Activewear for new mothers

This time I have started planning ahead for what to wear when baby comes because I know a little bit about the whole thing.  Keep it easy.  Elastic and lycra are your friends.  Keep your hard-worked tummy covered, because it’s going to be quivery or wobbly and having it covered and supported will make you feel better.

The thing I can’t wait for (am I an alien?) is the green light to return to working out.  It’s usually six weeks after the birth. Shall we look at some workout planning together?

  • Are you going to exercise at home or outdoors with your baby, or without baby at a gym?  I.e. do you need indoor but private clothes, indoor and publically seen ones which will need to be spiffier but will get less exposure to baby stains, and do you need outdoor clothing for you and baby.
  • Are you planning on breastfeeding at this point, or would like to keep the possibilities open on this (will see how it goes)?  You might really like getting breastfeeding accessible clothes so you don’t put you and a squalling baby into a frustrating situation.  Nursing accessible clothes will also be usable for pumping, so you can get dressed, nurse, express milk for a bottle and then go do you workout with milk on standby to avoid interruption.  And of course you can expect to get the big weight loss that breastfeeding does as you transfer your pregnancy fat stores to baby.  You’ll keep the last 2kg/5lbs while doing lots of nursing, but your body won’t keep holding on to it once your baby starts taking in solid foods or you supplement with artificial baby milk.
  • Do you plan on sewing some or all of your activewear?  If you’re doing RTW you do the usual shopping around with an eye for styles and fabrics that will work best for your new body, and with sewing you’re in the driver’s and designer’s seat so you can tailor everything to your wants.

So start your calculations:

My likely birth day (after the 40-week mark) is in early March 2015–let’s make it easy for calculation purposes and say 1 March.  I plan to work out at home with primarily double kettlebell workouts since they cover strength, cardio and flexibility in the bare minimum of time.  I will also be doing some walking outside while babywearing under my husband’s big stretchy polarfleece cardigan jackets, and a little biking with baby in a carseat secured to a specialized suspension for my cargo bike (bakfiets).  Finally, I plan to be breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months and I have a a double electric and portable (battery) Medela breastpump–the only way to combine nursing and going back to work, IMO!  I think I just talked myself into preparing a bottle for uninterrupted workouts… never thought of that till I was writing!  I plan to sew my clothes.

So if baby comes in the next week or so on 1 March, for the first six weeks or so you’re in stage 1: you’ll need to recover from the exhaustion of pregnancy and rest for caring for a newborn.  Breastfeeding is nature’s way of keeping you rested since it’s generally a seated activity, and your baby will want to nurse a lot.  This is healthy and natural, and will pay you back by giving you a bountiful milk supply to speed up weight loss on your side, and weight gain on baby’s side–when you have lots of milk and bub is heavier s/he will be able to wait a little longer between feedings.  Exercise at this stage is limited to looking after baby, domestic upkeep, and short walks or shopping trips.

My Stage 1 clothes is going to be the dreaded fourth trimester–still waring some maternity clothes–and some generously cut elastic waist skirts.  Skirts are so much more flexible with weight than pants are.  I will try on my pre-baby Jalie yoga pants, which have that nice convenient wide waistband, but I am not counting on them looking good on me.

Around the six week mark it will be about the time your doctor will approve that you go back to more intense exercise than light walking.  It’s a good time to schedule getting some new toys to motivate you!  I am ordering a matching set of kettlebells to arrive then, and want my first batch of postpartum (read: larger, especially in the waist) workout clothes ready and waiting to jump into.  If you sew, look for clothes with side seams so you can take them in.  Foldover fabric waistbands are great to give your tummy some support and not pinch a soft waistline.  The downside is they visually add some bulk in an area where you’d rather not, so check if a regular elastic waistband is going to fit your legs and not give you a big, un-camouflage-able muffin top.  This is admittedly more important if you will be working out in public at a gym, where you won’t have a baby carried in a sling in front of you to camouflage fluff 🙂

If you are nursing or pumping, remember that lactating will raise your body temperature.  So plan on being a little hotter than you think you’ll be.  If you’re sewing, why not use up the last pieces and keep your hair off your neck with a matching headband, or dare I say it, scrunchy?  Are you wincing?  I read that scrunchies are less likely to leave a ponytail dent like elastics are.  That alone would be worth it…  Well, maybe for home exercisers…

Weightlifting, kettlebells, walking and biking are not high-impact sports.  So I plan on using Jalie 3131 (crosscheck) to make some basic nursing bras to wear under my criss-cross tops.  I will use them again later on in summer so I’ll make them in a basic neutral so they will look good with all of my workout clothes.

So if a mother gives birth on 1 March it will be around April 15 when you can go back to working out.  What is the weather like around you at that time?  Google your location and ‘climate’ or ‘annual weather’ to see what you find.  Early spring here in Belgium is cold enough for my morning (that is the plan) workout time that long yoga pants or knee-length crops will be msot comfortable.  I am planning to wear sleeveless, matching colorblocked versions of Jalie 2787 criss-cross top that has invisible nursing access!  It will stil be cold enough that when I start working out I’ll want to wear a big tee shirt over everything to peel off.

Stage 3:  Time to plan for a period when you will be a little trimmer, and might have noticeably gone down a size.  For my body this happens around 4 months of breastfeeding.  Your weight loss will slow down around this point so you won’t have to keep rotating your clothes every four months.  This is also the time when you can more confidently wear regular waistbands, and can branch out to clothes without side seams having a bit more confidence that you won’t have to wrangle with taking in the sides significantly.

The big thing to note is that at Stage 3, around 4 months postpartum, the weather might be very different, and your capacity to do more intense, sweaty workouts will be higher.

So a March baby will put me in Stage 3 in July.  July is hot around here.  In July 2014 I flopped onto the counch and turned the fan on whenever I was at home.  Sometimes Belgium starts summer a little later, but once it starts, it stays for a few months.  So the crisscross top will probably be too hot to even think about doing advanced double kettlebell with.  Jalie to the rescue!  3131 includes a nursing camisole pattern, which on its own for my figure won’t provide enough support, but with another layer of nursing bra underneath will be fine.  The yoga pants and clamdigger crops will be too hot though for working out at home.  I’m not going to force myself prematurely into biking shorts and a camisole though, since I think I’ll still feel fluffy then.  Nine months up, nine months down.  But the Jalie swim shorts and running skirt will be a little more flattering.  I have tried some kettlebells before in my regular clothes skirts and the skirt got in the way, so maybe more so the swim shorts.  These will absolutely be at-home, indoor use only for me because their hemline is a lot shorter than anything I’ve worn in ages over bare legs.

When fall rolls around I can pull my spring yoga pants, crops, and sleeveless criss-cross tops back out again, which will hopefully be looser by then.  But they probably will be wearable without taking in the sides or unpicking and resewing in waist elastic since I plan to make them a little snug postpartum just for this purpose.  Thus I’m going to choose fabrics that will look good in both seasons.  Because I’m not going to want to make lots of sewing and workout time with full time work, two preschoolers and a baby around.

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