to cook fruits, veggies and meat. If all the adults in the family work, the crock pot can be a family meal saver. If you are short on time during the week, it also helps to wash and cut up your veggies right after you get them home from the grocery store and have them in baggies ready for you to use throughout the week. You can even cut meat into chunks so it is easier to use.

Healthy meals together can be a challenging habit to form but it is worth the effort! You will be nourishing far more than just your bodies but your bodies should never come last on your list!

Sports and child

I know so many parents who quit exercising or quit favorite outdoor activities because they have had a child.

As we enter in to spring and summer I want to encourage you to get active! If you have given up your outdoor activities or if you have never been active there is no better time than the present to get started (again!). Our children need to see us being active and enjoying ourselves and there are plenty of activities they can be a part of.

1. Find the nearest state park or wildlife preserve and go walking. There is a large array of of backpacks and front packs for kids of every age. I have a Kelty Kids backpack that I love since you can put snacks and water bottles and a change of clothes or two in there as well as your child. If you have a younger child you may want to invest in a wrap of some kind or a front pack.

2. Get a bike cart and go biking. Make sure that you purchase quality bikes and a quality bike cart. It may cost a little bit to get started but bikes don’t take much to keep up so you have free entertainment after your initial investment. For older children there are also bikes that connect to the adult bike where the younger child can pedal a bit but can rest when they need to.

3. Swimming. Get out there and swim! Find a lake or river. Bring a picnic.

4. Head to your local park. Make sure and do your pullups on the monkey bars!

You may not to be able to do extreme sports with your children in tow but finding active things your whole family can participate in and enjoy will pay off big in the long run.

Doing Something Different to See Something Different

Just recently my husband and I decided to change things up a little bit. We live by the principle that if you want to see something different you have to do something different. Meaning that if I don’t like what I see in society as a whole or I don’t like how families are falling apart on a regular basis or I don’t like how children are turning out then I can’t expect to do the exact same thing as everyone else is doing but expect that somehow it will be different for me.

I think that can be one of the most dangerous traps for us as parents, and as people, to fall in to. We tend to look at the way other people’s lives are and say, “Well that isn’t me,” or “That won’t be me! I’m different…” and yet all the time we are saying/thinking that we are living the same way as “those people” are living and our goals are the same goals. Do you think that people with kids that shoot people wanted that for their children? Do you think that the mom who is worn out because her kids run over the top of her wanted that? Do you think that families fall apart because the parents wanted that to happen? Did they take their vows knowing that someone would break them? I don’t think so.

If you want to see something different you have to do something different.

So what does that mean practically? It means that you will have to make decisions based on your family first. Very first. What is good for you all and the surprising thing is for the most part what is good for a family is not what is traditionally touted as good in our culture. We think that it is good that you slave away so that you can buy big toys and a good house and to pay for a good eduction so that your kids can get a good job so that they can buy a big house and the toys that they want and save for their kids education… not that there is anything really wrong with this but doesn’t that seem like a mundane existence? It certainly isn’t what most of us say that we want.

If you want to see something different you have to do something different.

We say that we want genuine relationships with our children. We say we want them to grow up to be curious and creative adults with a hunger for learning. We say that we want to be able to enjoy our teenagers not dread them. We say we want to experience life with our children.

So what are you doing differently so that you can see that come about?

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Giving Up Choices

I am not in the habit of reading parenting books. It isn’t that they aren’t helpful. I have heard of plenty of circumstances where reading parenting books revolutionized the way a friend of family member chose to parent their children. I have also seen people read a new book every few months and then change their parenting technique to match. This seemed to create very confused and angry children. They didn’t know what to expect from their parents. Being predictable is such a comfort for our children.

Yes, there is a but in this because it has to do with a parenting book I picked up the other day. I have been on a waiting list at the local library for quite some time. I was not introduced to new concepts. I had been parented in much the same way and found that there are quite a few things that I also implement in my parenting.

So what did I discover that I know will revolutionize my parenting? Let my son make more choices. Offer choices. Offer valid choices. There are many small choices during the day that I found I was making that he very well could be making. As I turn those choices over I am watching him blossom. I can watch the little cogs turning in his mind. Many times already he has surprised me with his choices. There is also less resistance in our home. Things that could become an argument of point of contention between us because I was making all the little insignificant choices I am learning to hand over to him and suddenly he feels empowered. He feels he has choices in his life and we all know how much better we feel about life in general when we have some control.

And the final (major) benefit? Because he has to think so much more he sleeps much better at night!

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Growing Up Kind

Recently I have run in to several circumstances where my son caught the brunt of another child’s anger. He was hit and he was scratched and yet when my son hit this child later he received discipline. Why? Why would I discipline my child when seemingly the other child “deserved” retribution and somewhere in there I wanted my son to “defend” himself.

