Exercise after baby; Where to Start

by Trish Gipson, Registered Physiotherapist at Envision Physiotherapy


One of the main reasons new mothers come to see me at the clinic is because they are eager to get back to some sort of exercise or sport but want to do it safely.

Usually women are given the “go-ahead” by their health care provider to return to activity around six weeks post-partum. But what does this mean? Is it safe to start running? Boot camp? Playing volleyball?

The truth is it depends on the individual. Not all pregnancies are the same, not all deliveries are the same, and not all bodies are the same.

So how do you know when and how to get back to your desired level of activity?

The first thing to consider is your level of activity during pregnancy. Most women decrease their activity level over the course of their pregnancy and, as a result, some deconditioning likely occurs. So jumping back into pre-pregnancy activities at that six-week mark may be a bit overzealous and may put you at risk of an overuse injury.

Secondly, you need to consider your delivery. Tearing of the pelvic floor can affect the ability of the core muscles (the pelvic floor, the diaphragm and the deep abdominal and back muscles) to function improperly which can lead to hip, back, knee, or pelvic pain if not properly rehabilitated. These symptoms may not become evident until the load is increased, such as with exercise. A caesarean is a major surgery, and must be treated as such; you wouldn’t start skiing again right after a knee surgery without at least a few months of rehabilitation, so I would suggest the same diligence with rehabbing after a C-section.

Also important to consider is the amount of change that a woman’s body goes through over the course of a pregnancy. Her posture changes, her movement patterns change, certain muscles get more active and other muscles tend to atrophy. These changes don’t revert as soon as she gives birth; her body has taken forty (give or take) weeks to adapt to the growing baby and is going to take time to readjust. And sometimes our bodies need a bit of help along the way.

That’s where a women’s health physiotherapist comes in. I recommend that all women who have delivered a baby see a women’s health physiotherapist six weeks after giving birth. Your physio will assess your posture, your movement patterns, your abdominal wall and your pelvic floor to determine if all is functioning as it should or if there are any areas that need attention.

Because every situation is different, there is no “cookie-cutter” approach for getting back to exercise or sport post-partum. But here are some guidelines to follow:

  1. For the first six weeks, honour your body and what it’s just been through. Consider that tissue that has been torn or cut takes at least six weeks to heal; over stressing it too early could compromise that healing process, but not moving at all can be equally detrimental.
  2. Diaphragmatic breathing, very gentle pelvic floor contractions and deep abdominal contractions help with recovery; see a women’s health physio to learn how to properly perform each of these.
  3. As soon as you feel comfortable doing so, start doing some daily walks. They don’t need to be fast, they don’t need to be far, but bundle baby up and get outside. Gradually increase your speed and distance as tolerated, and vary the terrain (concrete, track, grass, hills, etc).
  4. Once you’ve hit the six week mark (and you’ve already made your appointment to see your physio, of course), seek out classes or instructors that cater to new moms; yoga, stroller fitness, etc. Have a chat with the instructor so that they know the circumstances of your delivery and where your body is in its recovery. If anything doesn’t feel comfortable to you, then perhaps it is not appropriate for where your body is right now.
  5. Increase your activity level slowly and steadily. The six week mark is a very common time for pelvic organ prolapse (which is when one or more of the pelvic organs descend and remain sitting lower than they should) to occur because many women rapidly increase the load before their tissues and the muscular support systems (the pelvic floor and deep abdominals) are ready. However, if you gradually increase your activity level and the intensity of exercise over time, your body will adapt to match the increased load.

Your body has ways of telling you that you need to slow down. Listen to it. The following are some signs that your body may not be ready for whatever activity you are doing:

  • bleeding increases or resumes
  • pain anywhere in the body
  • leaking urine, feces, or gas (even a little bit!)
  • heaviness in the pelvis or on the pelvic floor
  • bulging of the abdomen with certain exercises or movements
  • something “just doesn’t feel right”
  • excess fatigue

If you experience any of these things it doesn’t mean you can’t ever do that activity, just not yet. It may just take time, or you may need to seek the help of a health care practitioner.

