Anyone else find smelly armpits as annoying as I do? Well, it can be hard to 100% eliminate that issue (while staying clear of toxic compounds like aluminum, that is), but there are definitely a lot of hacks you can employ. Try some of these out and let me know how they work for you!
Of course the first thing I mention is diet. But that’s because it can have a huge impact. I have seen this first hand (both personally and professionally). The most notorious offenders for increasing body odour are:
Try eliminating these for a few weeks and see if you notice a change!
An imbalance of bacteria both internal and external (they cover our skin too!), can absolutely contribute to increased smelliness. To address, make sure you’re taking all the steps to maintain a Healthy Gut, with a focus on lots of fermented foods like sauerkraut, fermented carrots, yogurt and kombucha!
Topically, make sure to avoid conventional personal care products (like soap and antiperspirant) that can kill off the good guys. Usually when beneficial microbes are eliminated, the nasty ones grow back faster, creating an even more dramatic imbalance. You can also help encourage the growth of beneficial microbes by utilizing an apple cider vinegar spray (dilute 1:4 with water) or even a topical probiotic!
Deodorant, not Antiperspirant
Antiperspirants use aluminum (amongst other sketchy ingredients) to get into your sweat glands, causing them to swell and preventing sweat from being released. I heard a hilarious analogy, that’s a little off-colour. It goes like this… you know the feeling when you really really have to have a BM, but you’re in a really inconvenient place, like a coffee shop, or the library, so you hold it. That’s what you’re doing with your armpits – holding in something that really needs to get out – but instead of using muscle, you’re using a toxic compound.
Deodorant addresses odour, but depending on the formulation it can often make things worse. So I recommend trying a few different types to find one that works for you. I struggled to find a natural deodorant that didn’t make me smell worse. And then I found Primally Pure – which is so clean you can eat it, and it actually works! Or you can go super simple (which I do sometimes too!) and just use a homemade deodorant of coconut oil, essential oils and baking soda.
Sometimes all that just doesn’t cut it. For example, during the postpartum period. It must have been the excess/different hormones that my body was having to break down, but ugh I totally smelled bad. Finding a good (natural) deodorant was great, but I had to take it one step further and help my armpits detox a bit! I know lots of people who swear by the armpit detoxes and cleanses (The Wellness Mama has a good one!), but considering how little time I have these days, I needed something faster. I started using Beautycounter’s Charcoal Cleansing Bar under my arms when I showered and after only a few uses the odour was completely gone. I was even able to stop using deodorant days that I wasn’t exercising!
Before my baby shower, a lot of people were surprised that I didn’t register for some typical baby items like a Bumbo, an Exersaucer, a Jolly Jumper, Swings, Activity Mats etc. So I thought I would share a few resources as to why we didn’t.
But before I do, please note, there is no judgement coming at you from this post, it’s simply a window into our approach regarding our baby’s physical development. Every parent is just trying to do their best!
Since we’re very health-conscious, but musculoskeletal development is not our speciality, we sought out information from trusted sources like our functional chiropractors. As such, our overarching philosophy towards physical development with our baby boiled down to this:
Do not place the baby in a position she is not developmentally ready for. Once she has mastered the skill on her own, we can use equipment occasionally, but not before.
Let’s take the hugely popular, Bumbo as an example. The whole ideal behind the Bumbo is to help babies sit upright, who cannot yet sit up on their own. Good in theory. Not so great in practice. Babies typically sit up on their own in the 6-9 month window. By placing them in seats like the Bumbo (or other chairs), not only do you slow down their progress (the wobbling is key for developing stabilizing muscles); it creates an environment for developmental imbalances, by forcing the pelvis into a posterior tilt, shortening muscles, weakening others; and becomes risky as some kids fight to get out of the unnatural position. More info here.
The same can be said for the Exersaucer or Jolly Jumper, which artificially places babies in a standing position, before their joints (hips, spine) and muscles are developmentally ready to handle those loads. It is also the reason why Not To Help A Baby Walk Before They’re Ready.
