Why You Shouldn't Suck In Your Belly After Birth

And 4 everyday things you can do to get a flatter belly.

Why You Shouldn't Suck In Your Belly After Birth

A word of advice to all women, childbearing and otherwise: you aren’t doing your core any favors by sucking in your belly. Sound counter-intuitive? After birth, you may be eager to reconnect with your core, and you may wish you could hide the baby weight around your middle, which can feel like a bowl of jelly after pregnancy. The reality, however, is that your core needs you to engage it in small, conscious steps more than ever.

Here’s why sucking in your belly literally sucks.

Though when I say “core” you may think “abs,” there’s a lot more to it. There are actually multiple layers of muscles that help you get through your day: the rectus abdominis (the abs), the linea alba (the dense band of midline tissue that connects the abs), the internal and external obliques, and the transversus abdominis, which is the deepest core muscle layer.


This last one is crucial. Imagine it as a corset that provides foundational support for your trunk – and the rest of your body. Even when you aren’t pregnant or postpartum, the transversus abdominis is a crucial postural muscle that doesn’t get enough press compared to the “six pack.” But it also takes a bit of a vacation during pregnancy, so it has trouble communicating with the other core muscles after birth.

Here’s what happens when you suck in your stomach all day: the transversus abdominis doesn’t get the chance to move; and without the ability to both contract and relax, it can’t effectively work with your diaphragm, your pelvic floor, and your back muscles. Keeping the transversus rigid displaces its responsibility to those other muscles, which may already be weakened from childbirth.

So what should you do instead? Easy does it. Here are 4 things you can do to help get your tummy back in shape.

  1. Re-learn to breathe. We all breathe without really thinking about it, but believe it or not, many of us spend our lives taking breaths that are too shallow, which can have serious effects on our health (mental and physical). Why does it matter for your core and pelvic floor? Because every time you take a deep breath, your pelvic floor and core muscles are also working properly. So place your right hand on your left side ribcage, and the left hand on your right shoulder and take a deep breath. When you inhale, you should feel your ribs and belly expand out, and shoulders should move minimally. If not, you’ll likely need to retrain yourself to breathe.
  2. Sit properly. Good posture when sitting can do wonders to your core. The key here is to sit straight. So take your back off of the backrest, and sit on your sitz bones instead of your coccyx, also known as your tailbone. This will move your pelvis forward and will allow your core muscles to keep your body upright.
  3. Avoid planks and crunches, as your transversus abdominis isn’t yet strong enough to handle such exercises and will therefore cause you to rely on other muscles that also aren’t ready. This is how we run into problems such as diastisis recti, hip and back pain, prolapse, and pesky pee leaks.
  4. Small, intentional movements are often healthier than big, visual ones. Consider taking a class with a physical therapist who specializes in pre- and postpartum core work, or work with a pelvic floor therapist in your area. And remember: it’s never too late to rehabilitate your core from the inside out.

In This Article

    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    With fall 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 outside-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.

    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden 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.


    Detective set

    Plan Toys detective 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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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!


    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.


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


    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.

    Keep reading Show less

    100 unusual + surprising baby name ideas

    From Adelia to Ziggy.

    Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

    Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

    Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.

    Keep reading Show less
    Learn + Play