Monday, April 30, 2018

Maternal Mental Health


Fit 4 Two founder Melanie Osmack had the pleasure of interviewing Camille Mehta, a Vancouver mom of four and recent TEDx Vancouver speaker.

In your TEDx talk you share your personal journey with postpartum depression. Tell me about the moment you decided you wanted to share your story at a TEDx.

It was actually a friend and TED alum who first asked me if I would consider doing a TED talk on the subject of maternal mental health. I first wanted to share the journey of my post-baby successes as an athlete (I’d taken up triathlon) and an artist. But then it became clear that the message I had that would really make a difference in people’s lives was a darker but more universal one. Descent into and climb out of postpartum depression. I was pretty nervous about opening up publicly, but now I am glad I did.

How many women are affected by maternal mental health problems?

This is a hard question to answer because when we count women who are affected by maternal mental health problems, we can only count the women who come forward. That is where the 13% - 20% comes from. But anecdotal evidence shows that the number is much, much higher. I’m certain that if every woman who experienced maternal mental health issues including depression, anxiety, OCD and PTSD came forward, the number would be at least 80%.

In your TEDx talk, you said something that made my shout out “Heck ya!” even though I was home a alone.  You talk about how maternal mental health is NOT a women’s problem.  It is a society problem.  Tell me more about this.

I love your reaction! That is fabulous. Yes. People don’t want to think that pregnancy or new parenthood can bring on mental illness. The idea of a mentally ill mother is too terrifying. So it is shoved out of the public sphere and into the sphere of those experiencing it. Namely mothers. But the problem with this is two-fold.

First, maternal mental illness doesn’t just affect mom. It can ravage a marriage and if it isn’t treated, it can have profound effects on the kids. Ask any grown up who was raised by a mentally ill mother and they will have stories. Maternal mental illnesses affect all societies and all walks of life.

Second, I really do not think it is possible for someone to recover from mental illness fully without the help and compassion from their community. Mental illnesses like depression tell us all sorts of lies about ourselves and our relationships with others. Things like “I am not worthy of love”, “They would be better off without me”, “I am a monster”. Meaningful connections with those in our community such as family and friends and even strangers help to put this crazy inner dialogue into a more rational perspective.

Maternal mental illnesses have a huge impact on society and can also be soothed by society.

It is a well known fact that exercise is incredibly important for mental health. The benefits exponentialize when exercising as part of a community.  When I reached out to you, you very candidly told me that you had always wanted to attend our Fit 4 Two classes but you just couldn’t.  That made me really sad but it also made me realize that there must be something more we can do to help moms struggling with post partum depression and anxiety to come out to our classes….where they can meet other moms, get support, build  their community….and of course benefit from the feel good hormones, endorphins, from exercise. How do you think we can do better?

First, I want to say, “Thank You!” for everything including the opportunity for fitness WITH your baby and for the community building that you do.

In my case, I had my kids so close together (four kids in five years) that it quickly went from ‘Fit 4 Two’ to fit for three, then four, then five. Lol.

Often when a mom is struggling, even just getting out the door can be a challenge. And many women probably don’t know how positive an impact safe, inclusive, group fitness can have on their mental and emotional well being. I can really see a benefit in advertising with and partnering Fit 4 Two with hospitals, prenatal classes, Pacific Postpartum Support Society and Women’s hospital. I believe that accessing moms at a point of contact where they are already seeking help would save them the step of looking for your classes. It would also let them know that a Fit 4 Two class is not just about physical fitness, but is also about the benefit of connection, community and emotional support.

You talk about how the rate of suicide goes up 70% from women the first year postpartum.  That the leading cause of death in new mothers is suicide. This is hard information to hear never mind process.  How do you think we can get this information out there?

This is so important. I actually made sure that I found several studies that supported the fact that the leading cause of death in new mothers is suicide because it was so shocking. I was like, “Can this be true?!”.  Sadly, it is the heartbreaking truth.

The only way to get this information out there is to not hide from the truth. We have to keep talking to mothers, to fathers, to grandparents, to co-workers, to friends. As a society, we have to make sure that everyone knows that mental illness is a very real and very likely effect of pregnancy and new parenthood, that it does not diminish the beauty of this stage, that it is not something to be ashamed of and that it can be overcome.

So much of the pain of mental illness comes from feelings of inadequacy and agonizing shame. An aware and supportive community may not be able to make maternal mental illnesses like postpartum depression go away completely, but it can take away the anguish of isolation and shame. This CAN save a life.