If you want your kid to develop the muscles for sitting, crawling, rolling etc. they need to use them! And they need to use them in a way that follows the natural developmental progression. This starts with moving their eyes around, then turning their heads, then trying to lift their heads… all of which happens during Tummy Time.
Now, Tummy Time does not mean you take an infant who has been on their back or in your arms their entire life, and throw them face down on the floor. That’s totally not fair, and it makes sense that they hate it. It’s scary because they don’t have the muscles to even lift their heads up. Instead, you can start Tummy Time from the day they are born, by having them lie on their tummies, on your chest on an incline. Our 2 day old baby girl could lift her head up in this position, so by the time she was a few weeks old, Tummy Time was a breeze. Katy Bowman discusses the math and physiology behind Tummy Time here.
From about 6-8 weeks onward (after she “woke up”), anytime she wasn’t nursing, sleeping or being carried in our arms, we had her on the floor. I swear because of that (combined with her personality), she was rolling across the room with intention by 4 months, sitting on her own at 5 months and crawling like a maniac by 6 months. She’s almost 7 months at the time I’m writing this and she pulls herself up to standing easily, and is currently practicing letting go and clearly trying to figure out how to make her feet move in that position. Granted, this is also part of her personality (I ran at 9 months), but I truly believe that we provided the environment for her to develop at her desired speed, by not providing her with anything!!
Now, in order to get things done (groceries needed to be bought, food cooked, dog walked, fresh air experienced), I also wore her a lot. Not all day, every day, because I knew that wouldn’t be good for my body, but I definitely had her in a baby carrier at least an hour every day, sometimes for a few hours on high-needs days (or for naps during her refluxy period). This had a hugely positive impact both on my psyche (2 hands free! Sun!) and her development as her muscles continued to be challenged in a positive way that facilitated development. By 2-3 months the 2 compliments we kept on receiving about our baby girl was (1) how alert she was – she was able to be alert because she could see everything by being on me, and (2) how strong she was – baby wearing for the win!
It Takes A Village…
Humans developed in small villages, where everyone helped raise the children. This whole concept of a mom being at home, by herself, all day every day to take care of her child(ren) is fairly absurd, anthropologically speaking. So that’s where equipment comes in. Baby equipment is a babysitter, and when used like that, it can be really helpful and keep babies safe. I had a few things that I used occasionally, to allow me to go to the bathroom or prep dinner when baby wearing wasn’t an option. Here are my favourites:
Baby Bouncer. This mostly reclined bouncer stayed in the kitchen, and was only used during meal prep. We removed the toy-bar to reduce stimulation (and let her decide where to look) and didn’t bother to turn on the vibration. It kept her off the hard floor, but almost on her back, while we prepared food. We could interact with her, but also get dinner made!
Floor Mat. In order for floor time, you need something cushy! We also did a ton of naked time, so protecting the floor was also key. The Prince Lionheart PlayMat is my favourite! We originally had a foam puzzle piece mat, but she quickly learned to pull the pieces up and I didn’t love her chewing on foam… enter this mat which is useful from Tummy Time all the way to Toddler Hood. I love that it’s non-toxic too!
Newborn Wrap (6-10 weeks). I had a MonkeyWrap, which my girlfriend no longer needed, but a similar stretchy wraps is the Boba Baby Wrap. The stretchy wrap allows you to fit both your body (and your partner’s!) as well as the baby’s (regardless of what they’re wearing), so it’s a perfect, and comfortable fit every time. The only downside is you need to learn how to wrap, but once you do, you quickly become a pro. My friend taught me only a few days after baby girl arrived, and it totally changed my life. I had so much more freedom already! I would wrap it on me before I left the house, and pop her out of the carseat and into the wrap to do errands. Bonus is it kept strangers hands off my newborn baby! I also used this to walk the dog starting 3 weeks PP. My husband loved this – it was his “boobs” when I needed a shower and the kiddo really needed me! Haha!