Remember that movement, specifically exercise, is an integral part of our health and well-being. But remember that, as a new mom, it is imperative to give your body time to recover, heal, adapt to the changing load, and get strong. Growing a baby is a process, as is returning to your desired level of activity. Be patient, set goals along the way for motivation, and don’t be too hard on yourself. You just grew a human, super-mama!



Trish Gipson, BHKin, MScPT, FCAMT, CAFCI.


Trish graduated from SFU with a Bachelors Degree in Kinesiology, and from McMaster University with a Masters Degree in Rehabilitation Sciences (Physiotherapy). She is certified as a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Manipulative Physiotherapy, and has taken post-graduate courses in acupuncture, pre- and post-natal care, pelvic and perineal re-education, and running injuries. She has also completed the Clinical Mentorship in the Integrated Systems Model with Diane Lee. She has experience working with people of all ages and fitness abilities but has a special interest in treating pelvic floor disorders, and working with new moms and moms-to-be. In her spare time Trish enjoys running, biking, playing volleyball, doing yoga and snowboarding, and spending time with her family. Trish has completed numerous half and full marathons, and has also laced up her hiking boots to walk the Inca Trail in Peru and climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. You can reach her at www.envisionphysio.com.

Using Sign Language With Your Baby

sign-languageBy Lee Ann Steyns

Have you seen your baby smile with big open eyes when you sing to them or tickle their tummy? Or noticed they scrunch up their faces when they don’t like something? Your baby is already communicating with you! Using sign language taps into babies’ natural ability to use their bodies to express themselves well before they can speak.


Imagine one day you are whisked off and parachuted down into a foreign country you’ve never even heard of. You see some people near you, smiling, waving and calling to you, but you can’t understand a word they are saying. You feel confused and frustrated.


This may be exactly like what our babies feel like!


Then, imagine if those sweet, foreign people realized you couldn’t understand them and they began physically pointing out where you can find a taxi, your hotel, a bathroom, and some other key things for your stay? I’m guessing you would pay attention and follow their lead. And if they motioned their hands a certain way every time you passed by a BUS, you’d begin to understand that hand signal means BUS, even if you didn’t understand the words they were babbling.




Developmentally, babies as young as two or three months can start remembering your daily routines and begin anticipating what happens next when you create consistent communication with them. Do you always have milk when you wake up, or get dressed right after a bath? Let’s talk about it!


But keep in mind that verbal speech typically happens way after many other developmental milestones, such as rolling, sitting, and crawling, for most babies. Babies may not be able to speak the verbal languages they are learning at home with you until closer to their first birthday or so.


This is where sign language can help! By adding some signs into your daily conversations with your baby about what you are doing, you can create a strong connection between what you say and what you do. Babies learn by watching us, so it makes sense to always show babies what’s happening and always encourage as much communication as possible.


Plus, research shows that babies in a study who learned some sign language ended up with larger vocabularies, stronger language skills, and had higher IQ’s at the age of 8 years than a control group of babies who did not learn signs. That’s a bonus in my books, but the real benefits happen when your young baby has a better bond with you and doesn’t cry or fuss as much because you’ve created some successful communication together.




Choose a sign for something you do often, like MILK. To sign MILK, hold one hand in front of the body and close up your fingers into a fist and then open it up again. Repeat that opening and closing action several times as you say MILK. Always say MILK out loud while you are signing it so your baby hears the word and sees it at the same time, and then make sure you have MILK right away so it all makes sense. Every time you have milk, show MILK. That sign will soon become connected visually to what happens next and your baby will begin to recognize it. Try to always do what you say; context is important, and it won’t make sense if you say & sign milk but then decide to go change a diaper first.


Have fun and go at your own pace. You can start out slow with one or two signs and repeat, repeat, repeat. A little every day will go a long way to lowering that natural frustration that can occur when we are not understanding each other.


If you’re interested in learning more signs to do with your baby, I like this beginner website: www.babysignlanguage.com


You can also visit www.signingbabies.ca and join a class by playing, singing and signing together in Vancouver. We’ll be offering more classes and workshops on baby sign language at the Childbearing Society in the New Year, so please join our e-newsletter list on the website to be the first to hear about all our schedule.



lee-ann-profilepicLee Ann is a local Vancouver, B.C. mom who put her background as a preschool teacher, recreation centre class creator, and parent of two together with her personal love of sign language. After teaching her first child American Sign Language, she realized the incredible potential of being able to communicate easily with her young daughter before she could talk at all. A strong desire to share this tool with others saw the creation of Signing Babies, an easy-to-follow program involving beginner ASL signs while singing, rhyming, and playing together. She teaches baby sign language classes for families because she feels passionately about how well sign language works, and how much successful communication affects the happiness of both little ones and their caregivers. Please visit www.signingbabies.ca for more information about sign language and classes in your area.