You talk about reaching out and reaching in.  Moms reaching out for help and allies reaching in to help. What are some things that allies can do to support a new mom who is struggling?

First, is to recognise that every new parent is likely struggling to some degree and instead of asking if baby is a good sleeper (are they ever?) instead ask “How are YOU?” Once baby is born, mom or dad don’t get asked how THEY are very often. Invite them to share their authentic experience about parenting without jumping to offer advice or judgement.

Next? Bring food! It doesn’t have to be cooked, it doesn’t have to be home made. It can even just be a couple grocery staples. This is especially helpful if there are other kids in the house. My favorites are milk, juice, fruit, cheese and crackers or bread. Even coffee cake. I always appreciated a healthy snack I could give myself or my kids. Some amazing friends brought delicious home made dinners and that was also so wonderful. Some of my friends and family would call me up while they were at the grocery store and ask if I needed anything. This was a life saver the night before school lunches or if I’d suddenly run out of milk or formula or diapers (!) and I’d not got a chance to go myself. I’d then just e-transfer them money for the bill.

New parents also just sometimes need a little bit of time. If allies can gift a little of their own time it can make a world of difference. Offer to watch baby for a little while so mom can have a shower, pay bills, go for a walk or run to the store. Or offer to pick up older kids from school.

And lastly, parenting can be lonely so be a friend. I loved it when a friend would come by, have a beer and just hang out.

Watch Camille's TEDx Talk here

May 2nd is Maternal Mental Health Day. To raise awareness as well as funds for local postpartum support societies in BC and Manitoba, Fit 4 Two is donating 50 cents for each Facebook share and Instagram comment on May 2nd.  Our goal (and budget) is to raise $1000.  

We are also asking people to donate directly to the Pacific Post Partum Support Society and the Post Partum Depression Association of Manitoba.  Even though maternal mental health is a serious public health epidemic that effects everyone in society, organizations like these do not receive enough funding to serve the women who need them.  They rely on donations from people like you. 

Monday, April 9, 2018

Coming to Class with a Baby and an Older Sibling

 

No doubt about it, many parents are intimidated by the idea of working out with more than one child.

I remember my own experience easing back into fitness after my second babe. I was attending Stroller Fitness classes as a participant, pushing my Mountain Buggy Double packed to the gunwhales with snacks, diapers and a yoga mat. Fifteen minutes into my first class, I was sitting on the front nursing my youngest while passing Cheddar Bunnies to the other... a ton of work, indeed, and I wondered if I would manage to get any of the exercises in! But I stuck with it and I quickly learned to show up ahead of class to give my newborn a feeding on the park bench while my older daughter burned off a bit of energy at the playground, followed by a pit-stop & diaper change. At the beginning of class, I gave my eldest a Snack Trap full of granola and a sippy cup, while my youngest would soon doze off when we started moving. By the end of class, my eldest was happy to get out of the stroller to do her 'stretches' with the grown-ups and be a helper when I needed to attend to her little sister. It wasn't long before I was reaping both the physical and mental benefits that I so often preach as an instructor!

I've had many parents attend classes with siblings successfully, and here's what works:
  • Class Types? Stroller Fitness and Stroller Bootcamp are both safe options for attending with a mobile older sibling.
  • Try it out first! Two schedules, two sets of needs... consider trying class as a drop-in first to see what works. Contact your local instructor to be sure that the class type you are attending allows drop-ins.
  • Be prepared. The night before, pack your diaper bag and stroller so getting out in the morning will be that much more stream-lined.
  • Make it special. One very successful mom used to bring special plaintain chips for her older daughter to munch on while she worked out, and she reserved this snack as 'Stroller Fitness Only' - her 2yr old quickly caught on! This also works with special toys or new library books.
  • Make a day of it! Since it takes so much work to get out in the first place, plan to make the day an outing. Visit the playground or indoor play gym ahead of time to burn off the energy of an older sibling. Pack a nutritious lunch for afterwards and have a picnic!
  • Involve Your Child. Keeping safety in mind, let your older child be part of your workout. Let him help count out your reps, or have fun naming the exercises that you're doing. During core & stretch, encourage your older child to get down on their own 'mat' (diaper change pad, blanket, etc) and do the exercises with you - as you can see below, it's never to early to be a positive role model for your child!
  • Feel proud of yourself. You are making it work mom! Not only that but you are showing the first time moms that it doesn't have to be perfect. That it can be messy. And that's okay.  You are an inspiration!
  

What has worked for you?