Soft-Structured Carrier (starting at 4-6 months). There are SO many options – with the Ergo being the most common – but a quick look through a baby wearing Facebook group and you’ll see there are lots of great carriers. I have a LennyLamb which I LOVE. Other popular carriers are the Tula, LilleBaby, Baby K’Tan, Mei Tai, Chimperoo… Lil Monkey Cheeks is my favourite (local) place for information about and purchasing carriers! NOTE: babies should only be worn facing you, with their knees above their hips. Facing out creates undesired pressures on their hips and pelvis, which can potentially lead to developmental issues.
Woven/Ring Sling. Since I was really into wearing her when I needed to get stuff down around the house, instead of placing her in an exersaucer, I had several wraps. I invested in a Woven and a Ring Sling for the period in between the newborn phase and when she was big enough for the soft-structured carrier. A woven is a little more complicated, because it’s just a long piece of fabric and you need to learn how to wrap the baby in it, but I had practiced with my MonkeyWrap so I loved my woven. The Ring Sling was my husbands favourite becase it was simple to use. I used the woven for longer periods of wearing her, like walking the dog, and the ring sling for lots of in-and-out, like errands or around the house. I got mine from Lil Monkey Cheeks. I exclusively use our soft-structured carrier now, but I can imagine using the woven again when she gets large enough for back carries!
So mamas, what things could you not live without during those newborn months??
If you asked me during my pregnancy, when I would be back to the gym after having a baby, I would have said “6 weeks, maybe 2 months”.
Oh how naive I was…
Aside from the fact that (unknowingly going in) I was a full-on attachment parent, or that our baby girl nursed every 20-90 minutes (but I never knew when it would be 20 vs. 90), the pounding your body takes in the early weeks of having a baby is like nothing I have ever experienced. Here’s how it went down for me:
14 hour labour – which isn’t too long in the grand scheme of things. But it was like a constant workout, and I stopped eating about 30 minutes after labour actually started. So I did a 13.5 hour workout without eating more than a few grapes and a glass of juice.
2.5+ hours pushing – yeah so that was intense. Especially since it was unmedicated. It was like doing a max-effort workout for an entire minute. Every 3-4 minutes, for over 2.5 hours. Again, on no food. And one hell of a workout for my pelvic floor muscles.
24 hours awake – from when my water broke to when baby girl arrived, on very little food, with adrenaline going like crazy. Oh and labour.
4 hours sleep – she arrived at 3am, we fell asleep by 6am, and woke up around 9:30am for our first day with our baby girl.
Up 2-3 times/night for 45-90 minutes for 6 weeks – so after that marathon and a half, what would have been amazing, was a goodnight sleep to recover. But nope!
Creating milk to sustain another human – on little sleep, struggling to eat enough and full of stress hormones (amongst other hormones).
Soooo, now that I’ve painted a beautiful picture of having a baby – haha! I’d do it all again in a heartbeat, I promise. In fact, writing that makes me proud about what a freakin’ badass I am. Women are strong. Shockingly strong. But I digress…
By the time I hit 6 weeks postpartum, I was pretty darn depleted. As someone who historically didn’t let themselves workout on less than 7 hours of sleep, due to a history of adrenal fatigue, I was feeling super torn. I wanted to go back to the gym SO badly, but I couldn’t knowingly put my body through that, on top of what I was already demanding of it. Also, I was pretty sure that the almost 3 hours of pushing likely resulted in some muscular damage/imbalances. So here’s what I did:
1. Embraced this season of life.
This took a lot of introspection and mental work on my part. Never in my life have I taken a significant time off from being active. The most was 5 or 6 weeks with minor injuries, but I often figured out how to work around it, like participating in basketball practice while my hand was in a cast (smart Amanda, real smart). Being active, and more recently, being a Crossfitter, is actually a major part of how I self-identify. So on top of the massive identity shift that happens when you just, become a mom, I was also no longer working on our business (which is also one of my life’s passions) and I was very quickly losing strength, mobility and the mental clarity that comes with exercise.
A few quotations that helped me embrace this season of life were:
“Don’t treat a gift as a burden.”
“The days are long, but the years are short.”
“This is the longest, shortest time.”
