There are many fitness or dance classes suggesting that new mothers can "get their body back" shortly after birth, so they feel good about themselves.

We all know babies thrive when close to their mothers, and baby carriers can help with this rather than putting babies down all the time. Movement and activity are known to lift the mood, and friendly, welcoming social activity is an important part of helping new parents find a supportive community so they feel less alone. So keeping babies close during a fitness or dance class may seem to be a match made in heaven… or is it?

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Baby safety at all times, and the health and wellbeing of new mothers are both of vital importance. It is my firmly held belief that anyone who is suggesting or recommending the use of a carrier during a class should be competent and confident in their use. This can only come with adequate training.

Furthermore, I believe that the long term health and fitness of women after birth and pregnancy takes precedence over quick-fixes. The pressure to “get your body back” and the media focus on celebrity bodies is not helpful for women. Good mental health and a supportive community are cornerstones of adapting successfully to life as a mother, and for many being active is part of that. However, there is often a significant lack of knowledge about the effects of many activities of daily life, let alone exercises or running etc on the pelvic floor, and loading it further with a baby carrier (especially one that is poorly fitting and uncomfortable) is detrimental in the early weeks to months.

It may take six months to a year for the body to recover completely, (according to research at Salford University). Of course this is very individual, depending on previous levels of health and fitness, how pregnancy and birth went, etc. Some women will be much more ready to return to their previous levels of activity than others. The “six week check” by the GP is often used as a benchmark to “sign off” as fit for exercise or dance classes. However, this is not what the six week check is for and this is not an appropriate way to establish if women are ready to return to increased levels of activity.

You can read more about my thoughts on slings and exercise here. 

I believe that in order to be able to offer dance or exercise classes safely and beneficially, all instructors should be focused and committed to the health and wellbeing of both the mother and the baby as their top priority.

Instructors should all

  • Have formal, high quality and officially recognised postnatal training qualifications (requiring assessment, and willing to provide these credentials to parents who ask.)
  • Have a significant depth of knowledge on the pelvic floor after birth and the effects of certain movements and activity on this recovering organ. This is often lacking. I recommend the courses for fitness professionals run by Louise Field of Adore your Pelvic Floor.
  • Offer proper assessment of a mother’s functional strength (beyond the “six week check”) and a willingness to adapt movements to reflect this.
  • Demonstrate the ability and commitment to put the client and baby’s needs first, even if it means saying that the class isn’t suitable. Babies are not an accessory to be used for fitness.

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  • High quality, in depth babywearing peer supporter training to ensure mothers and babies are carrying safely at all times, without any compromises. Instructors should have a particular interest in babywearing for its own sake, as opposed to something to add onto existing classes. Ideally they will already be familiar with slings. They should demonstrate a keen desire to be practising optimally and in line with current best practice. Baby and maternal safety is always paramount. 

 

I am no longer able to offer half day “safety awareness training” courses to those who are running postnatal fitness/dance classes. After a while running these courses, I feel this insufficient time to cover all the issues in enough depth to ensure the safety of babies and their mothers. This is especially as babywearing is not usually the main focus of the class and many class instructors have hardly any personal experience with babywearing themselves. Anyone who sees babywearing as an integral part of their class will be willing to invest in in-depth training with assessment.

Please note that I have attended a full day of training in pelvic floor awareness for fitness professionals myself.

If you would like to explore the option of peer supporter training, please contact me to discuss. I reserve the right to decline training.

Please note that training with me is NOT an endorsement of any class, and Carrying Matters is NOT and never has been affiliated in any way with any fitness or dance classes.