When it comes to being mom to a baby or toddler, shedding post-pregnancy pounds and gaining muscle mass are just not high on the priority list. In the midst of feeding, changing, burping, bathing, soothing, and loving your new little bundle of joy – you barely have time to think about when you’re going to do laundry (or when was the last time you showered) – much less when you’ll have time to go to the gym to exercise.

Here are some great ways to get in some strength training and toning at home, with your baby or toddler in tow – without any special equipment. Remember to always consult your family doctor or OBGYN before beginning any dieting or exercise regimen after delivering. Most doctors suggest waiting 6-8 weeks before starting any kind of exercise.

Dance Party (Cardio)

I get some of my best cardio dancing with my preschooler in the living room. I get even more of a work out when I am holding or wearing my 16-pound infant. Try putting on some of your favorite kid-friendly tunes and going wild with dance moves. You can burn an average of 340 calories per hour doing low impact aerobic dancing (even more if you’re really pulling out the stops). So, break it down with your tot in the morning and evening, a few songs a piece, and that’s almost 200 calories burned.

Jumping Joe (Triceps, Biceps, and Pectoral muscles)

I named this exercise after my youngest child, because he loves it. I also do it with my preschooler, but don’t try this with a toddler or preschooler unless you’re really ready for a work out. The “Jumping Joe” game tones your biceps, triceps and pectoral muscles.

Sit on a sturdy chair (the couch or a large ottoman works nicely) and hold your baby in front of you under his arms, with your hands comfortably around his chest. His feet should be resting on your knees. bounce baby up and down rhythmically as you chant the following little song:

“Jumping Joe (replace with your child’s name), jumping Joe, jump jump, JUMP!”

On the last “Jump” lift baby high in the air, straightening your arms, and enjoy the giggles and squeals of delight from your little one. Then, lower baby diagonally toward your chest, hands coming to your shoulders, and lift him up and down on the diagonal, bending and straightening your arms, several times, counting repetitions. Then repeat the song and lifting repetitions, increasing by one repetition.

I like to start with 10 reps and go all the way to 20. You can do more or less depending on your comfort level or the comfort level of your child.

This is a great work out for your upper arms, and baby gets wonderful interaction with you and gets to hear sequential counting, too.

Bridging with Baby (Abs, Back, and Buttocks)

A normal bridging exercise consists of lying on your back with knees bent and arms down, lifting your hips to form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Bridging with Baby uses this exercise and adds the weight of baby to add an extra challenge.

Lie in starting position for bridging on a blanket, yoga mat, or thick carpet, and place baby either resting with bum on your pelvis and back on your legs (young infant), or sitting on your lower abdomen (older infant with good head and back support), holding her hands to help her stay balanced as you bridge up and down.

Pulse your hips up and down twice, lifting a few inches off the floor each time. As you lift, say “Buh- Buh” or “Bruh- Bruh” then lift up to a full bridge position as you say “Bridge” and lower back down, touching your vertebrae down slowly and carefully, one at a time. Do 5-10 reps, and repeat 2-3 times, or until baby is ready to move on to another game.

Sacajawea Squats (Abdominals, Quadriceps, Muscles of the Inner and Outer Thigh)

Baby wearing is an excellent way to have a free hand around the house while bonding with, soothing, and breastfeeding baby. But it’s also useful for getting it a bit of exercise as well.

Wearing your baby safely and securely on your chest, put your back against a wall, feet hip width apart, (about 12 inches from the wall) and do some squats. Bring your arms up as you go down and down as you come up, or hold your baby across your chest as you squat.

Slowly bend your legs, keeping your knees directly over your toes, and lower until your thighs are perpendicular to your calves (your knees will make a right angle). Breath out as you squat down and in through your nose as you lift up. Remember to engage your abdominal muscles as you bend and straighten your legs.

5-10 repetitions per set is plenty – repeat 3-5 times for optimum strength training! You can sing songs or tell baby a story while you squat. They’ll love going up and down, and your muscles will love the extra weight.

Enjoy exercising with your baby or toddler! The beauty of the exercises is that you get to play with your child and get some training and cardio in at the same time. Again, remember to check with your doctor before starting any exercise routine aside from the physical therapy exercises you may have received at the hospital upon discharge from labor and delivery. Always stop exercising if you become dizzy or short of breath, or if your child needs to take a break.