The Diet Detective: Everything You Should Know About Post Pregnancy Fitness

Are there any good arm exercises for building up strength to tote the baby around?

 "A 'rowing' motion is probably the best postpartum upper-body exercise out there. It strengthens the rhomboids, lats and rear delts, which helps with posture and alleviates upper-back pain. It will also tone up the biceps," says O'Brien. If you don't have access to a rowing machine, get some exercise bands or tubes. "They can be used for virtually any body part. Loop the tube through a stable object such as a staircase or fence. Sit and do rows for upper-back and arm strength. Stand on the tube to do bicep curls," says Druxman.

How do I deal with a baby and try working out -- it seems overwhelming?

"A new mom should schedule her workouts like she does her kid's doctor's appointments," says O'Brien. You can also buy or rent fitness DVDs, take long walks, do yoga while your baby sleeps. It's about setting priorities.

Should a new mom walk with the baby in a sling or BabyBjorn?

"It should not pose much risk to a new mom's back, but she shouldn't overdo it," says Wider. However, beware of your posture, adds Druxman. She suggests that if you are using a sling you should regularly contract your shoulder blades by bringing them together as if you were squeezing a pencil. Also, keep your shoulders down and back, your neck long and relaxed.

Does exercise affect your milk production?

According to Druxman: "Research has shown that regular, sustained, moderate-to-high-intensity exercise does not impair the quality or quantity of breast milk. There are a small number of cases of exercise-induced increases in the lactic acid concentration of breast milk resulting in decreased infant suckling due to a sour taste. However, this problem was encountered only when the exercise was intense enough to result in lactic acid accumulation in the muscles. Typically, aerobic workouts have not been shown to affect infant suckling behavior.

Also, feeding the baby prior to exercise should negate any potential problem, as any lactic acid that does accumulate in the breast milk should clear in 30 to 60 minutes post-exercise. As long as infant suckling behavior is normal, neither high-intensity exercise nor lactic acid accumulation pose any risk to mom or baby.

Other research has examined the effect of exercise on immunoglobulin A (IgA), a major immune defense component, and found that breast milk IgA levels were slightly reduced after exercise. Whether this reduction could compromise infant health is not known, but the authors of the study recommended breastfeeding before exercise to eliminate the risk of any potential adverse effects. Research investigating the effects of exercise on the mineral content of breast milk found no significant effect."

Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate, author of the best seller Breaking the Pattern (Plume, 2005), Breaking the FAT Pattern (Plume, 2006) and Lighten Up (Penguin USA/Razorbill, 2006) and founder of Integrated Wellness Solutions. Sign up for The Diet Detective newsletter free at
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