Now that you have done the hard work of bringing your little one into the world and you have recovered from giving birth, how do you move forward for your health and fitness goals? Stretching and regular exercise postpartum is great for helping your body recover and feel good during this time. While any kind of stretching is beneficial, there are some post-baby stretches better than others. I’ve compiled some of the best postnatal stretches to get you feeling relaxed and mobile.
During the 4th trimester, my body felt stiff and exhausted all the time. Between sitting up in bed for night feedings slouched over to co-sleeping and only lying on one side but not sleeping because I was scared to roll over on my baby. After a few weeks of that, my body needed a little TLC.
Also during pregnancy, there are some postural changes your body goes through that now need to be restored to non-pregnant life. Things like anterior pelvic tilt, kyphosis, lordosis, and forward head tilt are compensations our body has made for the extra weight during pregnancy. Stretching daily can help mitigate these postural imbalances and lessen the aches and pains.
What Exercises are Safe Postpartum?
Most exercises are safe to perform postpartum as long as they don’t cause pain, discomfort, or bleeding. However, if you have diastasis recti, core exercises that cause coning or doming should be avoided.
Exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, planks, and crunches should be avoided until your diastasis recti has been resolved.
For a workout plan to help heal diastasis recti, check out my free two-week postpartum workout plan.
Can I Stretch Postpartum?
Absolutely! Postnatal stretching will help you soothe stiff muscles, improve posture, and feel relaxing after a long day of baby feedings and snuggles.
Here are detailed descriptions of my favorite stretches to relieve postpartum back pain, neck pain and stiff muscles. These are gentle enough to do within the first 6 weeks of postpartum. If you would like an instructional video, check out my Postpartum Stretches For New Moms video.
Door Frame Pectoral Stretch:
- Start by standing in an open doorway. Take your right arm and bend it into a 90° angle, palms facing the doorway.
- Push your forearm against the doorway and feel the stretch in your front shoulder and chest. You can bring a foot forward and press deeper into the stretch but be sure not to lean forward.
- You can lift your arm higher or lower depending on where you need to feel the stretch the most.
- Hold this for 1 minute and then repeat on the left side.
Kneeling Lat Stretch:
- Start kneeling on the floor on carpet or under a mat with feet hip-width apart.
- Stretch your arms out and lay them on a chair, coffee table, bench, or box keeping a straight line from your arms to shoulders.
- Make sure you are keeping your head and spine neutral and proper pelvic floor breathing throughout the stretch.
- You can bring your forearms up from the chair to deepen the stretch.
- Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position keeping your head in a neutral position.
- To begin the cow pose, inhale through your nose, relaxing your pelvic floor, lifting your chin and chest toward the ceiling and your belly moving towards the floor.
- Then move into cow pose by exhaling through your mouth, tightening the pelvic floor, and drawing your stomach inwards causing your back to round towards the ceiling.
- Alternate between cat and cow pose as frequent as you’d like for 2 minutes.
- Start with your hip-width apart and bring one leg forward into a lunge. Keeping the back leg straight, hold this position and feel the stretch in your front legs hamstrings and your back legs hip flexors.
- Gently lean forward on your front foot and release to deepen the stretch. If holding this position is tiring, you can lower the back leg.
- Release and switch legs to repeat this process.
- Starting on all fours, take your right knee forward towards your right wrist and lay your lower leg on the ground at a 90° angle. If that is too difficult you can always bring your lower leg closer to your upper leg.
- Your left leg is behind you straight out with your toes facing down.
- You can hold yourself upright and keep your hands shoulder-width apart, come down to your forearms, or lean your body forward resting your head on your arms in front of you.
- Hold this stretch for 1 minute and then switch sides.
- Begin on your right side with your knees stacked and at a 90° angle and your arms out in front of you. Inhale and draw your pelvic floor down and out with 360° belly expansion.
- Bring your left arm up and rotate your torso reaching towards the floor. Turn your head towards the left and exhale through your mouth bringing the pelvic floor up and bringing the belly in.
- Repeat this movement for one minute and then repeat on the other side.
- Start lying on your back in a neutral position with your knees bent and toes facing forward. Inhale in this position pushing your pelvic floor down and out with 360°breathing.
- Exhale bringing your pelvic floor up and in while pushing your pelvis up toward the ceiling.
- Continue to repeat this motion with each breath for 2 minutes.
- Begin seated on the floor and bring your feet together creating a diamond shape.
- Adjust your feet either closer or further from your hips to create a good stretch that is comfortable for you.
- Keep your spine elongated and lean forward and back throughout the 2 minute stretch.
- Begin on all fours with your knees just behind your hips and hands shoulder-width apart with your fingers evenly spread.
- While pressing your hands into the mat, tuck your toes under and lift your knees off the floor and straighten your legs as much as possible.
- For a good hamstring stretch, you can alternate bending your knees back and forth.
- Hold this for 2 minutes or as long as you feel comfortable.
- Leg stretch with Strap:
- Start lying on your back and wrap a strap, resistance band or towel around your right foot.
- Hold the ends of the strap and slowly bring your leg up as far as you can.
- Keep your knee straight and hold this position for 1 minute.
- Switch legs a repeat for 1 minute.
Seated neck release:
- Sit on the floor indian style or on a chair with your back straight.
- Position your hand under your bottom or hold the side of the chair to isolate the stretch. Then, place your left hand on the top of your head and gently tilt your head towards your left side.
- Hold this position for 1 minute and repeat on the right side.
- Starting on all fours, lower your hips toward your heels and bring your forehead on the floor. Hands can be shoulder width apart stretched in front of you or at your sides.
- Based on your preference, you can bring your knees close together or spread them apart.
- Breathe slowly in through your nose, relaxing your pelvic floor with 360° belly expansion. Exhale through your mouth bringing the pelvic floor up and bringing the belly in.
- Continue to rest here for 2 minutes.
Figure 4 Stretch:
- Start on your back with your feet flat on the floor.
- Cross your right ankle over your left knee while keeping your right foot flexed.
- Bring your left knee toward your chest, reach your right hand through your legs, and interlace your fingers just below the crease of your left knee.
- With your arms, gently pull your left knee toward your chest, holding it when you feel a stretch in your right glute and hip.
- Hold for one minute and then repeat on the other side.
- Hold this stretch for 2 minutes.
After all your body has been through to have your little one, it’s essential to treat it with care. Performing any of these stretches for a few minutes each day will help you feel more relaxed and your body will thank you for it. If you are looking for a more structured routine, check out my 2-week postpartum workout plan that is gentle enough to use as soon as you feel ready. Let me know in the comments which stretch is your favorite!