Help! How do I stop the Mummy-Tummy appearance?
Mothers-to-be and new mothers often ask me, “How do I get my pre-baby body back after birth?”, “Will your binder suck me back into shape?”. As women in a society that pressures us to look celebrity-fab straight after we pop our babies out, this is a very real concern for many moms I speak to.
Let Nature Work:
Your belly will eventually “go down” after delivery over the first 6-12 weeks as excess fluid leaves your body and your organs (including the Uterus) naturally return to their original position.
A very firm brace-like abdominal binder simply helps this happen faster than natural. The problem is, once you take off the binder/shapewear, everything goes “loose” again. Why? Well I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but strapping yourself up tight, to the point that you can’t breathe and move normally, won’t help shorten an extremely stretched (and now loose and wobbly) abdominal muscle and remove excess fat that built up to support your growing baby.
Waist trainers and heavily-elasticized binders (like the picture below) can actually cause more problems than good. Doctors warn that there are “real health risks to wearing extra-tight corsets for prolonged periods”. The dangers range from gastroesophageal reflux disease (a chronic digestive disease caused by pressure on the internal organs which pushes acid backwards from the stomach into the esophagus); incontinence (due to downward pressure on the bladder and pelvic floor), and other serious health issues like blood clots, back pain, and difficulty breathing. Not to mention the fact that when you are wearing a tight corset, your abdominals are deactivated to a degree and don’t function properly – so much for those wash-board abs then…
Diastasis Recti, may or may not be a familiar term to you. It is not something our obstetricians really mention or look for after birth in this country. It is more often picked up by Women’s Health Physiotherapists, visiting the maternity wards, or by mom’s who seek physical therapy to fix back pain after baby. So what is this under-mentioned cause of most of your “mummy-tummy” woes?
During the later months of pregnancy the abdominus rectus muscle of the stomach (your “6-pack muscle”) separates down the middle of your tummy (predominantly at the belly-button area). This is called “diastasis recti”. It happens to most women, but on differing levels of severity. The greater the separation, the greater the recovery work required, and the greater care you need to take of your abdominal area to support a good recovery of this muscle. A separated Abdominus Rectus muscle can have a cascade effect on core stability and back pain (as your back tries to compensate for weak abdominals). Not to mention the classic “Mommy-pouch” that it causes.
For greater detail on exactly how this happens visit: http://www.befitmom.com/diastasis_recti.php.
To learn more about how Belly Wrap can help you recover your diastasis recti, keep reading…
The Belly Wrap Plan for Birth Recovery:
The answer to getting your tummy looking great again lies not in a quick “shapewear” fix, but rather in quality support, and dedication to a slower, more comprehensive recovery plan. It is a fact that it takes the average woman’s body 12-18 months to recover fully from birth. So, be kind to yourself mommies, and read on for some gentle recovery and self-care tips, that will all eventually get you back there (or at least very close).
As a health professional, I maintain that good recovery post-birth requires a focus on 3 key areas:
- Binding and Abdominal Support
- Appropriate Exercise
- Skin care
Binding and Abdominal Support: Where does a binder like Belly Wrap offer a true long-term benefit?
The use of a good quality abdominal binder, like Belly Wrap, ensures maintenance of consistent, external compression (“splinting”) of the abdominal muscles. The key word here though, is “consistent”. You need to wear the Belly Wrap all the time in the day, and every time you get up at night. Any situation that stresses the stomach area will cause the internal organs to push through the gap in the stomach wall, worsening the problem. So if it is going to heal, you have to stay compressed during any physical activity where your abdominals are working. If the internal organs aren’t given the opportunity to push through, then healing (gradual shortening and coming together) of the abdominals can take place.
Few women can tolerate full time wear of the firmly-elasticized “shapewear” binders on offer in stores (they restrict breathing and are just downright uncomfortable), which is why the Belly Wrap soft support binders have become so popular with Women’s Health Physiotherapists. Putting one on is actually a relief because of the instant gentle support.
Appropriate Exercise: What exercises are gentle and safe, but achieve results?
Another key to abdominal recovery is to strengthen and focus on activating your external and internal oblique stomach muscles, using a gentle abdominal toning and strengthening routine. If you have any level of diastasis recti, all abdominal exercises are best performed with a Belly Wrap on – this provides external support, and also focuses your attention in the area so that you activate the right muscles when exercising.
We recommend that you check out this link for some easy-to-do-at-home exercises: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXm5UcVXuEU.
Remember, your abdominal wall has many layers. Your “6-pack” muscle is the outermost one. So you need to strengthen your core and deeper abdominals first.
Try to be conscious of these muscles in daily activities (I know its hectic with a newborn, but try). Even if you do 2 or 3 of her exercises each day for a few minutes before you hop in the shower it all helps.
Try to also be conscious of how you move in the day. e.g. if you lean backwards while standing, it will stress the abdominals.
- If you bend over forwards, focus on activating your oblique muscles
- When you get up out of bed, roll onto your side first and then push up (like when you were pregnant).
- If you are feeding in a reclined position, try not to use your 6 pack muscle to get up, which will cause your insides to push through the gap. Rather push up with your arms.
Remember, you need to reduce all strain on this area as much as possible so it can close effectively. Once you have noted that it has healed (can take around 3-6 months), then you can resume “6-pack” exercises to begin shortening the rectus abdominus muscle, which will further improve the flatter appearance of your tummy.
If you are carrying extra belly fat, it is down to exercise (cardio) to help get your tummy back to shape. No amount of binding can reduce fat build up in the abdominal area. Start with brisk-walking – try to get a good pace going, so your heart rate is around 140bpm.
Skin Care: How to get rid of the “pouch”
If it is loose skin that is still lurking and causing your tum to look like a giant prune, you need to get into a routine of dry brushing and tissue massage. Check out the natural bristle brushes at Dis-Chem. Use this in small circular motions on your tummy, and also in sweeping motions from the outside in towards your belly button.
Do this for 5 mins daily before you shower/bath. Brush quite firmly (your skin should go a little pink and tingly). It improves skin tone by helping to remove old/dead skin cells and also improves circulation which helps with the growth of new cells, and thereby firms up the skin. Then finish with Mrs Palmers anti-stretch cream or any other cream with an elastin/collagen supplement to help boost skin elasticity.
Visit this link to learn more on abdominal massage and dry brushing to improve tummy tone https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgKvR_hQGgY.
Getting your “body back” after baby is no quick fix. It will take a certain amount of investment from you in terms of supporting your abdominals by binding with a Belly Wrap, doing the right gentle exercises and taking care of your skin.
Most importantly though, be kind to yourself, support your body, and give it time and permission to heal. Enjoy the early days of motherhood, they pass too quickly.