Why I Think Breastfeeding Should be on My Resume

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How to Be a Good Friend to a Postpartum Goddess

Ideally her house is clean, her sheets and pj’s smell yummy, there is plenty of comforting foods and fresh fruits in the fridge…

Any good visitors that come over should bring her food, visit a short while, and clean something.

Folding laundry, or playing with her other kids is fine too..

Everyone that passes new-mama-goddess on the couch or bed should ask her if she needs anything.

If she says no, just go get her some water.
If she’s crabby or acts weird, just know:

  • She’s really busy adjusting to her new role as mother (of 1, 2, 3, or 4 etc. children)
  • She’s more concerned with figuring out how her baby feels constantly..(hungry, tired, cold, scared, comfortable, etc.)
  • Her hormones are wacking out..
  • She needs help and doesn’t want to ask you (or yell at you, or cry while she’s talking)

She’ll need a little time to touch her belly, alone…the new postpartum body is kind of shocking. Someone should offer to hold down the fort while she takes a shower.Her boobs are taking up alot of space. (in her mind, in her baby’s mind, in her husband’s mind, in the bed, in her bra)…maybe ask, “how are the girls?” Can you offer breastfeeding help? Get someone who can, if she needs this…

While feeding baby, she’ll feel a little more in control (in her new out-of-control world)by doing a few pelvic squeezes, even if they are weak. This will help speed up the healing process of her perineal chakra..which holds her chi…lifeforce.

The squeezing movement  gives a sense of power back to her, that can ease her sense of any trauma that she may have endured..(This is true for all women, mothers or not,  BTW) Maybe do some with her and giggle over “Kegel Faces”.

Deeper Kegels will come with time, as she can trust in the process of taking this area of her body back (from the birth process). Ask her if she needs a nap..or a shower..again.
You are such a good friend, Goddess…

Please tell her to check out:
The Mama Goddess Experience for pregnant and postpartum women, a special summer workshop at OM Baby on August 5, 2017.
More details here

Mama Goddess Experience 2

The Dark Side of Fatherhood

by Holly Keich

There’s a secret in our culture and it’s not about how strong women are in birth, it’s that men experience postpartum depression. Every day 1,000 new dads in the United States become depressed. 1 And some studies indicate that this is a low estimate and that it could be as high as 25% of new dads that experience paternal postpartum depression (PPPD).2 What these statistics tell us is that postpartum depression in men is common. But if it’s so common, then why haven’t we heard about it before now?

IMG_7324bwTraditionally, men have been conditioned to be the strong one, the provider for their new family. In fact, I recently came across a quote by Sigmond Freud that states, “I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.” Because of this societal pressure, men tend to hide their depression and withdraw from others. There can be a disconnect as well between how men feel and how they think they should be feeling after baby arrives. Depression in men may also look different. Withdrawal may mean working more and spending more hours away from home. In fact, research tells us the men often experience depression in ways that are different than women. Men sometimes cope with their symptoms in different ways too. This may be why even trained mental health professionals may misdiagnose men’s depression.

It’s helpful to first look at the classic symptoms of depression which may also be present in men postpartum. 3

  • Depressed, sad mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure
  • Significant weight loss or gain
  • Trouble sleeping or over-sleeping
  • Restless feelings and inability to sit still or slow down
  • Fatigue, loss of energy, or tired all the time
  • Worthless or guilty feelings
  • Impaired concentration and difficulty making decisions
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Typically a person would need to exhibit 5 or more of these symptoms over a 2-week period to be diagnosed with a depressed mood.

But as mentioned, there’s more to paternal postpartum depression in men. One thing that researchers are finding is that men don’t often acknowledge feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or guilt.4 They tend to have additional symptoms that are unique to men.

Symptoms of Men’s Depression 5

  • Increased anger and conflict with others
  • Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
  • Frustration or irritability
  • Violent behavior
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Being easily stressed
  • Impulsiveness and taking risks, like reckless driving and extramarital sex
  • Feeling discouraged
  • Increases in complaints about physical problems
  • Ongoing physical symptoms, like headaches, digestion problems or pain
  • Problems with concentration and motivation
  • Loss of interest in work, hobbies and sex
  • Working constantly
  • Frustration or irritability
  • Misuse of prescription medication
  • Increased concerns about productivity and functioning at school or work
  • Fatigue
  • Experiencing conflict between how you think you should be as a man and how you actually are
  • Thoughts of suicide

The number of symptoms may vary as may the severity between individuals. While the list may seem daunting, the important thing to know is that depression is treatable. You can recover.

