If you've recently become a new mom, first of all, congratulations!
Second — I know you're dying to get back to the gym.
I know, I know, there's all this pressure to "get your body back," but let's be honest. At this point, you'd probably just be happy to get out of the house.
(I know I was when I first became a dad.)
If you're trying to figure out how to go to the gym with a baby, you should know that it IS possible (though not always easy). The main options here will be figuring out ways to include your baby (safely, for the love of God) in your gym workout, or utilizing some kind of in-gym childcare.
I'll dive a little deeper into the options and ideas below.
It's really important that you check with your gym about its rules for young kids, and check with your pediatrician as well for any safety questions before you do any of this.
Now let's get brainstorming.
1. Wear your baby to the gym (if your doctor and gym say it's OK)
If you have a bjorn or other baby carrier that straps your child to your chest, you wouldn't hesitate to go for a long walk outside if the weather's nice, right?
There's no reason you couldn't go for a brisk walk on a treadmill at the gym while wearing your baby.
Major exceptions for this are if your gym doesn't allow children on the exercise floor, or if your doctor specifically advises you against doing this. It also depends on your own risk tolerance and how clumsy you are (seriously).
The consensus among most parents is that it's usually OK to wear your baby for GENTLE workouts like walking. In fact, they might really love the soft bouncing and movement!
I'd highly recommend not wearing your baby on the elliptical or while using any weightlifting equipment. You want to minimize any risk of falling or slipping.
If you do wear your baby on the treadmill, make sure to use the safety clip for auto shut off in case you lose your footing.
2. Use in-gym childcare
If you belong to a quick and dirty "convenience gym," you probably won't have this option. But for members of mid to high-end fitness clubs, you'll often find they provide a childcare or daycare center in the gym.
That means you can drop your baby off with certified childcare professionals while you get your workout in. Talk about a win-win!
A couple of important things to note about this option: Sometimes in-gym childcare centers have a minimum age and aren't equipped to handle newborns or younger infants. You'll have to ask your specific club about this.
You'll also want to really scrutinize online reviews of the childcare center, ask other parents who belong to the gym about their experiences, and talk to the staff yourself before you drop your baby off. You may love your gym but find that their daycare center is subpar after you do a little digging.
If your gym has a really high-quality childcare area, this is probably the best option on the list. It could even be worth switching to a gym with a better set-up for babies and young kids if you're really excited to get back to the gym frequently.
If you want to know more about a specific gym chain, you can start with my comparison series.
3. Bring your own babysitter to the gym
If you're not comfortable with the childcare at your gym (or if they don't have one), consider using your own babysitter.
One thing that's a struggle for a lot of new moms and dads is wanting alone time to do something for themselves (like working out), but not wanting to be too far from baby.
Why not have your babysitter hang out in the gym lobby or waiting area, with your little one, while you squeeze in a quick workout?
That way you won't be far when crying, spit up, or poopy diapers happen (and they will).
Most gyms should have a pretty good place for babysitter and baby to wait. I go to the YMCA and there's a large area with chairs, coffee, water, and some snacks set up most of the time. Plenty of space for a stroller or car carrier.
Older children might be bored and restless waiting around, but newborns should be perfectly content, at least long enough for you to work out (30 minutes to an hour or so).
4. Let them sleep in the car seat carrier or stroller (if allowed by the gym)
If walking with your baby on the treadmill is a little beyond your safety tolerance level, you might consider a slightly more hands-off approach:
Plop your baby in their stroller, carrier, or car seat right next to your machine while you workout and let them snooze or watch you in wonder.
More caveats to note here. Again, your gym may have rules against this, and many do not allow young children out on the floor (but many of them do).
You'll also want to be hyper-aware of where you place the stroller or carrier, and ensure it's not in the way of any equipment or other gym-goers. You wouldn't want someone to trip or drop equipment near your baby.