Monday, March 26, 2018

What to Expect at Fit 4 TwoⓇ Stroller Fitness

Trying a new class for the first time can be intimidating. Especially when you’re trying a class with your new baby.  But have no fear! You got this!

Fit 4 twoⓇ Stroller Fitness classes are a supportive environment where new moms come together to be active and create new friendships. We are a safe place, a place where attending to your child’s needs is encouraged!

What should you expect when coming to an outdoor Stroller Fitness class? Classes typically start in the foyer of your community center or park. It is there that you can pay your drop in or registration fee and meet your instructor. After everyone has completed their online intake forms (you can help class start on time by completing this form ahead of time), we’re off for a full-body workout!

As a stroller caravan we set out on our expedition. We begin with a brisk power walk and warm-up moves to raise our heart rate and prepare for exercise. Our goal for the class is to keep both mom and baby happy by delicately balancing our short power walking intervals with cardio and strength training drills along our route.

Although we never actually run with the strollers, you can expect a class that will get your heart rate up, build strength, improve posture and strengthen your core.

During our stops, we like to target common muscular imbalances that are common to new moms. This often includes exercises that help our posture, tone our arms and legs and engage our core and pelvic floor. For example, one stop station may include lunges and partner shoulder work using a resistance band.

Now what is baby doing during all of this? Some babies will be asleep in their stroller, some will happily be watching mom. If baby does need some attention, we understand. Taking a quick break or adjusting your exercise is more than acceptable.

After our strength and cardio work, we dedicate the last 10-15 minutes to postnatal specific core and stretching.  We teach progressively in order to include moms with or without Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation).  We do a full body stretch paying special attention to areas that are typically tight for new parents like the chest and lower back.

And after class? Why not grab a coffee with some of the moms you met!

Check out these two helpful blog posts: Your First Outdoor Fitness Class with Baby, Stroller Fitness Packing List; Fit 4 Two Stroller Fitness Gear Picks; Stroller Fitness vs Stroller Bootcamp.

Click here to find a Fit 4 TwoⓇ class near you

Packing List for Outdoor Fit 4 Two Classes


Stroller Fitness and Stroller Bootcamp give you the opportunity to exercise with baby outdoors! So what should you bring to class?

1. Stroller. You do not need a jogging stroller.  For safety reasons, no umbrella strollers please.

2. Carrier. If baby times out in the stroller you’ll have a safe, ergonomic way to carry her for the rest of class.

3. Full Water Bottle (or two).

4. Yoga Mat or Water Resistant Blanket.  We lie these down on the grass or soft playground surface for the core and stretch. Check out our favourite blanket-to-go on our Gear Post.

5. Exercise Band* Be sure to purchase yours from your Fit 4 Two® instructor so it is professional quality and a good value.

6. Diaper Bag Items. Diaper bags can be heavy.  Consider putting your basic baby needs for two diaper changes and a possible wardrobe change in a small light weight bag or Ziploc bag under your stroller.

7. Feeding needs.

8. ‘Keep Baby Happy’ tools.  For younger babies this might mean soothers and toys.  For older babies and tots this might mean a variety of snacks and toys.  Check out these awesome rings that you can use to attach toys to your stroller.

9. Sun/Rain Protection.  Sun: UV stroller cover, hats, sunglasses, sunscreen. (See our fav picks here) Rain: rain cover, rain jacket.

10. Reusable coffee mug and coffee money. Social health is vital to physical and mental health.  When you can, go for that coffee with the other moms after class.

Find a Fit 4 TwoⓇ Class near you

*Some locations sell gym-quality resistance bands that you can bring to each class and use for your at home workouts.

Your First Outdoor Fitness Class With Baby

Some tips from the trenches...

1. Choose a class time when your baby likes being in the stroller.  This increases your chances of having either a sleeping baby or a content awake baby.

2. Bring your carrier. If baby times out in the stroller you’ll have a safe, ergonomic way to carry her for the rest of class.

3. Pack your stroller the night before.  Then you can focus on getting you and your baby ready in the morning instead of rushing around looking for your keys. Pack: water bottle, yoga mat, resistance band*, baby items, and weather needs. Check out our packing list here.

4. Complete your online intake form ahead of time. This will prevent a late start.

5. Leave a little early. Leave time for the unexpected and avoid feeling rushed.

6. Know the class route.  If you are late, the class may already have left the meeting place.  If you know your route, you can catch up more easily.

7. Speak Up.  Let your instructor know if an exercise is causing you pain so we can give you an alternative.  Exercise is NOT supposed to hurt.  If you cannot see or hear your instructor, let her know.