Playing with Baby

By Cherrie Tam


With the holidays just around the corner, what toys to get for your growing baby is sure to be on the top of your mind. You know children learn through play, and that authentic play experiences are fundamental in helping kiddos learn important skills that help them grow.


But what do babies need for play and how do you play with them?


How do you choose educational and engaging toys that aren’t over-stimulating? Toys that your kiddo will actually play with for longer than 5 seconds?

Toys that won’t be abandoned in a corner taking up prime real estate in your home?


The KEY is choosing simple and open-ended toys:

Look for toys that don’t have a lot of moving parts or fancy contraptions.

Look for toys that don’t do the playing for your child…aka children have to maneuver the toy to make it work the way they want.

And look for toys that don’t have a right or wrong way to play with it.


Think balls, scarves, tupperware containers, cardboard boxes, and blocks.


The simpler the better because this creates an opportunity for babies to think outside the box.


Because the toys are open-ended they can be combined in a multitude of ways giving kiddos a chance to practice getting creative with discovering different ways to play.


Choosing quality play objects is half of the puzzle. How you play with your kiddo is the other half of promoting their learning and growth.


When playing with your little one, follow their lead and let them show you what to play with, how to play with it, and for however long they want. Resist the urge to intervene and resist the urge to show them how to play. Instead, spend time labeling and describing what they are doing. Not only will this give your child a chance to really show you what they are capable of, but your acknowledgment of their efforts will help boost their self-confidence and encourage them to be more active explorers. Happy playing!


cherrie-tamCherrie is the Founder of NuBaby Wellness and is a Parenting Coach who specializes in baby and toddler development. She is the creator of NuBaby Wellness’ signature intelliPLAY program – a multisensory program designed to help parents learn how to support young children’s 3 pillars of intelligence: IQ, EQ & social intelligence using a loving and compassionate approach that strengthens connection and communication. www.NUBABYWELLNESS.com

ASK CHILDBEARING: I am going stir crazy!!

Q: I am going stir crazy at home with my new baby. I find myself pacing in front of the window for an hour before my partner gets home from work. What can I do to alleviate this terrible monotony?

A: Oh I know how that feels! I remember those days myself—feeling marooned at home and disconnected from real life. It is a very isolating feeling.

Luckily, even though you feel utterly alone in those moments, you are far from alone in that experience. Many new parents find themselves feeling stuck, bored, and trapped during the first few weeks or months with their newborns. Here are some tips from the trenches:

  • There are many, many groups for new parents in Vancouver
    • La Leche League has free monthly meetings, wonderfully supportive and a great place to connect with other new parents
    • The Childbearing Society’s Postpartum Classes are informative and social—every Monday 12:30 – 2pm right here at 3569 Commercial Street. Only $5, and the first one is free
    • Local Health Units host free parent/baby groups weekly, led by community health nurses
    • Neighbourhood Houses & Family Centres have free daily or weekly play groups for parents and babies
    • Libraries have weekly or bi-weekly story/song time for parents & babies
    • Mother Goose hosts mama/baby play & song-time; Man in the Moon does the same for fathers
    • Community Centres almost all have parent/baby groups that cost a small amount and require registration
    • Other organizations, such as Gymboree, some art/dance companies, offer “classes” for parents & babies
    • There are many postpartum fitness groups that include bringing your baby (stroller fitness, mom/baby yoga, kanga-training, mom/baby dance, zumba…)
    • There are events for you geared towards bringing your baby (Movies for Mommies, Mom’s the Word, etc)
  • Connect with other new parents
    • Contact the other graduates from your prenatal classes. Chances are they are feeling the same way and would love to get together for a late morning coffee. Arrange a weekly meeting time.
    • Go for walks with your pre-baby friends. Load baby into a sling or carrier and walk briskly with a friend or two. It’s a great way to get endorphins, get energized, and get fit again
  • Don’t be afraid to take baby places
    • It is relatively easy to take baby to restaurants & cafes when they are too young to crawl
    • You can go to art galleries, museums, movies, and even some plays or concerts (depends on the venue) with a baby in a sling or carrier
    • You can go hiking or snow-shoeing while wearing your baby
  • As soon as baby is old enough, try wearing baby on your back in a mai-tai, ergo, baby back-pack, or equivalent
    • Once baby is 4 – 5 months old and be safely carried on your back, a whole new world of hands-free possibilities opens up