Because research on paternal postpartum depression is in its infancy, we know little about what exactly are the risk factors. What research is beginning to show is that many of the risk factors are similar to that of women. 6,7

  • A lack of good sleep
  • Changes in hormones
  • A personal or family history of depression and/or anxiety
  • Poor relationship with spouse
  • Poor relationship with one or both parents
  • Relationship stress – with a partner or with in-laws
  • Excessive stress about becoming a parent or father
  • Nonstandard family (such as being unmarried or a stepfather)
  • Poor social functioning
  • A lack of support from others
  • Economic problems or limited resources
  • A sense of being excluded from the connection between the mother and baby
  • A personal history or alcohol or drug abuse
  • A major life event such as a loss, house move or job loss
  • Being a father of multiples or a baby with special needs

One risk factor that may have caught you by surprise was hormonal changes. We’ve all heard how fluctuations in hormones during pregnancy and after birth can affect women, but may not know that men have hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy and postpartum as well. Studies show that a man’s hormones also shift during pregnancy and after birth, for reasons that are still unknown. Testosterone levels drop; estrogen, prolactin, and cortisol go up. Some men even develop symptoms such as nausea and weight gain.8 According to Dr. Courtenay, a psychotherapist who specializes in men’s depression and host of postpartummen.com, one of the few websites devoted to the issue, “Evolutionary biologists suspect that the hormone fluctuation is nature’s way of making sure that fathers stick around and bond with their baby.”9

Another risk factor that may be surprising is that if your partner is depressed, there’s a good chance that you are too. Up to half of men whose partners have postpartum depression are depressed themselves.10 So it’s important that it’s not just the mother that gets assessed for PPD after baby, but their partner’s should too. The same tool can be used, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale – or the EPDS, for short. It is the most widely used assessment for postpartum depression and anxiety. It has been tested and found effective with men. You can find the PPPD assessment here.

*The instructions for completing the EPDS are different for women and men. If you are a woman and concerned that you have postpartum depression please use the following EPDS assessment from the postpartumstress.com.

According to the Journal of Parent & Family Health, fathers are most likely to experience the first onset of paternal postpartum depression in the first 3 – 6 months after the birth of their baby.11 This isn’t just a coincidence. It’s around this time that women in the U.S. end their maternity leave and head back to work, adding more stress to what is already a major life transition. As if figuring out how to parent isn’t complicated enough, returning to work adds one more thing to balance on an already teetering plate.

If you identify with the risk factors and are not yet pregnant, there’s time for preventative measures. Consult a mental health professional if you have a history of depression to prepare should you have a recurrence. If you have relationship issues or poor communication in your relationship, seeking help before the child is born can help you learn new skills which can lessen the stress and reduce your risk of PPPD. If there are economic concerns, it’s time to address them and set up a budget. Setting aside time to think through the logistics of postpartum can also be helpful. Postpartum Support Virginia offers an excellent, detailed plan for adjusting to life with a new baby.

If you’ve identified yourself or your partner in the symptoms for PPPD, then it’s important to get help. Depression is a very treatable condition, but if left untreated can result in damaging, long-term consequences for you, your kids, your marriage, your career, and your finances. Finding a therapist that is skilled in working with men is key in order to get an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. You can ask your doctor or pediatrician for a referral. Be sure to ask when making an appointment if they have experience in treating paternal mental health. Therapy can also help you with stress management, juggling home and work responsibilities and relationship issues that can often come up when you and your partner are transitioning to parenthood.

There are other coping strategies as well that can be useful in conjunction with therapy:
Medication may also be suggested as a strategy and can be used short term to help to recover.

Tackle Isolation by reaching out to others. Talk with your partner or friends about the challenges of parenthood. This isn’t just a problem that effects you, it’s a family problem and sharing your feelings is a step to reaching out to develop a support network in your journey toward healing. If talking to those you know is too difficult, utilize online resources. postpartummen.com has a forum where men can share their feelings anonymously.

