If you’re putting priority on getting back into your skinny jeans post-birth, it’s time to give yourself a break, mama.
While we’d all like to step back into our pre-birth wardrobe without so much as a sit-up, the reality is, we’ve been through almost a year of pregnancy—growing another human being—so what’s really needed is a need to drop expectations to fit a mould that was designed by society. What our soul really needs is nurturing, nutrition and a whopping load of self-love, and, at times, patience, as we move towards feeling strong and whole again—physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Someone who knows this all-too-well is Kimmy Smith, founder of kimmysmithfit.com a postnatal fitness and wellness hub created to help mums feel beautiful, fit and strong.
Author of the Fit Mummy Project – the Complete Online guide to Post Natal Fitness and Wellbeing, Kimmy is also mama to two beautiful girls, a former professional athlete, a personal trainer and yoga teacher specialising in postnatal health.
We caught up to chat about postnatal health and fitness, and how we need to relook at the expectations we mamas have on ourselves to fit a utopian ideal that really has nothing to do with the real us.
What was the inspiration behind Fit Mummy Project?
I wanted to create a postnatal fitness and wellbeing program that helps mums return to exercise in a positive and safe way. I wanted something that would help mums to shift their focus to creating a beautiful, fit and strong new body rather than trying to “bounce back”. And I wanted a program that covered all the aspects of postnatal wellbeing, nutrition, exercise, mindfulness and self-love.
I think the Fit Mummy Project is all of that. It is a complete postnatal fitness guide that has over 40 workouts that can be done anywhere with little or no equipment.
It has over 50 really nutritious recipes that have been designed specifically for busy mums and it has loads of really simple tips on how to be a happier, calmer and a more mindful mum.
Why do you think, in Western culture, we put more emphasis on how we look rather than how our bodies are healing after birth?
Great question! Wow! I think that there are a few reasons, but mainly I think that if a new mum looks really good, we assume that she is healthy, we assume she is happy and we assume that she is coping really well. So we try to re-create that so that we too look happy, healthy and successful as a mum. But I think there are some other factors that contribute to this desire to look a certain way.
We celebrate this idea of the “Super Mum”. You hear that phrase all the time ‘she’s a Super Mum’ she’s doing it all. She’s got the body, the career and the kids. How we look is a huge part of that successful persona.
We are getting a lot better at taking care of ourselves whilst pregnant, but I don’t think we realise just how important it is to allow ourselves time to heal after the baby is born.
Secondly it’s a lack of education. Most new mums aren’t even aware that the hardest part of pregnancy might not even be the pregnancy. Those first few months of your baby’s life can be such a demanding and exhausting time (amazing and incredibly beautiful, but demanding!). We are getting a lot better at taking care of ourselves whilst pregnant, but I don’t think we realise just how important it is to allow ourselves time to heal after the baby is born.
Thirdly, we are still a society that idolises celebrities. We get shown images of celebrities who have bounced back and we celebrate them. In most interviews with those same women, they say how they had a full time trainer, a chef and a nanny all helping them to look the way they do.
Most women can separate themselves from a celebrity, but we find it harder not to compare ourselves to your friend or a stranger who we see on social media who looks amazing after just giving birth.
What are your top tips for healing after giving birth?
This is my number one. Everything is harder when you are sleep deprived. Get as much sleep as you possibly can. Your body will heal much faster if you can allow it time to rest, but more importantly you will feel so much happier and calmer if you can get some sleep. If you think you are going crazy, you aren’t. You’re probably just tired.
This is more about mind-set. Having a nurturing mind-set will help you to prioritise self-care. Allow yourself time to rest, go slow, don’t put pressure on yourself. Give yourself at least three months to just really enjoy being in that newborn phase. Take as much care of yourself as you do your baby and you will be setting yourself up for an amazing journey of Motherhood.
Invest in some professional support. Everyone values different aspects of their health, but some of the key postnatal health professionals relied on were my Naturopath, Physio and Kineseologist. My naturopath provided me with some amazing supplements to help support me and my baby whilst I was recovering from birth and breastfeeding. My physio helped me to really build strength from the inside-out and my kineseologist helped me to deal with all the different emotions and energetic shifts that come with a new born.
Motherhood is a time of huge change. Meditation helped me to cope with that change is a much calmer way. It helps you to see the big picture and not get caught up in the drama. There are some great meditation apps that make meditation really easy and accessible – even for the busiest people!
How soon, realistically, should a mama really start thinking about getting active again?
Every woman is so different. A lot depends on her previous training experience, her mental state and her motivation for wanting to move her body.
