The other day I was demonstrating some of the great exercises we do in our prenatal/postnatal Belly Bootcamp classes and a young mom asked,
“I had a c-section so I don’t have to do kegels, right?”
“Wrong,” I had to answer, but I could understand the attraction of a kegel-free life.
So let’s be honest. There is only one fun time to do a Kegel and that’s in bed. If you’re looking for a raunchy kegel article (is there such a thing?) this is not it.
If you are looking for a way to:
Prevent and correct bladder control issues
Prevent and treat hemorrhoids
Restore proper... um... tightness after childbirth
Enhance intercourse for yourself and your partner
Ease future childbirths and recovery
...then you should do kegels! If you want to feel loose, sore, unsatisfied and unable to control your bladder, be my guest.
Are you with me?
So what the heck is a kegel, anyway? Kegels are named after the doctor who designed them, Dr. Arnold Kegel. A kegel exercise strengthens the muscles of the pelvic floor — these muscles support the uterus, vagina, bladder and rectum. Pretty important muscles when you think about what it is they’re holding up. There are many factors that can weaken the pelvic floor muscles: childbirth, aging, chronic coughing, pregnancy, and even just being overweight.
What happens when they get weak? Do I need to go through the loose, sore, peeing yourself scenario again?
There are 3 main kegel exercises — allow me to break them down for you. The tricky part of instructing a kegel is I cannot, as your trainer, tell whether you are doing them correctly! So you must practice, practice, practice and truly focus on isolating those kegel muscles and imagining their movement as you contract and relax them. To find your kegel muscles, think of stopping mid-stream while peeing or of contracting as you would during intercourse. For all kegel exercises, sit cross-legged or stand comfortably.
Classic Kegel: contract the kegel muscles, pulling them upward and holding 1-2 seconds. Repeat and build up to 20 reps.
Super Kegel: contract the kegel muscles, pulling them upward, and hold as long as possible. Build up to 20 counts.
The Elevator: contract the kegel muscles and pull them upward in several stages, like floors in an elevator. Pause at the top, then release in several stages downward. Build up to 6-7 floors each direction.
Kegels should be performed daily for best results. The best part about kegels (aside from the no peeing your pants, smoother labour and better sex) is they can be done anytime, anywhere, while you are in the middle of doing almost anything else. I usually recommend doing them during one particular activity that you do daily — for example, while brushing your teeth — so they become habitual. If you are a new mom and bottle feeding or breastfeeding several times per day, do them at every feeding for just a moment and you should be all tightened up in no time!
One more tip: another great time to do a kegel exercise is during any core workout. The pelvic floor works together with the abdominal muscles; no muscle functions alone in the body. Here's an idea for the next time you do a plank: contract not just your abs but your pelvic floor and glutes.
Ready, set, kegel!
I remember the day formula arrived at my door. I was still pregnant and a delivery came from Nestle. Maybe you've received it too? A backpack, insulated to keep my formula cold when I was on the go, and a sample can of infant formula, plus some sort of "literature"... and I'm using the term very loosely. My first reaction... "How did they know I was pregnant? Did I sign up for this?" My next reaction... "I don't need this." I always planned to breastfeed. But the tin went in the cupboard. Because, well, it was free... and it seemed weird to just toss it out.
Breastfeeding went well, with a couple of minor hiccups in the first few weeks, as there often are. A few months later, I found the can of formula and threw it away.
The second time I got pregnant, a sample can of formula somehow found its way to my house again. This time it was Similac. I remember it clearly. By then, I had a toddler, had been through the usual ups and downs of early breastfeeding, knew lots of mommies and was training pregnant women and postpartum women on a very regular basis.
That time, my first reaction was... "They know I am going to have a hard time at some point and they hope I will turn to formula." This thought was so clear and so true in my heart and my gut. To this day it still bothers me. I felt preyed upon.
Today I saw this ad on Facebook and the anger washed over me again.
Because, the truth is, for many of us breastfeeding is difficult in the beginning. And, as in my case, having already breastfed a child doesn't guarantee breastfeeding relationships with later children will be a cakewalk, either.
My second had a terrible latch. We just didn't fit together. His tongue didn't extend very far, one of my nipples was very flat and things went downhill quickly. His weight loss was too rapid, he had a little jaundice. He screamed at the breast. My nipples were raw and I felt terrified that I wasn't able to sustain him with my bad latch and slow flow of milk. I don't think I even made it a week before I dug around, found that can of Similac and I cracked into it. I felt AWFUL doing it. My first had never even tasted formula and I wanted to give the same breastfed nutrition and bonding to my youngest. If that can hadn't been there, who knows what might have happened? As he gradually relied on formula for part of his nutrition, my flow didn't increase. I took herbs. I tried to pump — unsuccessfully. I fed him what I could but he became so frustrated at the trickle of milk from my understimulated milk glands that all I could do was cup feed him formula so he would stop screaming and, hopefully, pass out between feedings so I could rest my sore, sensitive breasts.
I became distraught and eventually, depressed and angry. I required antidepressants to cope. My doctor told me, "It wouldn't be the worst thing if you just used formula. You know, they're really good these days." I saw lactation consultant after lactation consultant, finally getting the help I needed at the Newman Clinic in Toronto. I spent two months feeding my son through a tube, taped to my nipple, with a cup of formula inserted into my bra. I chilled the formula so it would numb my nipples as it flowed out of the tube and into his mouth. I took massive doses of domperidone (actually a gastrointestinal drug with a lactation side effect, now prescribed more often off-label to help improve milk production), and bit by bit we established a supply that matched my son's appetite.