Take Care of Yourself physically and emotionally. Exercise, eating well, journaling, yoga, meditation, acupuncture – anything that reduces stress should be on every new parent’s to do-list.

Get Rest. Yes, we mean sleep.  We know it’s at a premium these days, but figuring out a plan that works for both parents is imperative.  Mood disorders can happen to anyone who is sleep deprived.  Alternate nights taking care of the baby, hire a postpartum doula for a few nights or ask a family member to help so you can get some sleep.  Allow yourself a break. Many men do double duty by going to work and then taking over childcare as soon as they get home. Discuss how you can share childcare and chores so you can have some down time.

Despite the secretive nature of PPPD it’s still a very treatable condition.  Seeking help is imperative not only for your health, but also the well-being of your marriage and child(ren).  If left untreated, research shows it can cause a negative impact on the emotional and behavioral development of your children years later.12   So the best thing you can do to provide for your children’s future is to get help for yourself today.

1 http://postpartummen.com/

2 http://postpartummen.com/

3 http://drsarahallen.com/paternal-depression/

4 http://postpartummen.com/mens-depression/

5  http://postpartummen.com/postpartum-depression/

6  http://drsarahallen.com/paternal-depression/

7 http://postpartummen.com/postpartum-depression/

8  http://www.parents.com/parenting/dads/sad-dads/

9 http://www.parents.com/parenting/dads/sad-dads/

10 http://postpartummen.com/postpartum-depression/

11 http://drsarahallen.com/paternal-depression/

12 http://postpartummen.com/get-help/

 


Holly Keich, LSW supports family connections through Om Baby Pregnancy & Parenting Center in Camp Hill, PA since 2008.

The Joys of Baby & Toddler Yoga

by Holly Keich

Once a woman becomes a mother, everything changes. The transition for both mother and child can be a demanding one, requiring physical, emotional and spiritual strength that you had not previously encountered. Turning to a relaxing and nurturing yoga practice can help you find peace in your new role as a parent. The physical poses help you regain strength and flexibility in your life while taking a meditative approach to practice can help you find the calm within, allowing you to be more at peace. With a soothing, yet invigorating practice, you may find yourself feeling more centered and floating out of the studio at the end of class. This feeling is sure to flow into your daily interactions with your baby and family.

As a new mom though, when do you have the time to take for yourself? You may think that taking care of yourself and your baby are mutually exclusive activities. But you might want to consider practicing yoga with your baby. In fact the definition of “yoga” means “union”. In a traditional practice, this means linking and unifying the mind, body, spirit. But in baby yoga, it includes developing a union or bond between you and your baby as well. Being with your baby in the present moment, easing expectations of how things ought to be and enjoying what is can create more happiness in your life and help you find more peace and joy as a mother.

Om Baby Yoga 6

Unlike the viral You Tube video, baby yoga is a gentle, mindful practice between a parent and caregiver that involves stretching, massage and relaxation. Classes incorporate a mix of asanas (poses) for new moms with movements for baby that help develop their gross and fine motor skills, improve sleep patterns, aid in digestion and help babies explore their new environment. Infant massage is often incorporated into classes building trust and communication between the baby and caregiver. Movements, poses, rhymes and songs are repeated through a series of classes which encourage you to continue the practice at home or even on the go to help soothe your little one.

As babies grow, they begin to share the natural yogi within, exploring different ways of moving their bodies. You may find your pre-crawler moving into Cobra pose as they learn to put weight into their hands and strengthen the upper body muscles needed for

DSC04685

crawling. Or you may find them in Downward Facing Dog as they learn to walk and or just
to get a different perspective of their world. The bonds that you’ve developed in baby yoga don’t need to end when your child becomes mobile. Practicing yoga alongside your growing child, you will see them develop more coordination, strength and self-confidence. Whether they use you as a jungle gym as you develop your own home practice or choose to attend a class at Om Baby Pregnancy & Parenting Center, you’ll find that toddler’s delight in this special activity with Mom or Dad.