I didn’t want to look back on this incredibly short time (although it seems sooooo long when you’re in it) and wish I had snuggled my baby more. So I put going back to the gym out of my mind entirely. I was unknowingly putting pressure on myself to get back, so I just stopped. I took it off the table, knowing that the time would come when it would seem very manageable to get back.
2. Saw a pelvic floor physiotherapist.
There is more and more discussion on how this should be part of standard postpartum care, and in some areas of the world it is. And I can’t recommend it enough. I am strong, I had no obvious damage (no tearing, no stitches), I wasn’t experiencing any incontinence and I wasn’t in much pain. But when I was assessed by my pelvic floor physio at 7 weeks postpartum, she gave me a 1/5. I have never received 20% on anything in my life – LOL – so this was a major blow. Haha! But I did a few weeks of prescribed exercises and jumped to a 3/5. At which point I was discharged, especially because I was asymptomatic, and was sent away with a handful of exercises to continue doing. I credit this step with now being able to do everything I was able to do before, like box jumps and skipping/double unders, without peeing! Unfortunately it is now considered normal to pee when jumping or running, after having a baby…to that I say, just because it is common, does not make it normal. See a pelvic floor physio if you’re experiencing unwanted voiding!
At 4 months PP the kiddo started having slightly more predictable naps. I was also sleeping quite a bit more at night, so I didn’t need to nap when she napped anymore. My husband and I started trying to strategize about getting me back to the gym for the morning class, but I decided it wasn’t the right time yet. She routinely slept in til 8-8:30ish, which I embraced and slept in with her. I knew that would come to an end soon, so I took those sleep-ins as a gift and an opportunity to continue to recover. Especially since I was experiencing some pretty gnarly arthritis as the hormone relaxin left my body. So instead, I found a wonderful series of yoga videos on youtube, that were 25-30 minutes in length – perfect for nap time, which at this point was rarely longer than 40 minutes. About 5 or so years ago I went through a period of major yoga love. It was right after training for a half marathon (which killed my love of running for a significant while). Yoga felt like I was taking care of my body, after the beating I had just put it through, and was a wonderfully healing experience then, so I hoped to have the same response now. Boy did it do the trick! It felt so wonderful to move my body, work on mobility, engage my muscles and start building up some strength again – in a gentle way, without causing too much depletion. I even (for a split second) considered going back to yoga as my primary exercise instead of Crossfit (it was a short second, I swear, lol!). But if I’m honest, after about 6 weeks of yoga, I started making reasons to skip it. I was getting a bit bored – not because of the yoga, which was still a wonderful program – but because I was used to working out hard, in a group environment, where we all cheered each other on! I really missed Crossfit.
4. Back to Crossfit!
The combination of taking time off, rehabbing my body properly and introducing movement back to my life with yoga in a way that built up my strength, rather than depleting it, set me up perfectly for getting back to the gym by 6 months postpartum. It was a little humbling realizing how much strength I lost, but I reframed it by thinking of how I, you know, grew another human being! After being back for a few weeks, I’m actually more proud of myself than I was before. I can’t believe what I can do, after having a baby and taking 6+ months off! It’s exciting to see my skills come back, muscles starting to show a bit and slowly but surely, feeling my strength come back!
As is always important with Crossfit, I had to check my ego at the door. When you start Crossfit, you are simultaneously learning new skills and developing strength. I was in an interesting position of having the skills, but not having the strength, or the lungs. So I had to be extra careful not to overdo it an injure myself. I scaled every WOD, and then scaled a bit more. I took epsom salt baths, supplemented, ate really well, foam-rolled and did mobility work at night, and even managed to go for a massage!
To Sum Up…
While it took a while for me to get there mentally, I couldn’t be happier with how I approached my return to exercising during the postpartum period. While many figure out how to get back 6 weeks PP, I truly feel that going back to the gym earlier was not the right decision for me, or my family for that matter. Instead, by being gentle with my body, rehabbing properly and slowly reintroducing fitness, I set my body up for success with Crossfit going forward. And more importantly, I’ve set my body up the best I can, to be able to handle another pregnancy (should we decide to go that route), hopefully as well as it handled this one!