It was as I was discussing this sticky parenting situation with my husband that I remembered that I was not raising the other child. The other child was not my responsibility. What is my responsibility is my child. I want my child to be kind. No matter what. I want my child to treat other people kindly even though other people may not be kind to him. The fact is that people are not going to be kind to him all of his life, but I don’t want him to be the person who lashes back in anger. I want him to be compassionate and I want him to think about his response.

So we talk. I am so glad that he is old enough now that we can discuss some things. We talk about being nice, about being kind, about not wanting to hurt other people and why. And then, as patiently as possible, I discipline my son every time he lashes out at a child because I want him to be kind.

I’m Bored

I know I must have used that little phrase a few times when I was young but I honestly can’t remember. I remember one time being in the house while it was raining, I was about 9 or 10 years old and I remember feeling bored. Strange isn’t it? Strange that I can actually remember an “I’m bored” moment.

Why wasn’t I bored? Well. For one we had a television off and on throughout my growing up but more off than on and when we did have it we watched a movie or educational show occasionally, we didn’t have cable or anything. I didn’t play video games. I remember when I was 12 or so someone gave us an old Playstation and Mario Bros and we played that sometimes, but since we weren’t in the habit, it mostly sat there and collected dust. My mom got a computer and we did educational games and some of our school on it, but it was fairly limited. A lot of it was self-limitation. Why? Because we weren’t in the habit. I had grown up not doing all that stuff so I was with it bored very easily. There we go. There was some boredom.

My siblings and I played outside. We helped my mom bake. We had chores. Yes. Chores. I think that they may have been the best thing that ever happened to us. We were responsible for animals and gardening and things that were important to our family. My parents really instilled in us that the things we did were important, that they helped the family function and because of that we took pride in doing our part. Sure, sometimes we complained and didn’t want to do it. It’s not like we were angelic or anything. But for the most part we felt good about ourselves when we were helping out.

When it looked like boredom or arguing was setting in my mom would always say “well there are a list of things that need to be done…”, we figured out that we weren’t quite that bored very quickly or sometimes we would accept a “chore.” Why? Because we didn’t want to be bored.

It helped that I watched my parents doing the same thing. My dad was always doing projects and chores and even doing some of the cooking and laundry etc. My mom was always knitting something or learning something or doing something with us and the animals as well as doing things like starting a local drama club or running parts of our local fair. It kept them content. It kept us content. Boredom was just not an option.

To this day, thanks to my parents, every time I am “bored” I am able to motivate and find something to do, either a project or a chore that will keep my mind or my hands busy. I hope that I am able to instill this in my son. I hope that by demonstration and to a large degree eliminating artificial outward stimulants in his life that he will come to find that he is a creative and productive person that is essential to this family. Not because I say so, but because he is.

The Food Battle

It is raging. You know what I am talking about:  the toddler food battle. My mom keeps quoting someone that she read (and I honestly would tell you who it is but she doesn’t remember, and it is paraphrased I am sure): “Any child worth his salt will put up a fight.” Well, my son is worth his weight in salt. Most of us could probably say that about our toddlers.

I am not a restaurant. I am not planning on becoming one either. I also don’t want my child to be someone who eats at someone’s house and refuses to eat anything or doesn’t eat a healthy variety. Now, on the other hand the picky eating of toddlers is not all their fault. They are super sensitive to both texture and taste which sometimes makes it completely maddening to try and feed my mini man.

We’re working on striking a balance. I feed him a breakfast that I am as sure as I possibly can be that he will eat though he sometimes refuses the fruit that I serve with breakfast. Right now his current favorites are flapjacks and oatmeal and occasionally an omelette. OK. Sometimes he refuses and we have an early lunch.

Lunch is a bit trickier but I’ve found that quesadillas with some hiden shredded or chunked chicken will work, usually I try to use whole wheat tortillas. Macs n’ cheese, I have found some great corn macaroni and use real cheese. Whole wheat pigs in a blanket. And then there is the good ol’ pbj. Bananas, he’ll eat bananas and apples sometimes as well, I’ve tried every berry in the book and the occasional strawberry or grapes.

Dinner is tricky. I like to eat adult food. He does not. I am also not a restaurant and there are quite a few foods that we eat and are good for him that my son can eat but doesn’t. So now what? I do offer one other choice that we are serving, he doesn’t have to eat the peas but I will offer another slice of bread etc. But then it’s done. I will offer something like yogurt or cheese, something I choose sometime before bed. There isn’t a discussion about it, I offer because I don’t want him to go to bed hungry.

Snacks. Right now they are the children’s Clif bars.  Yeah, I would love to say that I am making the snacks, but he isn’t eating what I make as snacks for the most part, so there ya go. There are some battles that just aren’t worth fighting.

I am holding out for the day where his taste palate expands somewhat until then we’ll keep walking the fine line between letting my little dude know that he can’t order from me like a restaurant but also that he eats as healthy as possible on a regular basis.

That, and I give him a good fruit and veggie based supplement.

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