Last, you'll have to figure out your own feelings on germs. Gyms are notoriously germy, full of sweaty people touching everything in sight. Personally, I'm not overly concerned about this (nothing can be germier than school or daycare), but if you have a different philosophy or if your baby has a lowered immune system, I'd be careful bringing them to the gym at all.
Again, check with your gym on their rules and, ideally, with your doctor, but this is another idea to explore.
5. See if your gym has baby-friendly fitness classes
This is a great one if you're just not comfortable yet being away from the baby, but you still want to get out of the house and get your sweat on.
If you belong to a high-quality fitness club, you'll probably have plenty of group fitness classes to choose from. Chances are, some of them will be baby-friendly.
Look for stroller fitness, Mom & Me workouts, and more. Anything where you can bring your baby and interact with them while getting in a mild workout is a great bonding activity, and good to get you moving, too.
If your gym doesn't have anything available, check out programs like Oh Baby! Fitness, which offers workouts for moms/dads and babies all over the country in various locations.
6. Bring another mom or dad as a workout buddy
Paying for a gym membership AND a babysitter could really add up and put a dent in your wallet. If your partner isn't available to give you a break and your budget is tight, you might feel like you're low on options.
And let's face it... wearing your baby on the treadmill or letting them sleep in the stroller while you workout won't be for everyone. It can definitely work, but your gym might not even allow it.
So what do you do?
Consider partnering up with another parent and hitting the gym together. One of you can chill with the kids in the waiting room, lobby, or a store nearby, and then you can switch off (or alternate). That way, you both get a workout in and no one has to pay for a sitter, plus the kids don't get exposed to any germs from the exercise room floor.
Going to the gym alone is really tough, so this should motivate you and give you some accountability, to boot.
If you have a social circle of other parents, this is an awesome option.
What to do if none of these things work for you:
Fear not! You don't have to go to the gym or even go outside to get an excellent workout.
You can do it all in the comfort of your own home during nap time, first thing in the morning, or late at night when the household is quiet.
You could spring for a full program like P90X if you wanted to, and you'll get great results doing that, but you could also follow a free bodyweight strength training program at home.
Pair just 3 bodyweight strength workouts per week with the right diet and you'll see some AMAZING changes to your physique.
Here's my favorite, totally free bodyweight workout you can do at home in a little under an hour.
Things you should never do:
Just a couple of quick clarifications and warnings before we wrap up:
Never leave your baby alone. Even if your apartment has its own gym and you just want to pop in for 30 minutes while your baby naps, you should never, ever, ever leave your baby completely unsupervised.
It should go without saying, but when you're in the fog and exhaustion of being a new parent, this kind of thing can be tempting and your logical brain isn't always working properly. Just don't do it.
Never bring a newborn into a gym locker room. The germs in commercial gyms can be pretty frightening like we talked about above. I wouldn't overly obsessed about the main exercise floor or daycare area, but if you can avoid it at all, keep really young infants out of the locker room area.
Never go against your doctor's recommendation. I and a lot of other parents think it's not the end of the world to bring your baby to the gym (if rules allow) or even walk gently on the treadmill with your baby in a sling or bjorn. But if your pediatrician strongly recommends against this, I'd listen to the doctor. There are plenty of other ways to get a good workout.
So there's my best advice!
I know it's hard, there's no getting around that. When you're a new parent, you're going to be tired, severely sleep deprived, stressed, drained, and frustrated much of the time. Getting a quick workout in should be a source of stress relief, but sadly the logistics of it sometimes make it yet another stressor.
Hopefully some of the tips above will give you some inspiration on how you can get to the gym with your baby. But if it's just too difficult or feels unsafe, don't force it. Workout at home, go for walks outside, or squeeze in fitness when you can (you only really need 2-3 good workouts per week for great results).
Best of luck to you, parents!
Oh, and if you DO have some success getting to the gym, here's my absolute favorite lifting and nutrition program that'll help you sculpt an absolutely incredible feminine body.