Before I was released from the hospital with the baby I sat with the nurse going over the discharge papers. I asked her when I could get back to exercising. She said oh, maybe about two weeks and then asked what it is I do. She probably should have done that in reverse order... I told her Zumba and I could see by the expression on her face that she was regretting having told me only two weeks. She said she'd been thinking walking, or yoga and that perhaps for Zumba I ought to wait at least three. She was being nice, I could tell she didn't really think three was enough either. Ultimately, I decided to wait six weeks, until I could visit with my doctor for a check up and get the go-ahead from her. That worked out very well actually and not just for me.
Six weeks is a very good age for introducing a baby to a bottle if that's something you want or need to do. My older son never really took bottles well at all and since I was at home with him, there didn't seem to be much point in trying to force the issue. I waited until he was about 6 months and just started a sippy cup. I didn't start Zumba until he was 18 months old and by then he was an independent eater. With my younger son, I knew, even as I was pregnant, that bottles were going to be a necessity if I wanted to be able to get out to Zumba class. When he was six weeks old, I left a bottle of expressed milk for Bry to feed him with and headed on out to class.
Here are a some helpful hints for nursing moms that want to get back to Zumba:
1) Talk to your doctor and get the approval first. Make sure you're recovered fully before you go back. Zumba is a high impact activity and it's possible to over-do it.
2) Double up on the sports bra. Seriously. For you ladies with kids, you're probably getting a good chuckle. For those of you still in the planning or pre-planning stages, remember this for later.
3) Lily Padz. Just saying. Sweat is one thing, milk is another.
4) Don't worry about your Zumba clothes. Chances are, they still fit post-partum even when your regular stuff doesn't. That's the wonderful thing about any fabric blended with spandex.
So off I go to my first class as a mom of two. Jae had taken over Saturdays full time by then, and boy did it feel great to be back. A touch out of shape though. Any time you take a long-ish break from Zumba, expect to feel a little bit sore afterwards (or maybe during...). Part of my problem was that there were songs that had been introduced while I was pregnant that I'd had to tone down for safety reasons. During that time, I would think about how much I was looking forward to being able to do some step the regular way (as opposed to modified) after I'd had the baby. With safety not an issue anymore, I couldn't help but throw myself into every song full blast thinking: "Yay high impact!" (Zoomer by Les Jumo being a prime example for anyone who's heard the song). Not so yay the stiffness later. It wasn't too bad though and by my third class back, I wasn't sore anymore and I knew that I'd recovered my endurance. So that's what was happening at class, but what was happening at home?
The first time I left the bottle for the baby, he took it from Bry like a champ. Hooray! I thought, this will be easy. No...no. This turned out to be like a no-hitter in baseball where if you talk about it, it jinxes the whole thing... The second class, the baby fussed at Bry but he did eventually take the bottle. By the third class, he was fighting Bry a lot more and only drank a little of the bottle. By the fourth class, I came home to find the bottle just as full as when I'd left and harried Bry with a fussy baby. Here's where I have to give Bry a lot of credit because after that
fourth class, he didn't say to me: "Please stay home". What he did was
help me try to figure out something different to try for the coming
week. Before the fifth class, I tried to find a different bottle I thought would work. My my nephew loved a certain kind so I tried leaving the milk in one of those the fifth week. Again, no luck; the baby just would not take a bottle anymore.
**Side note: If bottles are truly vital to your daily life, as in your baby needs to be in daycare because you work, the advice I've heard in a situation like this is to buy a lot of different types of bottles in order to find "the one" your baby will take. Being at home with my sons, I didn't feel it was necessary to spend a lot of money on bottles.**
So what was the Zumba Mommy to do? Well by now the baby was 12 weeks old (about 3 months). I knew that the older he got, the longer he'd be able to go between feedings so I didn't feel like I had to stop going out to class because things were going to get steadily easier. Again, having a supportive husband was really wonderful. The same as when we only had the one son, without Bry's help, it wouldn't have been possible for me to go to class. Together, we determined that if I took the last 20 minutes before I left for class to nurse the baby, and then nursed immediately after walking in the door, the amount of time I was away at class (plus travel time) was just exactly the amount of time the baby could go between feedings. That's what I did for six weeks and by then he was 4.5 months old.
At 4.5 months is when I introduced our older son to infant cereal and I decided it was time to offer it to our younger son. The baby loved it! He gobbled it down by the bowlful. What this meant for me was that his nursing needs were no longer so immediate. If I fed him some cereal in the morning, 15 minutes before I walked out the door, he was able to last long enough that I could come home and have a post-Zumba shower first before having to feed him something else. All of a sudden, leaving for class was a lot easier.
Another challenge Bry and I faced was napping. At 4.5 months, he was still nursing before and after napping so I was usually the only one who could put him down or get him up. Putting him down for a nap was typically what I did immediately after showering. There were times though when he would just be fussing so much that Bry would put him in his room for a nap and after a few minutes of more fussing, the baby would actually nod off. At six months, I started pulling back a little on the number of times a day I'd nurse starting with the sessions post-nap, then with the sessions pre-nap. By 7 months, I was only nursing at breakfast, lunch, and bedtime. This made it considerably easier for Bry to put the baby down for a nap if he needed one while I was gone.
Today, our little Zumba baby is 15.5 months old and he loves music. For a little guy, he sure can keep a beat well. This may just be a proud mama talking, but he has better rhythm now than I did BZ (before Zumba). I see him sitting and bobbing his head or rocking his body or kicking his feet in time to songs I play. I found out just this week that he seems to like Wisin & Yandel as much as I do.
For me, taking that hour a week to go to class has been (and will continue to be) so worth the effort. A stay-at-home parent has many little breaks here and there every day and all week long, but when I say all week long, I mean all seven days and these are fairly inconsistent. A parent working outside the home (in most cases) has distinct work hours with equally distinct down time. I'm not saying that one is better and/or easier than the other, I'm simply pointing out a major difference. In our household, I am the stay-at-home parent and I love my job. It is infinitely rewarding and I wouldn't trade with Bry if I could. So I like to call my Zumba class "my weekend" because it's my very own distinct down time. It's how I recharge myself, how I let go of the stress that just seems to come with the job.
Best advice: The word parent is not synonymous with the word martyr. If there's a class you take that you love, you don't have to stop just because you become a parent either for the first time or to subsequent children. If you can, make every effort to find a way to go. The reward is a happier, healthier person.