The answer to postpartum recovery may be how you breathe—here's how to do diaphragmatic breathing, mama

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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.

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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.

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If you had asked me a few years ago what I thought my biggest accomplishment was, I probably would have rattled off a bunch of career-related successes and financial wins. Or even something about my worldly travels. I was full of money-driven, "success" driven goals. I had it all mapped out.

I was ticking off items on my list thinking the more I did the happier I would become.

But, my sweet child, in the short three and a half years I've been a mama, 1,352 days to be exact, I have realized something. Something you need to know.

No matter what, nothing I do in life will ever be as great as being your mom.

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My accomplishments aren't measured in dollars, they are measured in hugs and kisses. And every time we say "I love you."

My accomplishments aren't measured by other people's praise, they are defined by the fact that I love you and will never stop.

My accomplishments are defined by the truth that I am with you no matter what. By the truth that I will be your biggest fan. Your protector. Your teacher. Your friend. Your confidant.

My accomplishments are defined by the truth that I will always be proud of you. That I will love you unconditionally, always and forever.

Yes, there are times when I achieve some pretty awesome things in life outside of being your mother. Moments I celebrate. Some are money-driven, some are career-driven, others are just things I've wanted to achieve and set out to do so. Am I proud of those things? Sure I am. I want to be an example to you that you can achieve anything you want to in this life. The world really is your oyster. Those moments though, never even come close to how proud I am to be your mom.

You see my child, no amount of money in the world can buy me the feeling of your little arms wrapped tight around me. The feeling of utter happiness I feel when I see you happy. No amount of money can buy the special bond we have.

My greatest accomplishment will always be you.

I won't lie, it isn't always easy. Sometimes, there are moments of exhaustion. Moments of frustration. Moments of tears. Moments where I desperately needed some 'me' time. But I will always choose you.

I know some people will not see motherhood as an accomplishment. That it is just something you do as part of life. But they don't see you like I do. Some people might wonder why I gave up a successful career to be home with you. But they don't know you like I do. They don't know that I was chosen to be your mama. That we were destined to be together. They don't know what an honor it is to be your mama.

So, my sweet child here is the truth.

You are my life's work.

You are my legacy in this world.

You, my child, are my greatest accomplishment and always will be.

[This article was previously published here.]

Life

Aside from hygienic reasons, there's something about a bath that's soothing, inviting and relaxing. Even little ones can enjoy the benefits of self-care but they often need a little bit of entertainment while they're getting cleaned. Because they are so small and constantly putting anything in their mouths, it's important to use toys that are just as safe as they are entertaining.

We gathered a few best practices from the American Academy of Pediatrics for safe bath time with infants and kids and our favorite products to keep our littles having fun in the water:

  • Use a safe, sturdy tub. Baby bathtubs can be "bucket style" for sitting upright, slanted for support, inflatable, folding and spa-style.
  • Be aware of bumps, edges and slings. Consider avoiding tubs with slings and pay close attention to any bumps or edges that pose a risk.
  • Never leave a child alone in a bathtub. Children can drown in 1 or 2 inches of water so make sure you're not stepping away from the bathroom or leaving babies in the care of another child.
  • Check water temperature. Lower the temperature of your water heater to no more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid burns.

Here are our favorite safe bath toys for infants and toddlers. And of course, always check (and double check) toy labels for age guidelines and hazard warnings:

Green Toys tide pool bath set

Green Toys tide pool bath set

This 7-piece bath set includes a starfish, scallop, abalone, snail, squid and jellyfish, as well as a seaweed-patterned storage bag that are packaged using recyclable materials and printed with environmentally responsible inks. Each piece is designed to pour water in a different way—scoop up water with the abalone and create a cascading waterfall with the holes along the edge, or fill the jellyfish and watch the water run down and out each of the legs.

$12.77

B&H baby thermometer

B&H baby thermometer

Ever wonder if your baby is too hot or too cold during bath time? This high and low temperature alarm includes an accurate thermometer that flashes and beeps when water is at a non-optimal temperature. It also doubles as a bath toy that complies with the Consumer Product Safety Commission's toys safety standards, so you don't have to worry if the thermometer will produce chemical reactions in water. Genius!

$16.99

Sophie la girafe so pure bath toy

Sophie la girafe so pure bath toy

Babies can have fun chewing away this Sophie bath toy because it's made of 100% natural rubber from the rubber tree's sap. The rubber ring is also easy to grip so little ones can have full confidence splashing and playing around. And don't worry, water can't get inside the toy so bacteria and mold won't form.

$23.93

Skip Hop bath puzzle

Skip Hop bath puzzle

A puzzle and bath book in one? Yes, we'll take it! The pages float in water and stick to bath tiles so you're child will be entertained the entire time they're in the water. We love that the handy stroller ring keeps it all together when they're done.

$8.00

Green Toys my first tugboat

Green Toys my first tugboat

This cool tugboat toy is safe for the earth as well as your child. It's made with 100% recycled plastic milk containers, which helps save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and is free from BPA, PVC and phthalates. It also features a wide spout which will help them scoop and pour water while exploring in the water.

