It sure feels like everywhere you look someone’s talking about diastasis recti.
And with so much information out there it can feel overwhelming and anxiety-boosting.
There are so many ideas on…
What to do.
What not to do.
What “healed” even means.
How to even check it or assess it in the first place.
It’s honestly not something to freak out about – unless it’s not healing well (you’ve got a deep, big gap beyond 2ish finger-widths and your linea alba isn’t responding well to be challenged – more on that here) or it’s impacting your life/exercise life in some way.
But I get that there’s so much (scary) information out there about diastasis (and how “ruined” your body is) that you’re wondering what you can do to help ensure your abs heal, and heal well.
So I thought it would be helpful to share what I’ve been doing post-baby #2 to help my own core and pelvic floor recover.
Now before we dive in I want you to keep in mind that there is absolutely no one-size fits all approach to healing diastasis.
Every body is different.
Every case is different.
The truth is we spend countless hours Googling “best kind of formula”, “perfect swaddle”, “how to get that yellow poop stain out of my favourite white sweater” but there’s no one best way to do this whole mom thing. There’s always a handful of ideas and some work well for some people and others work great for other people.
The same is true when it comes to diastasis. Different approaches and different strategies work for different people.
That’s why it’s impossible to say “Do this and your diastasis will heal 100% – guaranteed!”
But it is possible to suggest some strategies that’ll likely help – especially if you tweak them in a way that works well for you.
So don’t take this as the way to heal diastasis.
Take this as one way to help heal diastasis.
With that in mind, here are some things I’m doing to help my own body recover.
1. Eating my Vitamins and Drinking Lots of H2O
There’s so much focus on doing certain exercises to help heal diastasis, but nutrition plays a huge role as well.
Just like any other injury to the body, there are some key nutrients your body needs to recover and regenerate muscle and tissue.
That’s why I’m eating lots of yummy foods rich in vitamins A & C – which help our bodies heal well.
Good quality protein (something our muscles and tissues need to repair and recover) and bone broth because it’s full of collagen, amino acids and minerals that also help our bodies heal and repair (especially when it’s made with organic bones).
And drinking plenty of water and nourishing tea (Dr. Jolene Brighten has some great tea recipes – and other amazing info – in her book Healing Your Body Naturally After Childbirth).
If you’re expecting your body to rebound and recover well, you better give it the building blocks it needs to do just that.
I know it’s sometimes hard as a mom to make the healthiest choices, but doing the best you can is better than not doing anything at all.
Don’t spread the guilt thick. Don’t punish yourself for being “bad”. Just eat as well as you can.
You don’t have to be perfect, but being mindful about what you put in your body (like choosing a delicious smoothie full of protein, fat, fiber and greens over a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin) can help you on so many levels – even beyond healing your diastasis.
2. Being Aware of my “Mom Stance”
Did your booty up and disappear after baby popped out?
You’re not alone.
Sooo many mamas have this as their new reality and it’s probably because you’re rocking the Mom Stance.
View this post on Instagram
Mom Butt. It happens. Before baby you had a 🍑 now you feel it looks more like a 🥞Why? Well one of the culprits could be the Mom Stance (as seen in pic number one). You tuck your booty under and lean back to hold, cuddle and rock baby. Doing this once in a while is no biggie. Doing this all the time changes your body and helps contribute to the Mom Butt issue (which isn’t just about looks – strong glutes help create a strong pelvic floor so it’s a functional issue too). So aim for pic two instead – untuck your booty and stack your ribs over your hips – as often as you can. It may feel weird at first and it takes more work – your muscles have to work harder to stay in alignment. But it’s better for your body and your booty 🍑🍑🍑 #mombutt #mombod #glutesfordays #postpartumbody
Your entire core system – including your diastasis – is being impacted by the butt tucked under, chest flared look.
How you’re aligned – AKA how you stack your body bits on top of one another – can have a huge impact on your body’s ability to help heal a diastasis.
If your body is out of alignment how can your body work the way it’s supposed to work?
How can a diastasis heal as well as possible if your core system can’t work as well as possible because things are misaligned?
So stack those ribs over your hips (your boobs aren’t puffed up to the sky, or caved down toward the ground).
And untuck your booty (so your glutes can actually work and be a key player of your core team to help your entire core heal well).
Focus on trying to go for this alignment when you’re sitting, standing, walking and moving.
Again – just like with the nutrition piece – it’s not about being perfect and doing this all day, every day.
It’s about being mindful and trying your best to be in more ideal alignment most of the time.
