Strength training for a sleepy new dad
September 28, 2011 9:09 AM   Subscribe

I'm a first-time parent, and I worry that I'm getting into some bad habits, or at least a lack of good habits. Specifically, I snack at the late night feedings, and I don't exercise, usually because I'm worn out. Suggestions? More thoughts inside.

Baby light thief will be 6 weeks old this weekend. I took off the first two weeks to figure this whole parent thing out with my wife, but I've been back to work for a while. My wife's parents are taking care of much of our lives (cooking, cleaning, baby-tending during the day), which is fantastic. Daily tasks aren't a burden on us. But waking up ever 3 hours at night is leaving me a dazed, if not a complete zombie.

Add to that, at those late-night feedings I feel rather hungry, so I usually snack on some pita chips, almonds, or cookies (if they're around - that's the downside of having an idle baker in the house). Pre-baby, I'd wake up hungry, and eat breakfast around 7 or 8am, usually a bowl of cereal or pancakes on the weekend.

As for exercise: I'm 31 years old, and in decent shape. In college, I could do 60+ push-ups at a go and run for miles, but those days are behind me, and I've put on 20-30 pounds from my college weight. More recently I've been able to do a few pretty good push-ups, but my efforts to continue with push-ups would falter after a few days. Now, I walk a mile to and from work most week days, and I slack off completely on the weekend.

First question: what are some good late-night snacks, or ways to stay full/ignore hunger?

Second question: what are some good exercises I can do, even when I'm feeling worn down?

Additional thoughts and details: we don't have any real exercise equipment, so I've tried to improvise with house-hold items. Baby seat curls are fun, but the rubber handle is good at not slipping, making the palm of my hand sore after a while.
posted by filthy light thief to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
what are some good late-night snacks, or ways to stay full/ignore hunger?

Drink a glass of water. The downside is you'll have to pee more. The upside is that it's zero calories.
posted by alms at 9:17 AM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Try to eat large meals as consistently as possible.

But honestly, things with a little baby change so often, don't worry about getting into any habits.

For exercise, take baby on a walk in the stroller.
posted by k8t at 9:18 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is the baby breastfed? If so, I find it easier for me (mom) to sleep with baby and let my husband handle the toddler --- which means my husband and toddler get pretty regular sleep and I and the baby do our nursing and resting thing together in bed all night. So I get decent sleep, or at least rest, for having a newborn. I don't expect my husband to be up when I'm feeding the baby at night. One of us has to be fully functional, and he has to work.

As for everything else, it's all survival mode right now. Really. Just survive. Don't worry about anything but eating, sleeping, and caring for the baby. Do what you need to do to make it through the next few months.

(I say this as the parent to a one week old and a two year old. The tv consumption of the two year old in the last week would make most people's eyes bleed. But right now, it gets us through the day. )
posted by zizzle at 9:20 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's six weeks. Stop beating yourself up. Exercise is extremely difficult when you are not able to sleep through the night. I speak from experience as a dad of three.

Baby Light thief will be able to sleep through the night at somewhere between 3 to 6 months (YMMV), once that happens, plan out a exercise schedule that works with your wife and baby's schedule and stick to it.

Until then and even after that, walking is an excellent exercise to do when worn down. You can also include the baby with many of the walks. Once the baby is old enough, you can also think about a jogging stroller so that you can include the baby on your runs as well. Obviously any exercise that involves the baby is a very good thing.

Good luck.
posted by cjets at 9:20 AM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Have you looked into baby carrying? I don't mean for the mom, I mean for you.

You might really get a kick out of strapping baby light thief on and going for a brisk walk. You could even make it a part of your daily routine (once baby lets you have a routine!) and that would let your wife have some time to herself every evening or first thing in the morning.
posted by TooFewShoes at 9:25 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Walking w baby attached to you. Bonus points for what I call 'walking with purpose.' go to a museum, walk to a corner store, walk to a park and then park yourself on a bench.

Walking briskly one time around the block each day appears in some studies to be sufficient for protection from MetS. We're talking about 20 minutes.

An added benefit is that it will (with time) boost your energy.
posted by bilabial at 9:40 AM on September 28, 2011

Your baby is only 6 weeks old. This means that all of your pre-baby routines are on hold, my friend. My advice is to just not stress out about it. Once your baby is 3 or 4 months old, parenting will be easier, you'll know more about what you're doing, and you can negotiate with your wife the times for exercise that will work for you. These are not life-long habits you're developing here.
posted by Philemon at 10:35 AM on September 28, 2011

My son is 5 months old and I just got back to hiking daily almost 3 weeks ago.

You'll get back to a routine soon. Promise!
posted by jbenben at 11:30 AM on September 28, 2011

I (usually) surf and or ride my bike (20-35 miles) 3-4 times a week. I have a five week old baby. I have surfed once and gone on about three bike rides since she was born. At first I didn't do either of these things, but the frequency is starting to come back up. I figure in a few months I will be mostly back to normal.