Beyond this list, be creative!

Talk to other parents and see what worked for them. The first step, is getting out of house and connecting with other people who understand what its like. The second step is figuring out how to incorporate baby into your new life—discovering what you can still do with baby in tow, and new activities that you can enjoy together. Soon, this will all seem easy. And eventually, your baby will be running off to enjoy his or her own independent activities, and you’ll be wondering what to do with so much free time.


This event is open to expectant and new parents, and others, including maternal health professionals, doulas and educators interested in learning more about pregnancy, birth, babies, postpartum and beyond!

Each night one movie will be shown from our collection which includes some of the all time favorites such as The Business of Being Born, Orgasmic Birth, What Babies Want, Waterbirth in the 21st Century, Birth As We Know It, Doula The Ultimate Birth Companion, Why Not Home?, Laboring Under An Illusion, Microbirth and many more!
A short discussion follows screening.

Please come join us for our movie nights! Popcorn will be served!

2017 Dates: Jan. 23, March 30, May 25, July 24, September 20 and November 15.
Time: 715-845pm.
Registration is required as our space is limited.

Cost: Pay What You Can, suggested $5.00 per person


Decisions, Decisions Decisions: How Do We Decide To Thrive?


The one thing I know for sure about being a parent is that we are faced with an endless stream of decisions. And for possibly the first time in our lives, we’re faced with making some really important decisions on someone else’s behalf.


That feels like kind of a big deal.


Combined in this perfect storm is the fact that none of us parents really know what the heck we’re doing and we’re all just figuring it out as we go along. We’re all just doing the very best we can (often on not nearly enough sleep!).


Never has it felt more important to make the “right” decisions and never have we felt more unsure and ill equipped.


Add into the mix the fact that consumer marketing loves to prey on this goldmine of parental love and insecurity with the latest product and gadget that will for sure guarantee that your precious child will grow up healthy, happy and successful.   Let alone the endless, sometimes well-meaning and often conflicting, barrage of unsolicited advice on how to do this parenting thing right.


It can be overwhelming to say the least.


We forget that all our children really need is us. We forget that the simple solution is usually the one that serves us all in the grander scheme of things.


After more than a decade of being a parent and supporting hundreds of parents through green and healthy choices for their families, and more deeply supporting moms to create lives we truly love and that are truly aligned with what we value….There are a few things I know for sure:


  1. Simplicity tends to be part or all of the solution.


  1. Going outside to play tends to supply the answer to life’s greatest questions.


The other is this:


  1. Developing the capacity to make the decisions that are right for YOU and your family is the most important parenting skill you’ll ever master. (Heck it’s the most important skill for anyone living a thriving life and to teach your children how to live their own thriving lives.)


All the while knowing that what’s right for someone else isn’t necessarily what’s right for you… AND (this is equally if not more important) knowing that what’s right for you isn’t necessarily what’s right for your friend or that other mama in the park. And knowing THAT is where we can come together and not only survive but to thrive in our parenting journey.


Simple stuff then right?


As always, mastering any skill takes practice. The best part about the parenting journey is that it serves up ENDLESS opportunities to practice choosing what is going to support you and your family to thrive. At least a thousand times a day.


Perfection isn’t the goal. Perfection doesn’t exist in the human experience so aiming for it is a sure way to drive yourself crazy (for realz).


Let’s remember that we’re in this together and welcome every decision as an opportunity to practice being ourselves and an opportunity to learn and be open. If we do that, we’re going to be just fine. It takes a village not only to raise a child but to thrive deeply in our lives.


You’ve got this.


