Women around the world are applauding new mommy Kate Middleton for showing off her baby bump in those first on-camera appearances just after the birth of her son, George.
While most celebrities rush to flatten their tummies or hide under voluminous clothing, Middleton is embracing her round, post-delivery belly, something Oakland certified personal trainer and postpartum fitness expert Helene Byrne calls "terrific."
"We need to understand that after birth you have a mommy body and that lasts for most people six months to a year," says Byrne, founder of www.befitmom.com and author of "Exercise After Pregnancy: How to Look and Feel Your Best" (BeFitMom, 2007). "It's a transitional body. We need to give ourselves time and not bash ourselves for having a loose, round belly. We need to be kinder to ourselves and not have a crisis of confidence."
To boost that confidence, Byrne works with her postpartum clients as early as they are ready to realign their spines, strengthen their bodies, and rebuild their core abdominals -- the early steps that prepare the body for the rigors of high-impact work outs down the road.
"It's a myth that you have to wait six weeks to exercise," Byrne says. "In fact you can do postpartum restorative and re-entry exercises. We think postpartum conditioning is all about ab work but it's about realignment and stability and redevelopment of core strengths."
Byrne tells her postpartum clients to start these moves as soon as they feel ready:
1. Abdominal compression. To do this contraction, simply pull your stomach into your spine. "I call these abdominal kegels," Byrne says. "When you do them in conjunction with regular kegels you are helping to rebuild your abdominal wall."
2. Pelvic tilt. "Don't just stick your butt out," she says. "Pull your pelvis back and forth with your abs."
3. Belly scoop. When she works with postpartum clients, Byrne combines the pelvic tilt with the abdominal compression to form what she calls a "belly scoop." "It starts to reflatten the abdominal wall and realign the pelvis, which shifts turning pregnancy," she says. "Compressing and releasing increases blood flow which speeds healing and increases overall fitness."
4. Fitness walking. This is walking with intention. "Slightly faster than regular walking but not speed walking," Byrne explains. "Everybody can fitness walk after labor and delivery." Though she says C-section mommies may want to use a stroller for baby rather than a front carrier, which can put strain on the body.
5. Three-dimensional diaphragmatic breathing. During pregnancy, the diaphragm has been held up above the baby bump and this helps train it to go back down to your belly button, Byrne says.
Here's how to do it: On the inhale, expand the rib cage in the front, side and back of the body. On the exhale, take the ribs back in and relax. This type of breathing also helps with something else:
"A lot of new moms have bad upper back pain because their spines are misaligned after giving birth," she says. "This breathing really helps realign your upper body and should make it easier to pick up baby."