I honestly am lost as to how fathers fail at sleeping so much. I know it happens, but for me, with my wife breastfeeding the child, there is absolutely no reason for me to wake up when she's hungry, so I don't. I have slept straight through the night nearly every night since she was born.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 1:18 PM on September 28, 2011

The midnight wake-ups are tough, even if you're doing nothing more than changing the diaper and handing off to the wife for feeding time. But you'll bounce back. I was 35 when we had our kid. I used to do 50 pushups a day. After the kid, I doubt I did a single pushup for months and still am not where I was. When our son was one, my wife and I got back into the swing of things pretty solidly - we each did two half marathons, a duathlon, a 10-miler, and a whole lot of 5ks. Any of the short runs and most of the training runs and rides, we took him along in a running stroller or bike trailer. He enjoyed it, and got in a lot of nap time. Now that he's two, well... he still loves to go, but he sleeps less, weighs more, and needs more attention, which drains our energy mentally more than physically. We did some activities. She did a tri and I did a duathlon, and we've squeezed in a few short runs, but more energy for him = less energy for us. So the first year might be a wash, but year 2 is better, and year 3... well, it's a game of constant adjustment, isn't it?
posted by caution live frogs at 2:28 PM on September 28, 2011

Seconding the baby wearing. Also, do push-ups while the baby has tummy time. Baby light thief will enjoy watching you go up and down.
posted by terrierhead at 2:29 PM on September 28, 2011

Try fruit and veggies as late night snacks. Even if you're worn out, a little yoga can provide surprising results.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 2:52 PM on September 28, 2011

You could pick up a sport, if you're the sporting type - park babythief in a stroller by the side of the field/pitch/court, run your heart out and substitute off if there's screaming. As a touch football ref I've noticed a lot of people do this.

Regarding the snacking, however? Try to avoid going in the kitchen.
posted by coriolisdave at 3:10 PM on September 28, 2011

Oh, and pushups with (slightly older than currently!) child on back = added level of difficulty. Moreso than simple weighted-pushups, as the weight tends to shift and giggle and possibly pull at your ears and cover your eyes and fart.

Holding-breath-weighted-wriggle-pushups? Really good for you.
posted by coriolisdave at 3:11 PM on September 28, 2011

Regarding the snacking - I'd second the suggestion of a glass of water. If you keep snacking in the middle of the night, your body will decide that you actually need to eat then (which you don't). Cutting out the calories at that time for a few days should start to make it so you no longer feel hungry then.

As for exercise, try to remember that (a) you can cut yourself a little slack during this very early time, but (b) exercise will often leave you with more energy, not less. This advice from a fairly fatigued 7-month pregnant woman with a 2.5 year old. I always feel less fatigued, not more, after a little exercise.

I think it is easy for people to decide that their old exercise routines are just impossible now that they have children, but don't realize how important it is to prioritize it in order to manage stress, boost energy, and all those other things that matter when you've got a little one.
posted by bigd at 4:12 PM on September 28, 2011

Congratulations! Dad of three here.

Get one of those baby jogging strollers, the tricycle type with the big wheels. Those work great, the wheels are much better at handling pavement than the standard stroller type wheels. Baby can lie down in it while you go for a jog/walk. You may have to get the recliner style, where the back drops down so baby can lie down, if she isn't able to sit up yet.

Yoga style exercises and isometrics are great. You don't have to suit up and head to the gym, just do them in your living room. Don't try to do a full sweat workout, just stretch, breathe and relax. Pushups, situps, the classics - those are all good. I'd suggest making your goal more of a "stay in shape...sorta" and less of "I am gonna be the next Mr. Universe".

The important thing is that you really have to learn to make time for yourself. The first six months to a year are the most difficult to manage your time.

As for snacking, unsalted peanuts. The protein in the nuts is good. Too much peanuts can contribute to kidney stones, and the extra salt salt is neither necessary nor good for you. I like carrots, too, but the problem for me is that they don't fill me up. A little cheese with the peanuts. Mmmm. Pecans are good with cheese. My guilty pleasure is quesadillas, but watch the amount of cheese you eat. In general, stay away from sugary snacks - cookies, I am looking at you.

Diet experts actually recommend frequent snacking. Every two hours. Eat smaller meals. Most people overeat because they are famished by the time they get to eat. The "full feeling" takes while to kick in when you are eating, and that's why so many folks wind up overeating. Have a snack fifteen minutes before dinner. You may be surprised how much less you want at dinner.

Walk. Your post college weight gain has more to do with general lifestyle than anything else. You already know it's going to get harder to stay trim as you get older. Try to walk as much as you can.

Also, once baby gets old enough to sit upright, get a bicycle seat. Take your bike to the store with baby. Once we had more than one kid, we got a trailer. The trailer works well for groceries, too. What you want to do is to establish the habit of walking and biking instead of driving. It will increase the time it takes to go run errands, but if you are at home watching the baby, you aren't going to be doing anything anyway.
posted by Xoebe at 4:16 PM on September 28, 2011

Six weeks? Oh honey - if you leave the house in matching socks, you're doing well.

I have to ask - why are YOU up every 3 hours every night? Can the two of you trade off and alternate nights? Get some earplugs and use them. Seriously. The world is a much better place when at least one parent has slept. If your wife has help during the day and can nap, and if you're back to work, then I kind of think you should be getting 4-6 hours so you can function.

As for snacking - drinking water is smart. Other than that, go for something with some protein to curb your appetite. Nuts and seeds are quick, easy, and good for you.

Having survived nursing 2 kids through their first birthdays, I can tell you that this gets easier around the 3-4 month mark when the baby sleeps more at night. Until then, one of your goals should be to perfect a good couch-napping position that accomodates a sleeping baby on your chest. Hang in there!
posted by hms71 at 7:37 PM on September 28, 2011

Drinking water has helped, thanks! I'll try to add walks to our evening activities (or I'll just let it slide for now).

We share nightly responsibilities, usually with me changing baby, while my wife gets ready to feed him. I lay back down, and get up to swaddle him and rock him to sleep. Some times I'll bottle feed him while she sleeps until the next feeding, or she feeds and changes him while I sleep, but I don't think we'll swap complete nights. With the two of us, the nights go well, especially as either one of us can be really sleepy and get annoyed by his behavior, and we then hand him off.

My wife is concerned about co-sleeping, so I don't push it, though we've taken to "napping" with him next to us when he gets fussy about being laid down.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:56 AM on October 5, 2011

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