I’m using a few different breathing strategies to help my brain reconnect with my core, help my core remember to turn on when it’s supposed to, and make sure I’m not holding my breath (which can cause a lot of intra-abdominal pressure – pressure in your core – that definitely isn’t helpful when you have diastasis or other pelvic floor and core issues).
Here are the main strategies I’ve been using:
1. Julie Wiebe’s Blow Before You Go method – where you exhale and engage before you even move so you remind the core and pelvic floor to turn on and engage.
Sometimes our core system forgets how to function post-baby so it just needs a little nudge to say “Oh yeah! I’m supposed to be on now!” That’s the reasoning behind BBYG – to remind the system to work well and become an automatic response once again.
So, for example, if I’m about to get up off the floor or a chair, I would exhale before I move then keep exhaling throughout the movement.
This protects the core and releases some of that intra-abdominal pressure that can build up if we hold our breath or don’t exhale.
It also encourages our brain and body to reconnect and work as a team again post-baby.
2. Exhaling when I’m doing something hard – even just getting up from sitting because right now my core and pelvic floor are still recovering so that is hard.
Again, the exhale releases some of the intra-abdominal pressure and encourages my core system to turn on so I’m protecting my muscles as I move.
3. Just breathing. Or avoiding holding my breath.
Like I said, when we hold our breathe we generate a lot of pressure in our core which isn’t helpful for a healing diastasis. So just breathing – without getting fancy on when to exhale, inhale, or any of that can be key as well.
For example, I sometimes find myself wanting to hold my breath after Nora falls asleep in my arms at her bedtime nursing session. As I’m getting up out of the chair to put her in her crib I find myself holding my breath. I guess I think I’ll wake her up if I breathe or breathe too loudly as I get up. So I’m constantly just reminding myself to avoid breath holding – in this and other instances – and to just breathe through movements.
You don’t have to get fancy with it or worry a ton about doing it “right”. Just breathe. That’s the important part.
4. Stretching & Massage
Imagine your diastasis recti as an open jacket.
If someone came up behind you and started pulling on either side of the jacket it’d be a lot harder to zip it closed, right?
The same idea applies to the muscles that connect to your core (and your entire body is a system of interconnected muscles so that basically covers every muscle. Ha! 😉 ).
We want flexible, relaxed muscles that aren’t pulling on our abs and making it harder for our diastasis to heal.
So stretching your entire body – and even getting a massage (or five) if it’s an option for you – can be extremely helpful.
Here are some of the stretches I’m doing.
5. Of Course, Working my Core
And last but not least, I’m exercising and doing specific core movements to help gain back some strength and stability in my core.
I put this last because I want to be clear that this is not the thing to focus on.
Yes, the exercises can be extremely helpful. But we need to look at the broader picture if we want the best results.
So do your exercises, and adopt the other strategies as well.
And – of course – make sure that you’re not overdoing it with the exercises. Especially in the beginning. It may feel super easy but remember, your body is in rehab mode. It’s probably not gonna do well with 100 deadbugs at 4 weeks postpartum.
Focus on rest and recovery first.
Then go into your rehab and retraining.
And give yourself permission to go slow and progress when your body is ready.
Some of the exercises that I’ve been doing include:
1. Core Breathing (doing my kegels and engaging my core before I even do anything else to remind my body what’s about to go down and how I want it to respond)
2. Heel Drops
3. Between the Knees Ball Squeezes + Kegels
5. Leg Reaches on All Fours (If reaching your leg all the way out feels too much, too soon, start with just lifting the knee a couple inches off the ground and then lowering it again)
And remember – every body is different. Every case is different.
So if your friend can do heel drops without any issues but you can feel your abs not responding well to that exercise (you’re getting any pain, coning, doming or just feeling like something isn’t working right), substitute another exercise or get some professional help to assess and improve your strategy.
And don’t freak out.
Coning and doming are not the end of the world. They’re simply clues that your body is giving you to suggest that you need to adjust your approach or try something different.
It’s all about coming at this from an open, growth mindset and giving yourself permission to adjust and try other approaches if the exercise or strategy you’re using just isn’t working.
Continually ask yourself if this feels good on your body and pay attention to the signs your body gives you.
Like I said from the get-go, there is no one best way to do this whole diastasis healing situation.
There are plenty of strategies and approaches that work well.
The point is to find the ones that work well for you.
I hope this gives you some ideas on where to start.
P.S. How’s your diastasis healing journey going? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. See you there!