One night, I walked in the door from work to find my partner on the floor, on his back, holding our giggling 6-month-old baby on his knees as he did leg lifts. It was cute, it was endearing, and it's how I learned what can happen when you work out with your baby. “You really have to try this,” my partner told me, promising this new type of baby-involved work out was a great for building core strength. And I couldn't deny that, yeah, he was probably onto something.
Turns out, there are numerous benefits to working out with your baby. Kristin McGee, Peloton Yoga Instructor and Pilates trainer who regularly worked out with her own three boys, spoke to Romper about the pros of recruiting your little one as a workout buddy.
Of course, McGee says parents should prioritize their baby's safety when planning a workout. "Check the weather if you're working out outside. Don't use heavy weights around your baby," she tells Romper. "Think more about yoga poses you can do, or wear them as you do your lunges or warriors."
There can also be safety considerations for you. Check with your doctor about when it's safe to start working out postpartum. "For moms with diastasis recti (split of the rectus or top layer of abs), avoid certain poses like crunches or anything that can make your DR worse," McGee says.
As long as you keep safety in mind, and are cleared for physical activity, there are many benefits to working out with your baby, whether you go to a Mommy and Me fitness class, incorporate your baby into your existing routine, or just play with your baby in ways that keep fitness in mind.
1. Baby Has So Much Fun!
At first your baby won't know or care about your routine or the number of reps you're throwing down. They only know you're swinging them through the air, and there's nothing more amazing than swinging through the air when you're too little to walk on your own. In other words, working out with your baby can be a great way to make them laugh.
This upside can be a healthy benefit for both you and your baby. "It's a great way to bond, and an awesome way for parents to sneak some exercise in and not feel guilty about being away from their child," McGee says. "Plus, it boosts feel good endorphins and is fun for both the baby and the parent."
2. Your Workout Is Entertaining
I don't know about you, but while I like being healthy as much as the next person, sometimes doing the same lifts over and over gets a little old. Fortunately, they now make free weights that make funny faces and cackle at you: babies.
As they get bigger, McGee says many babies really get into what you're doing and try to copy you. "The funniest moments are when they really truly soak up the workout. I've seen even little 6 month olds trying to do downward dogs! My 2-year-old twins try and mimic me by doing peeing dogs and cobras," she says. "It's so cute!"
Your Workout Gets Way Less Predictable
It is, admittedly, difficult to plan your workout when you never know if your workout buddy will spit up on you or need a diaper change. So if your baby interrupts your set, don't stress. Some workout is better than none, and any way you can get moving helps keep you healthy postpartum. "Make sure you try and time your workout for when you know they are usually happy," McGee says, "like after a good nap, or 30 minutes after a meal or breastfeeding."
To deal with the occasional interruption, McGee also recommends approaching the workout with equanimity. "Have fun and be prepared to go with the flow," she tells Romper. "Remember even 10 to 15 minutes of some kiss me push ups (baby lying under you) or chair pose squats while holding your precious little one is better than nothing!"
Your Challenge Increases As Your Baby Grows
As your baby grows, you can naturally increase your challenge level. It's one thing to do a few yoga poses wearing your 3-month-old baby in a Moby, but there's nothing like the core workout of trying to hold a lunge while your 18-month-old toddler squirms around in a front-facing carrier.
As your baby gets older, you can also expect them to participate in a different way. Your toddler will be more independently mobile and want to try to copy you instead of riding along, so you can try more challenging routines.
You Instill Positive Feelings About Exercise
When you show your baby that you are laughing and having fun while you exercise, that you feel good about it (and not conflicted about taking time from your kids to take care of yourself), and that it's fun for them too, they view exercise as a fun activity, and from an early age. They associate it with those positive feelings and healthy endorphins they get from being with you. They also get to see you try hard at something that might be frustrating and get better and better at it. Who knows... this might lead to a healthy attitude about exercise later in life, too!