8. Try to go with the flow.  If you are late, avoid rushing.  We would rather you arrive safe and stress-free. If your baby begins to cry, remind yourself that you are in a safe space.  Attend to your baby as you would at home.  Because we stop and go as well as double back, you’ll be able to find us.

9. If at first you don’t succeed, try again.  It is entirely possible that the very first class doesn’t go well.  We’ve observed that in an eight-class session, most moms will have at least one day they wish they could do over.  Unfortunately, this sometimes happens at the very first class.  If it does, try not to let it get you down.  Try again.  If the second class doesn’t go well either, you might consider a different class type, time of day or waiting a couple more weeks. As you have learned already, parenting is all about trouble shooting.

10. Go for that coffee after class.  Aside from regular exercise and eating well, one of the healthiest things you can do for you and your baby is to connect with others.  As these new friendships grow, so will your support network.  Remember to bring your reusable coffee mug.

Click here to find a Fit 4 TwoⓇ Stroller Fitness Class near you!

*Some locations sell gym-quality resistance bands that you can bring to each class and use for your at home workouts.

Stroller Fitness or Stroller Bootcamp? Making the best choice for you and your baby.



Choose Stroller Fitness if….
You are easing back into fitness or want to increase your fitness level
You want to improve endurance, strength, balance and flexibility
You want to improve core strength
You sometimes/always need low impact options
You need modifications for injuries
Your baby is just getting used to attending classes with you or is already comfortable at class
You have/do not have Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation)
You have/don't have pelvic floor condition
You are pregnant (Ex. You are attending class with your tot and you are pregnant again)

Choose Stroller Bootcamp if…
You want to increase your fitness level
You want to improve endurance, strength, power, speed, agility, balance and flexibility
You want to improve core strength
Since having this baby, you have already eased back into fitness and have been both strength training and doing impact cardio (ie running) for at least 8 weeks. This means your baby is at least 4 months old.
You rarely need low impact options 
You are completely injury-free
Your baby is comfortable at class
You do NOT have Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation)
You have a healthy pelvic floor
You are not pregnant

Check out these other helpful blog posts: Your First Outdoor Class with Baby, Fit 4 TwoⓇ Stroller Fitness Packing List.

Register for a Fit 4 TwoⓇ class in your community

Note: Stroller Fitness and Stroller Bootcamp take place outdoors or, if space allows, indoors on tracks or in large gymnasiums.  Click on ‘info’ when looking at your local class schedule to get full location details.

Our Gear Picks for Stroller Fitness Season

Parents often ask us about our favourite gear for outdoor classes.  Here are a few of our favs.  You can pick up most of these items locally but we have provided Amazon purchase links* as well. 



The Manhattan Toy Winkel

Why we like it: Tiny Fit 4 Two hands have been grasping and holding onto this light weight toy since 2006.  It's made of safe, BPA free plastic for teething and promotes 2-handed play.  
It also easily attaches to rings....which we will get to next.

Click here to purchase. CA$13.01*




TOTMYTOY Rings

Why we like them: These are the epitome of multi-use.  They are BPA free for teething, freezer safe, a toy on their own, attach a few to one main ring and they you have a rattle, easy to grasp and hold onto, AND you can link them together to make a chain and attach baby's toys to your stroller! No more lost toys!


Click here to purchase CA$13.19*





Snooze Shade


Why we like it:
It fits most strollers well, it has very high level of UV protection and the front zipper is perfect for checking on baby.


Click here to purchase $39.99*







Sportneer Water Resistant Blanket 


Why we like it: Durable, water resistant, generously sized, folds up easily, great for core & stretch at Fit 4 Two Stroller Fitness or a picnic at the beach.


Click here to purchase CA$19.99 *



THINK Baby Sun Screen


Why we like it: It has a rating of 1 (that's really good) on the EWG Skin Deep Data Base  and parents tell us it works well. Remember that sun screen is for babies 6 month and up. For younger babies invest in a good stroller sun cover and hat. 


Click here to purchase. CA$21.30*



Baby Bandz

Why we like them: These have been a favourite at Fit 4 Two since 2004. They offer excellent UV protection, babies don't seem to mind them and they stay on even the wiggliest baby.

Click here to purchase. CA$18.99*

Excited for outdoor classes? Click here to find a class near you. Not sure what to expect at an outdoor class? Click here for more info.

*The prices listed here were accurate March 26, 2018 at www.amazon.ca and subject to change on www.amazon.ca. Full disclosure: We are an Amazon affiliate so if you make a purchase via the links above we will earn a small commission.