Toddler TIme Yoga 9 optimized
Classes at this stage look less like your traditional yoga practice in order to keep up with the boundless energy of toddlers. You’ll find us moving, singing, breathing, and using our imaginations as we weave yoga poses into a fun and interactive story. Children have the freedom to utilize the whole room as their yoga mat which increases social interaction between classmates. Class becomes more active, but is still balanced with relaxation and mindfulness. You may even find your little yogi spontaneously practicing their favorite poses at home. Or you may find poses that you can utilize to help calm your child in challenging moments.

Sharing yoga with your child can have a lasting impact in many ways. Whether bolstering neuromuscular development, providing opportunities for healthy social-emotional development to laying a foundation for life-long fitness and healthy lifestyle for your child, baby and toddler yoga is sure to create memorable moments in your life while reducing the stress and anxiety that comes with parenting.

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Holly Keich supports mother, child and family connections through her business, Om Baby Pregnancy & Parenting Center, in Camp Hill. She is a Prenatal, Baby, Toddler & Child Yoga Instructor, Certified Infant Massage Instructor and Licensed Social Worker. 717-761-4975 www.ombabycenter.com.
Check out Om Baby’s Schedule for upcoming classes in yoga, art, dance, music, baby signing & more!

Choosing Child Care

Attachment Parenting is a parenting paradigDSC04833m rooted in attachment theory that encourages an infants need to be nurtured and remain physically close to the primary caregiver, usually the mother, during the first few years of life.  It is believed that the child’s emotional, physical and neurological development is greatly enhanced when these basic needs are met consistently and appropriately.  The long-range vision of Attachment Parenting is to raise children who will become adults with a highly developed capacity for empathy and connection. The essence of Attachment Parenting is to form and nurture strong connections between parents and their children.

Because of these components, many believe that following the Eight Principles of Attachment Parentingand returning to work are mutually exclusive.  Although these principles were developed to promote optimal attachment between parent and child, they are also comprehensive enough to fit a broad spectrum of family situations because Attachment Parenting is not a one-size-fits-all recipe for raising children.

Not everyone has the ability to stay home with their child as their full-time caregiver and must return to work.  The prospect of returning to your job can be difficult for any parent and finding the right daycare situation is a daunting task even for the best of us.  Finding someone who is not only consistent and loving, but is able to bond with your child and consciously provide care in a way that strengthens the attachment relationship will be the challenge set before you as an attachment parent.

Be sure to seek a trusted caregiver who supports the Eight Principles of Attachment Parenting. One of the Eight Principles however will be key in your child care decision: Provide Consistent and Loving Care. This principle includes examining the consistency of care in the setting that you choose to place your child and being sure to avoid care with frequent turnover.  If the facility has multiple caregivers for your baby’s group, you might request that one of the staff be designated as his primary caregiver.

Make the transition a gradual and slow one, encouraging the child to form an attachment to the caregiver.  Respect your child’s feelings and follow his lead about his readiness to separate. Going to the daycare with your child for a portion of the day the first few days and gradually work up to the full-time daycare hours that you plan will help you achieve this goal. During these introductory meetings, you can also share with your baby’s caregivers some of the parenting methods that you are using (such as rocking, singing, babywearing) and ask that they try some of these as well. However, keep in mind that babies can develop different routines with different caregivers.  Your baby may surprise you by learning to sleep in a bed on his own when in a daycare.

Be sure to minimize the number of hours in non-parental care so that the child has the opportunity to build secure attachment with you as well.  Babies have an intense need for their mother’s presence especially.  So if you are able, work with your employer so that you can maximize your time with your child.  Many babies respond to regular separations by sleeping more when you are apart and wanting to spend time with you (such as playing, breastfeeding, and touching) when you are together. Being present with your baby, holding, feeding with love, and cuddling all help you and your baby reconnect after time apart. To optimize your time, try fitting baby into your daily routines when you are home.  Consider getting exercise by taking walks with baby in a sling, taking baby along on date night or bringing them along for special events.

Many parents find the first separations very difficult. However, if the transition and caregiver situation works well, the family will adjust to the new routine within a reasonable amount of time. During the transition you can observe your child’s behavior when you leave and when you are reunited. Unusual crying or clinginess and other changes in his behavior may be signs that he is very stressed by the childcare situation. Babies communicate their needs and feelings in many ways. Being responsive to your baby’s needs and emotions and making adjustments if necessary will reinforce his trust in you Your attention to your baby’s emotional needs will help build the strong lifelong attachment that will help your child develop secure and enduring relationships with others.