$11.91

Boon marco light-up bath toy

Boon marco light-up bath toy

If you have older kids and are less concerned with them putting toys in their mouth, your kid might enjoy Marco. Put Marco in water and watch him float while the color-changing light activates. It's BPA-free, too.

$11.99

Skip Hop light up bath toy

Skip Hop light up bath toy

Featuring water-activated multicolor lights, this soft and squeezable bath toy is sure to make a splash with any child in your life. Choose from a dinosaur or unicorn with the phthalate-free materials.

$4.50

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This year's flu season has been making headlines, and there's a lot of (perfectly understandable) concern among parents about flu prevention and treatment.

The flu vaccine is the single best way to prevent your child from catching the flu. Other ways to prevent the flu from taking hold in your family include washing hands frequently, avoiding close contact with those who are sick, avoiding touching your eyes, mouth and nose, and staying in good overall health—getting plenty of sleep, eating a nutritious diet and exercising regularly.

But what if, despite your best efforts, your child comes down with the flu? It can be hard to watch children suffer with flu symptoms such as chills, fever, aches, cough and congestion. That's why parents need a helpful, complete, scannable-at-2-am-in-panic-mode rundown of what to do for the flu, when to call the doctor and how to help little ones feel better.

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Here's what to do when you think your child has the flu:

1. How do I know if my child has the flu?

Symptoms of influenza tend to come on suddenly, and include:

  • Fever (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or greater)
  • Headache
  • Muscle pains
  • Cough
  • Hives
  • Congestion
  • Runny nose

So how do you know whether it's a cold or the flu? Symptoms of the common cold may be similar to the flu, but generally are milder and include cough, congestion, runny nose and sore throat. RSV, or respiratory cold virus, is a separate condition that can cause cold-like symptoms in older children, but may cause a more severe lung disease in infants called bronchiolitis. Your best bet is to call your pediatrician for a diagnosis.

2. What should I do if my child has the flu?

The best treatment for most flu infections is what doctors call "supportive care:" encouraging fluid intake, giving fever-reducing medication such as children's acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and getting plenty of rest.

Children who are at higher risk of complications from the flu or whose symptoms started within the past 48 hours may also receive treatment with an antiviral medication. Talk with your primary care provider about your options.

3. What medicines are safe for my child to take for the flu?

Fever-reducing medications, including ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can generally be given to children with the flu with your pediatrician's okay. Children should not receive aspirin. Be sure to follow dosing directions for your child's age and weight.

4. What are home remedies for flu symptoms in kids?

Flu treatment is all about comfort care for symptoms—rest, fluids, fever-reducer, repeat. Keep children with the flu home from school, preschool or daycare, keep them comfortable in bed (or snuggled up on the couch), and offer fluids—and plenty of sympathy.

5. Should I try to make my child with the flu eat, or drink?

Keeping kids hydrated while they're sick with the flu is important. Encourage small, frequent sips of liquids and soup to keep up with hydration. But don't worry about forcing your child to eat a hearty meal: As your child's infection resolves, their appetite will return.

6. When should I call the doctor for my child's flu?

Parents should always call their pediatrician if they're worried, of course, and if your child has a chronic medical condition that may be worsened by the flu, call your doctor right away. Here are symptoms that warrant an immediate call to your care provider:

  • Fast breathing
  • Signs of dehydration including decreased urine output
  • Fever and cough which improved at first but have worsened
  • Fever above 103 degrees, or any fever in a child under 3 months of age

Serious signs that warrant a trip to the emergency room or a 911 call, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Labored breathing
  • Blue discoloration of the lips or face
  • Difficulty in awakening
  • Severe muscle pains
  • Seizure activity

7. How long will my child's flu last?

Most kids with the flu run a fever for 3 or 4 days with aches and chills. But the worst symptoms tend to be over within 4 days or so, with gradual improvement in respiratory symptoms after the fever resolves.

8. When is it safe for my child to go back to school or daycare after having the flu?

Most daycares and schools have specific guidelines, such as 24 hours without a fever. Children with the flu are usually contagious for 5 to 7 days after the first onset of symptoms, and are at their most contagious when their fever peaks during the first 3 days. In general, children should stay home until they're fever-free for 24 hours and respiratory symptoms have improved.

Watching your child suffer with the flu can be hard, but knowing steps you can take to help your little one feel better fast can help. Hang in there—even flu season can't last forever.

Learn + Play

If you haven't bought an Instant Pot yet, what are you waiting for, mama? It's one of those holy grail items that, once used, you're not sure how you ever lived without it. In fact, it was one of the most-purchased items from Motherly mamas last year and was life-changing for one of our editors when she finally caved and tried it out for her family.

Whether you're a chef who loves to make gourmet meals or a mama who hates cooking and needs more time in the day, it's one of those products that works for everyone.

And, the Instant Pot is on super sale today on Amazon—just $56.99.

Instant Pot 6-quart

instant pot sale

Why does it have such a cult following? Because it cuts down on cooking time and you can cook just about anything in it. It acts as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer and warmer all in one. And the smart one-touch program makes cooking ribs, soups and desserts so much easier.

The 6-quart size cooks for up to six people, making it the perfect size for your family, and is 29% off today.

$56.99

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