Big Love to each and every one of you as you decide to thrive.


View More: http://lindynwilliams.pass.us/20160525-tanisframe-whistlerTanis Frame is a science geek, a thrive-catalyst and a mama to two fierce young girls who both inspire her and drive her nuts on a daily basis. She is also the powerhouse behind the Decide to Thrive Revolution supporting women to create the thriving lives they truly yearn for, especially while raising the next generation. With a background in environmental health she’s also passionate about creating green and healthy spaces where we and our little ones can flourish. She’s got your back. Find her at www.tanisframe.com



Meet Tanis

Top Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy: How to Eat Organic Food without Breaking the Bank

By Iona Bonamis


Most of us know that proper nutrition while you are pregnant is essential. By getting all of the necessary nutrients that you and your baby need, you can help reduce the risk of pregnancy complications as well as longer-term, chronic diseases later on in your baby’s life. What often gets ignored, though, is the quality of the food we eat. I am referring specifically to organic food versus food grown conventionally with pesticides.


Why is the distinction important? For one, there is growing consensus amongst scientists that exposure to even small amounts pesticides can cause lasting damage to human health, especially during fetal development and early childhood. Secondly, an increasing number of studies have found that organic production of dairy, meat and produce can boost key nutrients in foods, including antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. That means eating organic food not only helps support a safer and healthier environment; it also supports our own health and our baby’s health and development.


One of the concerns I often hear, though, is that organic food is too expensive. While organic food can cost more than conventional food grown with pesticides and chemical fertilizers, the price difference varies from food to food. There are also many options for more affordable organic food. Below are some tips that will help you eat more organic food without breaking the bank.

  • Plan ahead on what you want to buy organic and focus on getting the best deals for those items by shopping around various stores and vendors.
  • You also want to prioritize what you want to purchase organic. Depending on what you and your family’s preferences are, you may want to focus on buying organic foods for items that are on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen, which are the foods that often contain the highest levels of pesticide residues in their conventional versions. You may also want to focus on purchasing meats, eggs, and dairy products that have been humanely produced. Or you may want to eat locally and organically produced products. Or you may want to simply purchase as much organic food as you can! Whatever your preferences are, keep them in mind when you are shopping.
  • Buy in bulk. Many vendors (including online vendors and farmers) offer discounts when you purchase in bulk. If your family isn’t able to meet the minimum quota, consider asking your friends and families to join in on a buy. There are also many group buys now on Facebook.
  • Learn to read labels and get in the habit of reading labels. Also ask the vendor questions about what their various terms really mean. This will help you understand what is really worth spending your money on. For example, did you know that while organic chickens and cows eat organic feed and are not given antibiotics, they are often raised in confinement? The same is true for chickens and cows fed vegetarian feed. Healthier and more humane choices are organic AND pasture-raised chickens and grass-fed cows, as they actually obtain more nutrients and spend plenty of time outdoors.
  • Cut out the middleman and buy direct from farmers through farmers’ markets or community supported agriculture (CSA) programs where you prepay a subscription to a farmer’s produce for the season, or pick your own produce at a farm. There are lots of farmers’ markets, CSA programs, and U-Pick farms throughout Metro Vancouver, and they are typically a lot more affordable than buying from a store. Depending on the food item, it can be even cheaper than a conventional version of the food item, and much fresher! You also have the opportunity to ask questions about how the food is grown. And, to top it off, many CSA programs offer home delivery! You’ll find some of my favourites listed here.
  • Grow your own food! When you grow your own food, you know exactly what has gone into them. Plus, if you have little ones, they can join in and help out, and learn first-hand where their food comes from!


As an Eco-Maternity Consultant and founder of A Healthy Beginning, Iona Bonamis helps new and expecting parents, and caregivers create greener and healthier homes, bodies, and environments for themselves and their children. Through one-on-one consultations and group workshops, she empowers parents and caregivers to become advocates of their own health. There is a lot of information out there warning us about various health hazards and harmful chemicals, and it can be overwhelming and even paralyzing to think about it. Iona helps people overcome this fear by breaking down the information and focusing in on what’s important to them. She helps them concentrate on what they can easily and realistically incorporate into their daily lives, and what is really important to them. http://ahealthybeginning.ca/


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