Information Compiled From Attachment Parenting International 

 

A Letter to Myself Before I was Mommy

by Kim Lehman

Put down that glass of wine! You’re PREGNANT!

This is your future: Your name is now Mommy and your best friend is less than 3 feet tall. She’s sweet, funny and makes your heart explode with love. She’s also the loudest, most opinionated and messiest person in the world. Whoops, spoiler alert: you’re having a girl.

On second thought, you’re going to need that wine.

You’ll be happy to know that you proved the naysayers wrong. You breastfed. You went back to work. You pumped milk. You did it all (except sleep). And now you’re the breastfeeding mom of a 2-year-old! Congratulations!!!

Oh, right. You still think nursing a kid that old is weird. That’s ok. You’re going to do a lot of things that will eventually seem perfectly normal. You’re going to pump milk while sitting in the front row of a Broadway show. You’re going to horrify your childless coworkers by trading potty stories with other parents. You’re going to catch puke with your bare hands… and then brag about it on facebook.

Listen up, because I know you’ve been telling people “Of course I’m going to breastfeed; how hard can it be? Women have been doing it since the beginning of time.” News flash: it’s HARD. I don’t want to scare you, but it’s harder than giving birth.

Oh, now I have your attention?

You’re right, breastfeeding has been going on for ages, but the fact is, moms have been helping other moms since the beginning of time because there’s a lot to learn. And you know women weren’t pumping milk at work 1,000 years ago! That’s a relatively new phenomenon thanks to legislation and social movement.

In 2010, passage of the Affordable Care Act ensured that some women have the right to pump milk at work. The act also required most insurance plans to provide breast pumps and lactation support. Nearly every state now has a law protecting a woman’s right to breastfeed in public and some states like NY even provide additional protection to pumping moms. In addition to that legislation, social media has provided a space for women to support each other in groups such as Working Pumping Moms. It’s really exciting to be part of this turning point in history!

Breastfeeding Law

You have a lot to learn, so start now! I know your career is important to you and you think you’re busy now. Trust me; you don’t even know what it means to be busy yet! So find the time to take a breastfeeding class. Read the user’s manual for your breast pump. And definitely start building your support system because it really does take a village.

You’re going to be surprised who your biggest supporters will be. Your best friend who doesn’t want kids is going to get shot in the face with milk, laugh about it, and still agree to take custody if you die. Your husband’s dad friends will talk about breast pump parts with the same enthusiasm that they discuss car parts. The mother-in-law who formula-fed your husband is going to be proud of you. (Yes, HER.) She didn’t breastfeed because 40 years ago, pumping at work just wasn’t a thing, not because she didn’t want to.

Not everyone is going to be helpful. You’ll read about the importance of taking fenugreek and eating oatmeal to increase milk supply. When you follow that advice, you’re going to end up smelling like a Waffle House and the constipation will make you cry. By the way, you don’t have a problem with milk supply, so don’t bother trying to fix it. You’re going to learn a lot of “rules” and eventually you’ll figure out the most important one: There’s no right or wrong, only what’s right for YOU.

No Right or Wrong

I know that right now, you’re not thinking about any of that. Your biggest concern is how you’re going to fit a child into your life. How are you going to stay focused on your career, your friends, your hobbies? The truth is that your future isn’t about you anymore. You’re not going to fit anything new into your life. Instead, you’re going to fit your life around this new person who is going to turn your world upside down, but in the best way possible. You’re going to figure out a way to do it all, and you’re going to love every minute of it.

You’re going to be a great mom.


Kim Lehman, founder of the facebook support group “Working Pumping Moms”, lives in New Cumberland, PA with her husband and precocious 2-year-old daughter.

Balancing the Core after Baby

Holly Belly

© Grace Lightner Photography

When becoming pregnant, I was so anxious for my belly to grow, for others to realize that I was pregnant and to share in my joy. Eventually with time, the belly grew, the people oo’d, ah’d and eventually gasped in amazement (or maybe it was fear) as my belly protruded and my due date neared.

