CONVINCING a newborn to go to sleep can be a herculean task, but Deirdre Harvey has found a sure-fire way.
The 30-year-old mother from Coogee just wraps, Lily, aged four months, in a baby carrier and takes her along to a barre workout class. As Harvey gets fit, Lily is soothed to sleep. It’s win-win.
“Lily loves music and dance and she’ll fall asleep in here,” says Harvey.
Getting bubs to sleep is not the principal reason Xtend Barre runs classes where mums work out with their bubs strapped to them, but Harvey sees it as an added bonus.
“If I go to the gym, I have to find childcare but this way I can take her with me,” she says. “If she’s awake, she likes it when I’m doing plies at the barre because I’m bouncing her and she’s watching us in the mirror.”
Taking babies along as you exercise is part of a growing trend across Sydney. From strapping them into a carrier and using them as weights and sitting them on your back to provide extra resistance during planks to using the pram as a barre to do lunges as you walk, there are a wealth of classes where babies are a vital part of the program.
And it’s all backed up by science. Research has shown that adding weight — such as a four to 10kg child — to your body as you exercise increases the intensity of a workout, helping you get in shape and shed weight more quickly.
But beyond 10kg is not recommended.
“When babies are aged six to 12 weeks, they’re still light enough to exercise with,” says Chloe Dallimore, owner of Xtend Barre in Coogee. “Once they reach 10kg, we recommend not having them on mum’s body.”
It’s not only about ballast though. Workouts with babies are also great for bonding.
“To have your baby in the room with you is really special, especially in those early months when babies just want to be near their mums,” says Dallimore.
“Breastfeeding and nappy changes all happen in the middle of the class and no one minds.”
Instructors at Xtend Barre are trained in pre and post-natal care and classes offer modifications for different levels of fitness. Babies can be strapped to you, sit in the pram or crawl around the room and play.
“We recommend waiting at least until the six-week medical sign-off for mums and it’s the same for the babies because their necks don’t have enough control,” Dallimore says.
Natalie Bird Cassidy, 37, from Coogee started taking Delphine, 11 months, to classes when the bub was eight weeks old.
“I got clearance from my doctor and found that the teachers are really good at adapting all the exercises for mums because we are all at different stages.”
When Delphine started crawling, she graduated from the harness to the pram.
Bird Cassidy told Iman Davamondi, 37, about the classes in their local mother’s group and Davamondi brought her daughter Almira, 11 months, along.
“I was doing yoga but don’t get to do it often because Almira was getting upset when she wasn’t with me but this is very convenient because I can take her along,” Davamondi says.
“She loves the music and enjoys watching me jump around. In the last six weeks I’ve been taking her out of the carrier and she’s crawling around, playing with Delphine.”
Author of The Fit Busy Mum and mother of three, Rosemary Marchese (see tips, below), says before starting a class, it’s important to ensure your fitness professional has post-natal training.
“There are new physiological changes so you want somebody who knows what’s changed and what can be done,” she says.
“The hormone relaxin is released through the body during pregnancy to loosen joints for delivery, but it can be in the body for a few months so be aware of laxity in joints especially the pubis, wide squats and lunges can be too much for some mums.
“Pelvic floor is also an issue, even if you have had a C-section, because of the pressure from the baby, so jumping, running and high-impact activities should be avoided initially. You want a slow return to high-impact exercise. Women who progress too fast can pay the price.
“Your nutritional needs are also important. If breastfeeding, you need to eat enough to produce milk, so the programs shouldn’t be too harsh. It’s about health and vitality and not just weight loss.”
Getting to organised classes can be problematic if your baby doesn’t stick to a schedule, but there’s a lot you can do on your own.
“Walking is where I would start. Just grab the pram and go,” Marchese says.
“When I had newborns, I would use the pram and my body weight to do strength work — like squats, push-ups and lunges — two to three times a week.”
Marchese’s best piece of advice for new mums is to let go of the idea of a 40-minute workout and keep things short.
“If it’s a struggle between energy and time, do a few 10-minute workouts. It doesn’t have to be all in one go,” she says.
“When hanging out the washing, keep the basket on the ground and squat down to get the clothes. If you have 20 pieces of clothes in each load and do four loads a week, it adds up.”
While it’s good to move your body, Marchese believes you also need to cut yourself some slack.
“On an emotional level, find empathy for days when you are so tired and fatigued and know that it’s OK,” she says.
“Your energy will return.”
1. Get up early, before the children, so the day starts off on your terms, not theirs. This way you have the space to meditate, exercise or simply have a cup of tea in peace before they wake.
2. Exercise in the first half of the day. It doesn’t have to be 5am, but sometime before noon. Motivation tends to diminish as a day progresses.
3. Be fit in all aspects of your life — mind, body and soul. It’s about health, not just weight loss.
4. Prepare in advance. At the weekend, spend an hour or two doing something to make the next week easier, like an oven meal for Monday night, cutting vegetables for the week or batch cooking.
5. Be a fit superwoman. We’re trying to juggle it all but if we say “yes” to health, we have the energy to jump in and work it out as we go.
6. Four P’s: purpose, passion, practice and persistence. Find a purpose, your thing in life, practise that and don’t give up when it gets hard.
7. Lead an uncluttered life. Stay on top of your calendar, clear your handbag and desk once
a week, deal with things as they come up and do little bits every day before it all becomes unmanageable.