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Our culture is currently obsessed with "bouncing back" and the need to "reclaim" a certain body type immediately post-birth.

As the CEO and Founder of The Bloom Method, a globally recognized pre and postnatal fitness method, and an expert contributor to The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama: Redefining the Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum Journey, one of my missions is to help inspire a new kind of attitude around the concept of 'mom bods'. To reclaim our new bodies in ways that spark a level of strength that's both mind and body-related.

I understand why many women want to jump back into that pre-baby exercise routine, but as a specialist in this field, I see again and again that true healing and recovery is a process. Mama, it takes time. The more willing you are to take the time to rehab your core and pelvic floor, the stronger you will be well into your motherhood journey.

Two questions I often encounter are, "What should be the first exercise women do postpartum?" and "When can I start exercising again?" The answers are the same and yet are surprisingly simple:

Just breathe.

That's it. It's that easy.

Okay, fine—not really, but the point is that many women expect the answer will be some fancy exercise move that gets them sweaty and addresses concerns around about the postpartum core. But it's not.

Diaphragmatic breathing is the first and best postpartum technique that women should do immediately after birth. Correct breathing lays the foundation for healing and restrengthening your inner core. With breath, you begin the healing process postpartum by simultaneously rehabbing both the deep core and the pelvic floor. Being able to "just breathe" in the early days postpartum also allows you to truly honor your body and your current experiences.

Pregnancy and birth have the ability to show us what real strength is, and how we treat our bodies in the days following this incredible journey sets the stage for our level of self-love for years to come. I want to help women feel capable and strong in their bodies while honoring what their bodies have accomplished. The need to "get our bodies back" has to shift to a mindset of "embracing the newfound strength that is a gift from pregnancy and birth."

So whether you are trying to heal diastasis recti or want to rehab your core in a smart and efficient way, the process starts with the breath. You can do this if you had a vaginal birth or Cesarean birth. And the best part is that tapping into your breath can begin immediately post-birth—just get the green light from your provider, and you are on your way.

What is diaphragmatic breathing?

The diaphragm is the muscle below your lungs. To learn how to do diaphragmatic breathing, try this:

  • Sit comfortably, and place one hand on your chest and one on your belly.
  • Envision the diaphragm muscle moving up and down as you breathe.
  • When you inhale, allow your belly to expand as your lungs fill with air, and your diaphragm moves down to accommodate your full lungs.
  • When you exhale, feel your belly contract as your diaphragm moves upward.

You want to use diaphragmatic breathing as your main means of inhalation and exhalation. Not sure exactly what we mean by that? You can see in the illustration below that there is movement happening both internally as well as externally. Pregnant bellies do a beautiful job of visually displaying this action, so this can be a very helpful visual even for our non-pregnant mamas.

When we properly breathe via our diaphragm, we incorporate our entire inner core unit, which includes our transverse abdominal muscle (our corset shaped muscle) and the pelvic floor. This approach to core rehab truly sets the stage for rebuilding and restrengthening in the most supportive of ways. It addresses both the deep layer of abdominal muscles and the pelvic floor together, and it allows new moms to build the core foundation they need for daily movements and their favorite workouts.

What are the benefits of diaphragmatic breathing?

Aside from providing functional core strength, some of the other benefits that diaphragmatic breathing can offer are:

  • Maintaining a more relaxed state by tapping into the parasympathetic nervous system. (Think de-stressing breaths with each inhale and exhale.) This technique alone can provide incredible support.
  • Providing a level of holistic healing and restoration to your inner core unit, as this form of breath can help drastically in assisting with the re-aligning of your organs back into their natural positions.
  • Aiding in the overall healing of the core and pelvic floor can help to reverse common pregnancy-related injuries such as diastasis recti, incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
  • Allowing mom and baby to connect in an extremely calming environment. (Think of the connection to your breath as a form of meditation.) Mom and baby are so deeply inner-connected in the days following birth that this help can foster a deeper connection as these two (or more) settle into life together.

Diaphragmatic breathing should be part of your daily life. However, if you happen to be like most adult women where breathing in your chest has become your new normal, repatterning your breath to be more consistent in your diaphragm is a simple shift that happens with a little extra awareness.

Am I doing diaphragmatic breathing correctly?

When first tapping into this breathing technique and feeling into the natural movement that takes place, there is a high probability that the sensations you're looking for will feel off or that you'll spend some time overthinking what you're hoping to accomplish. The beauty of this diaphragmatic breath is that your body knows exactly how to breathe this way. In fact, your inner core system was designed to move harmoniously with each inhale and exhale of a diaphragmatic breath. It often just takes a little time to remind the body how to get back in-sync with the breath and movement.

Once you're breathing via your diaphragm, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does it feel as though your breath and inner unit are in fluid motion with one another?
  • Does the pelvic floor move with the transverse abdominal muscles and the diaphragm during each breath?
  • Does all of this bring about a calming and natural sensation versus a stressed and more forced action?

Diaphragmatic breathing sets the foundation for true core function, healing and strength. Think of this simple form of breath as the building blocks to a strong core. This is why it is the first, and perhaps most important, exercise a mother can do after having a baby.

Once your breath is re-wired or turned on, you can progress your core awakening through deep core-based activations, functional movements and smart core-based exercises. You'll feel supported, empowered and strong in as little as a couple of weeks postpartum.

So, remember to "just breathe" in the days or weeks following your birth. Enjoy the early days of motherhood, release the pressure of getting back into those pre-baby skinny jeans, and trust that something as simple as the breath can bring about foundational results that will keep you strong and moving optimally for life.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

$35

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

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