After the birth of my baby however, I was not as excited about my belly. I was aware that my pre-pregnancy body wasn’t going to miraculously return. It took 9 months to get into this shape, and I expected at least 9 months for it to come back. As the months passed, my hips began to fit back into my regular jeans, the maternity clothes found their way into storage, but I found that many of my pre-pregnancy shirts no longer fit the way they used to. There was a little belly protruding out the bottom, a mummy tummy. Regardless of my weight, the mummy tummy remained, so much so that I got many comments congratulating me on my pregnancy. Yet, this time I wasn’t so overjoyed with the statements since I wasn’t actually expecting.
I was well aware of what was causing my bloated belly, my abdominal muscles had separated during the pregnancy to make way for the baby. The rectus abdominis muscles that run from the sternum to the pubis, often referred to as the 6-pack, commonly stretch vertically and separate from the midline during pregnancy as a result of the hormone relaxin. Most women will have diastasis by the 3rd trimester of their pregnancy and approximately 66% of women have a widened diastasis immediately postpartum (Boissonault, 1988). The muscles begin to realign three to four days after delivery, but may take six weeks or longer to repair after birth. About 33% of those with a widening find that it does not resolve on its own and need additional intervention. That was me.

You can easily check to see if you also are part of the lucky 33%. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent. Lift your head and take your hand starting at your belly button and check to see if you have a space between your muscles. You’ll want to move up your midline to your sternum and check down to your pubic bone as you could have a split anywhere along that line. The split is measured by “finger widths.” How many fingers fit into the gap.

Because of the way that the muscles connect, diastasis recti isn’t only a wardrobe issue, it also affects the diaphragm, transverse abdominis and pelvic floor muscles as well. So if not dealt with, in time it could lead to pain in the hips, back and even urinary incontinence. Despite my OB’s response when questioned about the separation, “Don’t worry about it,” I did worry, at least a bit. I wasn’t sure what was the best way to return to my yoga practice without making the separation worse. I wasn’t sure if babywearing was making it worse, as I suspected it was. I wasn’t sure how to correct it and how much effort I really needed to put into recovery.

And so began my investigation. My initial discoveries were not that helpful. Don’t do crunches, don’t plank, don’t twist, don’t back bend, don’t bend to the side. After reading a few articles and even purchasing a couple books, I was stymied more with fear than motivation. The recommended exercises to correct the gap seemed simple enough, but when did I ever have time to do them and if I did, do you think I remembered or that it was first on my list? (We mothers always seem to put ourselves last.) I didn’t. And if I didn’t do them, it seemed like I was supposed to remain in an upright cocoon, perfectly balanced and centered or else I would only be making the separation worse.

This is where I remained for years and quite frankly, still am to an extent. Confused by all the recommendations and claims, I decided to delve a little deeper and that’s when I found some useful info that made sense to me. It finally clicked. To heal, one must rebuild the center. It’s not about isolating one muscle group as a cure, but looking more holistically at how these muscles coordinate and work together as a team.

With weak rectus abdominis muscles I could be certain that the other muscles of my core were also out of balance. There are 4 main core muscles in your body, sometimes referred to as the inner Core unit, is comprised of the diaphragm, transversus abdominis, pelvic floor, and multifidus. To come back into balance I would need to re-learn how to use my muscles correctly, not only through an exercise program contracting the transverse abdominal muscles for 15 minutes each day, as is recommended by some, but being aware of my alignment and how I carry myself throughout the day. Depending on my alignment as I drive to work or sit at my desk all day, how I play with my children or practice in my yoga classes will determine if I am properly using, underusing or overusing core muscles in my body. It will determine if I am promoting closure or encouraging opening in my weak abdominal muscles.

One of the best resources I’ve found to explain this is Julie Wiebe, a world-renowned sports medicine and women’s health physiotherapist. Here is a wonderful video of her explaining the need for proper alignment postpartum in relation to diastasis recti and the importance of standing in postures that approximate, or bring the tissues together all day to closure.