By 3 months I had a choice. I couldn't feed him adequately with just my breastmilk. That ship sailed months before when I introduced formula (and the fast flow of a cup or bottle). In comparison, the breast must have felt to Cash like sucking coffee through a plastic stir stick while the cup was a lovely drinking fountain — plentiful and stress-free. With the support of the Newman clinic and their amazing consultants, I decided to begin him on solid food and remove all formula from his diet. He adapted well. My breasts healed and we enjoyed breastfeeding together, finally. I stopped the antidepressants. He grew like a weed.
We breastfed until just last November, when he turned 3. That's us up there, just a few months before we weaned.
I hear from so many women, "I didn't have enough milk." I hear it almost daily, and from the hundreds of women I meet each year I hear it so often it penetrates my gut that it is overwhelmingly TOO OFTEN. It just cannot be true that SO MANY of us cannot. Women in poorer regions of the world, on diets of fewer than 1,000 calories per day, sustain life for themselves and their infants (though, I admit, likely not as comfortably). Breastfeeding before the invention of infant formula used to be the primary nutrition for infants and toddlers, and a regular occurrence up to anywhere from 3-5 years old.
We don't talk about the fact that breastfeeding is not automatic. It is a skill that must be learned, and it is a relationship that must be developed. With each and every birth. When it happens to us, we think "I can't breastfeed. Everyone else seems fine so I must not be able to breastfeed." We must start sharing our breastfeeding stories and tips. We have to take breastfeeding out of the closet so it can be seen, discussed, and learned before that fateful day when baby plops on your chest in a heap of hot, slimy mess and starts rooting around for a connection to you, the person she's been connected to since conception.
We are so obsessed with numbers in our society, with quantifying everything. Not being able to SEE the amount of milk going into a baby's mouth from the breast feels less safe than measuring a certain number of ounces into a bottle and trusting that our google search has turned up a reliable "average" feeding amount for baby's age.
And there is that can of formula, just waiting. Convenient product placement, isn't it? Right in your own home.
It is not my business how any other woman feeds her child EXCEPT when that woman is being allowed to believe that her body is malfunctioning and that she must rely on a man-made product to replace a system that functioned for tens of thousands of years until someone realized how vulnerable and extensive this market is.
Here are some facts I think you should know.
baby should have skin-to-skin contact immediately upon birth — when possible — and should make a first attempt at breastfeeding within an hour
baby should be exclusively breastfed for 6 months
baby does not need formula, milk or water to supplement breastmilk; if they seem to need anything, offer the breast
breastfeeding is an around-the-clock job in the beginning and you should expect to feed often, sometimes for a long time at each feed while baby gets the hang of it, all day and all night; baby is not born understanding a clock
baby should be fed when he or she asks for it as this tells your body when to produce
baby will often want to comfort-suck at the breast and this is not spoiling; oral comfort is one of the only forms they know
milk will take 3-4 days, or perhaps longer, to come in and until then you provide a different and vital substance, colostrum, designed for the earliest stages, and will not "squirt" or "leak" — this is normal and baby sleeping less than you expected or crying more than you expected does not automatically mean you are not providing enough food.
sufficient feeding is determined by the number of wet diapers and bowel movements, not by your baby's mood or restfulness, or by how full or light your breasts feel
I wish you a long and lovely breastfeeding career!
I am going to teach you how to run right now. With no program, no instructor, no iPhone app.
If you've always felt like you need to run in order to get in shape, you're not alone. Running is fantastic exercise, and runners tend to be very romantic about their favourite pastime, but it's not for everyone. It takes time to build up to running and when it doesn't go smoothly in the first attempt, many would-be runners give up.
Why is running so intimidating? I think it might have something to do with the fact that we are all BORN runners. Every child runs. You know this, Mummy. You have to run after them most of the time! Then, sometime in our teens or twenties, usually, we stop. The truth is, the ability to run (more than a minute or two) doesn't come naturally if you don't run often. Not being able to run the distance we want to feels like failure. But it shouldn't.
It's important to realize that all of those other runners out there are actually NOT looking at you and thinking, "Pffff... She stopped for a walk break? Clearly she is not a real runner." This is in your head. You may think you are not a real runner. Everyone else is just running around thinking about themselves and their own running as well.
Don't like running outdoors? Try a treadmill. There is no wind resistance or change in incline/decline, which makes treadmill running more accessible for the beginner runner.
Don't push yourself hard enough? Join a learn-to-run group for beginners. Then, when it's over, join it again! Or progress to the next level if you feel ready. Perhaps a 5K training group or even a 10K.
Now here is the part where I tell you how to become a runner — like TODAY. I promise — this works. Here is the simplest advice I offer — on a regular basis — to people who express interest in running but have trepidation about how they will "perform" when they head out for their first run:
1. Choose a time you can commit to — say 30 or 60 minutes, total, out of the house. Start your watch when you head out the door. Now you will not look at this watch again except to acknowledge when you've hit your 30 or 60 minute workout lapsed.
2. Run until you can't run, then walk. When you feel like you can run again, run. Then walk when you can't run anymore.
3. To figure out your route, use your watch to determine when you're at the halfway point of your workout, then turn around and double back. You'll probably travel at roughly the same speed, and making it back to your house in that second half of the workout might even motivate you to walk or jog slightly faster.
4. High five yourself (this is dorky — wait until you get in the house to do this or just high five yourself in your head, peeps) because you just went out for a RUN!