Caring for a baby is actually quite physical so it does help to do some basic core and pelvic floor exercises at the earliest stage you can. You can start pelvic floor and core exercises within 48 hours of natural birth. They will help with your recovery, but will also help to support you physically as you care for your baby.
I personally find exercise really empowering. It helps me mentally just as much as it does physically, so I started the early post natal workouts from the Fit Mummy Project around six weeks after giving birth.
You can start pelvic floor and core exercises within 48 hours of natural birth. They will help with your recovery, but will also help to support you physically as you care for your baby.
I did it with the attitude that I was taking care of myself. I wasn’t trying to push myself and I definitely wasn’t exercising to the point of exhaustion or even fatigue. I was just moving my body in a way that felt really good.
But six weeks can be too early for some women, so you really have to listen to your own body and do what feels right for you. Around 3 months is a stage where a lot of my clients start to notice a real improvement in energy and they want to start moving again.
What about exercise for mamas who have experienced prolapsed uterus?
If you have a pelvic organ prolapse or think that you might have a prolapse (maybe you experience a heaviness or dragging sensation in your vagina or noticed some bulging), then I recommend that you see your Doctor, obstetrician or a Physio specialising in Women’s Health. They can all assess you and diagnose your prolapse. A women’s health physio can recommend exercises to treat your condition in the best way possible.
If you have a prolapse, strengthening your deeper core muscles and pelvic floor is really important.
The exercises in the Fit Mummy Project have been designed to be safe for women with stomach separation or a pelvic organ prolapse, but since every case is different, if you do have a prolapse, I really recommend consulting your physio before trying any new forms of exercise.
What is your theory as to why women experience prolapse? Do you believe exercise helps the condition?
There can be lots of different reasons that women experience prolapse. I know I had a number of factors contributing to my prolapse including being an elite athlete (so lots of high impact exercise over a 20 year period), having a big baby, having a weak pelvic floor, having a long second stage of labour. It’s hard to tell whether one factor contributed to my prolapse more than another.
I recently interviewed pelvic floor guru Lyz Evans from Women in Focus Physio Clinic all about the pelvic floor. She gave some great advice on what to look out for, what exercises to do to strengthen your pelvic floor and what to avoid. You can check that one out here.
What exercises should mamas avoid, which could potentially worsen prolapse?
If you have a pelvic organ prolapse there are a few types of exercise that are generally best to avoid including:
- High intensity exercise such as sprinting and jumping.
- Weight bearing exercises that cause you to hold your breath.
- Abdominal crunching and strong twisting.
- Lifting Weights that are too heavy for your core to handle.
However, if you love high intensity exercise, then chat to your physio about what options you have. Personally, I wear a pessary when I exercise which helps to support the prolapse.
How important is nutrition in the overall getting post-pregnancy fit picture?
I really believe in the healing power of food. I know when I am eating well, I feel lighter, I have more energy, my skin looks better and I feel better about myself.
I don’t think the postpartum period is a time to put lots of pressure on ourselves around food. Choose foods that make you feel good. Eat as well as you can when you can.
I think the key to good nutrition is preparation. Prepare healthy snacks in advance so that when you are hungry you can grab something healthy.
What do you recommend mamas add to their diet?
Adding good fats to your diet, such as avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts and deep sea fish such as salmon can make a huge difference to your overall energy levels. Good fats also help to balance hormones, they are great for your skin and they can help to reduce sugar cravings. Often as Mums we crave an instant energy fix. If you eat snacks that are high in good fat, they will sustain you for longer and you will feel really full and satisfied.
Especially for breastfeeding Mums. Water is a great detoxifier, it helps to keep your skin looking hydrated. When we are dehydrated we often confuse it with hunger, so definitely drinking your 8 cups of water a day helps!
Greens. Greens are just nutritional super stars! They are full of so many amazing nutrients that our body craves. Try and add them to every meal. Eat your greens with some good fats so that your body can absorb all those amazing vitamins and minerals.
Protein is the building block of our body. Protein is vital for muscle repair and recovery. So including some good sources of protein in your day will help your body to repair and heal much faster.
Yep eat them! I don’t think that now is a time to deprive yourself of the foods you love. Just find a balance. It is amazing that when you give yourself permission to eat the foods you are craving, you don’t seem to crave them as much.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I hope you (mamas) believe that you are worth taking care of. You deserve to feel healthy and happy and vibrant and strong. Taking care of yourself and your physical and emotional wellbeing isn’t selfish. It is actually one of the best thing you can do for your family.
Where can mamas find you?