Dance After Pregnancy

Getting Back to the Studio

a woman in exercise clothes stretching on a mat
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If you are pregnant or have recently delivered a baby, you may be wondering how long it will be before you can safely return to your dance classes. In the past, long postpartum recoveries kept dancers out of the studio for months.

Today, however, it is possible to return to the studio, and to your pre-baby body, much more quickly. Because most dancers tend to be in great shape prior to becoming pregnant and continue to dance during pregnancy, their recovery times tend to be a lot shorter.

However, some experts recommend waiting six weeks before doing any exercise at all, while others tell new mothers that they can start as soon as the day after they give birth. Following are a few things to consider when returning to dance after pregnancy.

Restoring Flexibility

After having a baby, you might find your body a little less flexible than before you were pregnant. During pregnancy, your pelvic joints and ligaments are relaxed courtesy of a hormone called relaxin, giving you a greater range of motion to deliver a baby. After you have the baby, production of relaxin decreases and those ligaments tighten up. But fear not, your flexibility will slowly return by stretching.

  • Tips for Stretching Postpartum
  • Stretch slowly and don't bounce.
  • Don't stretch to the point of pain.
  • Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds.
  • Breathe deeply through each stretch.

Getting Your Fitness Back

If you had a rough delivery or required a c-section, don't be surprised if it takes you longer than some women to get back into pre-pregnancy condition. Even if the baby weight falls off quickly, you may not feel like yourself for a while. For example, climbing a simple flight of stairs may leave you winded, whereas before you barely noticed the effort.

As you return to the studio, listen to your body. Even if you feel like it, don't jump back into the same intensity you were doing before your baby was born. Remember that your body has undergone several changes and needs time to recover and possibly time to heal. Be gentle with yourself and take your time.

Breastfeeding and Dance

It's perfectly natural to want to breastfeed your newborn baby, even if you plan on returning to an exercise program such as dancing. Many dancers return to the studio while still nursing their babies. If you do, keep in mind that your breasts are more than likely fuller than usual.

You may need extra support, possibly even a support bra underneath your leotard. Also, be prepared to be a little off-balance with your larger chest size. You may experience a bit of leakage from the breasts, as many new mothers do.

If you find the leaking embarrassing, try sticking a nursing pad inside your bra, between the bra and your breasts. The pad will absorb any milk that leaks, preventing wet spots on your leotard.

Many new dancing moms wonder if vigorous dancing will negatively affect their milk supply or cause nursing problems in their newborns. Studies have shown no decrease in milk production for women who exercised, and some studies even showed a slight increase.

Nutrient composition is also the same, but there may be an increase in lactic acid buildup. However, lactic acid present in breast milk poses no known harmful effects to your baby.

If your baby seems to dislike the taste of your breast milk after a dance class, try breastfeeding right before your class. The lactic acid that may be present in your breast milk after dancing will be gone when the time comes to breastfeed your baby again.

If you do decide to continue breastfeeding as you return to dancing, be sure to drink enough fluids to meet the demands of both breast milk production and fluid lost through perspiration. Take an extra bottle of water and replenish your fluids as needed.