So now we have a better understanding of how our posture can open the diastasis when in a belly forward position – common during pregnancy and also postpartum, especially when wearing your baby in a front carry position. This position also exerts pressure on the pelvic floor muscles. Slouching will also increase diastasis by weakening and opening the rectus abdominis. So to promote closure, you want to maintain the ribcage over the hips in a neutral position. Think of your ribcage as a hanging bell. You want’ to create a quiet bell, that sweet spot in neutral where the ribcage lives over the pelvis and requires the least effort to maintain, muscles and pressure in the body are balanced. For a better understanding, here’s another video by Julie Wiebe:

Equipped with all of this new information, I’m feeling motivated. With a self-guided program, I should see changes relatively quickly within a month of starting the program. Even better!  Seeing progress is always good when making changes in life. You can assess your progress by doing a self-check of your diastasis, as shown above, to see if certain aspects of your day or workout are widening or closing your gap.

A full evaluation by a physical therapist may also a wise option, especially if you find that they aren’t responding to your self-guided program. A trained pro can help you determine the integrity of your fascia (the tissue that thins to allow the abdomen to spread during pregnancy), if you are performing the activities correctly and doing so in good alignment, if you need additional cues, or additional intervention to maximize your response.

So what does a self guided program look like and when is it safe to begin postpartum? The general rule of thumb is that women should not commence formal exercise until they have completed a satisfactory postnatal check-up, which is normally conducted around 6 weeks after delivery; those who have had cesarean deliveries are recommended to wait a couple of weeks longer.

So what can you do in those first few weeks postpartum? Enjoy your baby! Did you know that many cultures have a lying in period after baby is born for 40 days? It’s beneficial for your healing and for bonding with baby.

When developing a program, it’s important to remember that diastasis affects and is affected by breathing mechanics, continence, alignment, central stability, movement control and fitness, etc. So just doing specific abdominal exercises or wearing a brace or belly bind on your abdomen will be hard pressed to close the gap or address those other systems.

Belly Binding is not a new phenomenon, but has become much more widespread and touted as a cure for the lack of core stability postpartum. But, again this is putting a focus on the abdominal muscles as the only muscles which need to repair during this time. Wearing a brace leaves out support and can put even more pressure on a weak pelvic floor. Women who wear it daily for the majority of the day may find that their muscles become over-reliant on the support and they lose out on the ability to retrain their muscles after pregnancy through day-to-day functions. Many women report that their diastasis returns once they stop wearing the brace because they have not trained their muscles to work as a team postpartum. However, some women with a diastasis larger than 3 finger widths may need that additional support as part of a holistic recovery program. As with all training, treatment and care, it must be individualized to suit the needs of each person.

Once you understand alignment as a foundation of all the movements you make, then, the next step would be to add in exercises slowly that challenge the system without overwhelming it. A good exercise to begin would be a pelvic tilt. The pelvic tilt will assist in shortening the rectus abdominus muscles. Begin by lying on your back with bent knees. Exhale as you move into the tilt, bring your low back towards the floor and lift the tailbone gently as the abdominal muscles engage. Make sure that your hips remain on the ground.

Once the rectus abdominus muscles have been shortened and begin to regain strength, we will want to begin to incorporate functional movements of everyday life. If you think about it, other than getting out of bed, these muscles are not required for any other activity than getting out of bed, so why train them in this position? Challenging the muscles in an upright position improves the lumbopelvic stability and trains the whole body to work as one.

The next step might look like squats or side steps or glute work at the beginning. The choice depends on where you find a good challenge that doesn’t overwhelm your ability to use the system of muscles and maintain alignment or breath. Eventually, you may even be able to work your baby into the routine as you engage the your muscles in a day-to-day activity like picking up your baby.

Julie also offers a self-paced video series offering the latest concepts, exercises, movement strategies and body awareness tips for rehabilitating your pelvic floor, minimal to moderate prolapse, diastasis recti, and pelvic pain. I’ve just ordered it as I have a feeling this is where all the specific recommendations lie regarding next steps exercises suggestions.  I feel like I’ve found the secret holy grail.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  If you’d like to check the video out, you’ll find it in Om Baby’s lending library in the near future.

*I have no affiliation to Julie Wiebe, nor have I been compensated for any of the statements in this blog.


Holly Keich, LSW, CIMI Prenatal, Certified Chidlight Yoga Children’s, Baby, & Tots Yoga Instructor is the owner of Om Baby established in 2009.  A mother of two children, she enjoys guiding families on their holistic journey towards parenthood.