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Six Movements to Do in the First Six Weeks Postpartum for Optimum Healing

When supporting your postpartum recovery, there are some simple – but effective – things you should do well before getting cleared by your provider.

One of the biggest myths about a postpartum return to exercise is that you cannot do anything resembling physical activity before being cleared by your provider at your six-week checkup.

This is false!

Doing nothing for six weeks, then jumping right back into your “normal” exercise routine, is not an appropriate (and not the safest!) way to get back into exercise after having a baby.

The great news is there’s a lot you can do before being medically cleared that is safe, effective, and beneficial for your body’s recovery!

Intentional movement – not necessarily a “workout” in standard terms – will be critical in the first few weeks, and I want to help guide you through each piece of the puzzle.

These movements will help you feel more functional, and energized, experience fewer aches and pains, and feel more like yourself when you feel anything but yourself.

Note: the following tips and recommendations are generalized guidance. Every person’s postpartum experience and recovery timeline differs, so always do what is best for you. Please always consult your doctor with any questions or concerns.

Six recovery movements for your first six weeks postpartum

1. Rest

Rest may not technically seem like an “exercise” to do postpartum, but it is one of the most crucial pieces in setting you up for a strong, smooth recovery. Rest should be your top priority in the first 1-2 weeks.

Rest means:

  • Sleeping whenever possible and not feeling guilty or stressed about leaving tasks undone
  • Laying or sitting down when you’re not sleeping
  • Delegating every task possible (cleaning, laundry, cooking, paying bills, shopping, etc.) to whoever your support person/people are
  • Mentally resting by doing whatever it is that allows you to relax. Shutting off emails, meditating, watching a mindless show, reading a book, whatever it is that relaxes you – do it!

Rest comes down to only doing what you can: sleeping, laying, eating, showering, breastfeeding (if this is a part of your journey), etc. Every other task should be delegated so you can make rest your priority.

Ideally, rest should account for the majority of your day in the first six weeks postpartum, with an hour or so minutes allocated to the following five components to your strongest recovery.

2. Walk

Walking is crucial in regaining your body’s natural functionality! It helps improve blood flow, decrease clotting, loosen up tight joints and muscles, and help build back core stability and function.

I recommend starting with daily short five-minute walks starting in week two, then adding five minutes to your walk each week until you feel comfortable walking for 30 minutes without symptoms, fatigue, or pain.

As you walk, keeping posture and breathing top of mind for even more significant benefits is essential. Keep that rib cage stacked on top of the hips to reduce rib flare, spread those toes, keep the shoulders pulled back and down, look forward with a neutral spine, and walk through the hips on each stride.

Take deep, big breaths, letting that belly inflate on each inhale, and deflate on each exhale. This will help us reconnect with our core, even when doing something as simple as walking.

3. Breathe

The breath described in the walking routine is something called diaphragmatic breathing. You may also hear belly breathing, 360 breath, connection breath, or another variation.

Regardless of the name, it has the same purpose: to help us restore and recover our deep core and pelvic floor muscles. Here’s how it works:

  • On the inhale, your belly inflates as you relax your core and pelvic floor
  • On the exhale, your belly deflates as your core engages, and the pelvic floor lifts

We focus on breathing to help manage pressure within our core system (which includes both the deep core and pelvic floor). Since our core and pelvic floor weaken from being stretched throughout our pregnancy, we work with the natural pressure of our breath to restore their biological function, stabilizing our bodies for movement.

4. Light mobility and stretching

Our bodies can get so tight and strained from daily motherhood tasks like breastfeeding, sitting, and carrying our babies; on top of that, we aren’t moving around like we used to.

This can cause aches and pains in areas like our upper neck, back, hips, etc. Adding 10-15 minutes of intentional stretching and mobility in these areas can help ease these pains and make us feel more like ourselves.

Some of my favorite stretch and mobility movements for the first six weeks postpartum include:

  • Cat/cows
  • Wide forward fold
  • Child’s pose
  • 90/90 hip rotations
  • Neck rolls
  • Side bends

The best part about stretch and mobility moves like these is you can do them on the ground with your newborn lying by you, so they don’t take much effort or time out of your day.

I recommend finding 5 to 10 movements that target areas causing discomfort and doing each for at least a minute.

See Also

Read next: 5 Effective Tips to Workout With a Baby at Home

5. Deep core and pelvic movements

Around the same time you add mobility and stretching (which may be around weeks 1-3), it will also be beneficial to add deep core and pelvic floor-specific movements to aid your recovery.

In simple terms, deep core and pelvic floor movements are when you match the diaphragmatic breath to intentional movement. You’ll want to start simple, then increase the difficulty as you get comfortable synching the breath, core, and pelvic floor together.

An excellent place to start is with movements like the pelvic tilt, heel slides, knee twists, and glute bridges. Then as you can sync the breath and move comfortably, we’ll start building on difficulty by increasing the range of motion, moving limbs away from our center, performing moves in different positions, etc.

These include laying marches, bird dogs, dead bugs, glute pumps, and fire hydrants. The core and pelvic floor went through so much throughout your pregnancy and birth, so it is essential to prioritize slow, progressive, and intentional deep core and pelvic floor movements during this recovery phase.

6. Body weight functional movements

After you’ve nailed down the connection breath, gotten comfortable with your short walks, and feel good with your stretching, mobility, deep core, and pelvic floor movements, it’s time to add functional bodyweight movements.

Depending on your recovery circumstances, around the 4-6 week mark is when these may feel appropriate to add to your routine. This timeline will be longer if you had a cesarean birth.

These include exercises like body squats, good mornings, short step-ups, light DB shoulder presses, and others that mimic everyday tasks.

Final thoughts on movement during the first six weeks

The key here is to realize that these are movement patterns you’ve already been doing daily: hinging over to get your baby out of bed (like a deadlift), sitting down and standing up from a chair (like a squat), step-ups (like walking up stairs).

We focus more on form, breath, and structure during each rep.

This should not feel like a workout but more so your reintroduction to basic movement. Take your time during each rep, rest as needed, and work on matching your breath to each rep to help manage pressure in the pelvic floor and deep core.

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