Is Breastfeeding and exercise possible? Of course! Having breastfed my daughter for 12 months while training towards my dream of representing Australia in triathlon, I can assure you that training at high intensities is definitely possible for breastfeeding mums. Initially I had concerns. The first time I stepped out the door for a run my elderly neighbour told me “Your milk will dry up…”. Quite a few people expressed their concerns for me “you will lose too much weight”, “you’ll definitely have to slow down…” These people were only trying to be helpful. As a new mum I was a little bit concerned, but I had done my research and my midwife had assured me that if I monitored my milk supply that I (and my boobs) would be ok!
Yes, you can exercise when your breastfeeding! Proceed with caution, but please not with fear. In fact, I would encourage you to exercise! Exercise has a range of positive benefits for both you and your baby. Not only does it improve your general fitness and assist with weight control, (no ladies, this is NOT about bouncing back) it also improves mental health and well being and increases energy levels – what mum doesn’t need this! Exercise also helps to prevent and treat post-natal depression – what is not to LOVE! From experience, I have learnt some practical tips and considerations for mums that would like to manage an active lifestyle whist continuing to breastfeed their baby. Let me share them with you now 🙂
Know your priorities
First and foremost the health of you and your baby is your priority! Breastfeeding is not only a form of nutrition for your baby, but also a bonding experience for mums and bubs. It needs to be enjoyable! Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If you try combining exercise and training and its not working for you, give yourself some grace and try again later. There is no rush!
Give yourself time
Prior to engaging in any structured exercise regime, I recommend that you allow yourself time to become comfortable with breastfeeding alone. Breastfeeding (and caring for your new born baby) is a huge challenge in itself. I always say breastfeeding is hard, even when its ‘smooth sailing’ it’s still hard. Combine it with an exercise regime it can become even more so.
Establish your breastfeeding and recover from the birth. Once you have found your groove, then and only then try to add in some exercise. Remember your body is recovering, and your hormones will continue to increase the laxity of your ligaments for as long as you continue breastfeeding. Don’t try to do everything at once, or you may find yourself giving up on exercise before you have even started.
Nutrition and Hydration are key
If your currently breastfeeding you may have noticed that your appetite and fluid intake have increased, especially if your baby is still quite new and nursing a lot. When you do start to exercise, ensure that you increase both your food and fluid intake accordingly. If you are exercising on particularly hot days, it may be a good idea to use electrolyte replacement drinks (for example hydralyte) to ensure that you keep hydrated.
Keeping snacks handy is also a must. New mums often don’t know when their next meal will be, so having plenty of quick and easy options on hand will keep you going. Bananas, nuts, homemade muesli bars, and ‘bliss balls’ are just a few ideas that I love.
If you have any concerns about your milk supply, click on the article below:
Start with short exercise sessions
As you start to engage in a fitness routine, begin with a short sessions. This will give your body a chance to adjust. Not only to the new demands on your body post childbirth, but also to your body utilising energy to exercise and to produce milk.
Some women will have concerns that exercising may affect their milk supply. Research shows that exercise does not have an affect on either your breast milk supply or the major minerals or nutrients in breast milk.
If you have concerns about your milk supply itself (or even if you don’t) you should progressively increase your exercise. This will allow you to have the opportunity to assess if your milk supply ‘feels low’, giving you an indiction that you may need to reduce your exercise, or increase your food/fluid intake. The Australian Breastfeeding Association is an awesome resource that provides evidence based information (which I love!) regarding breastfeeding including monitoring your milk supply and exercise and breastfeeding. Check it out!
Strong support networks = Success
Seek the support of your partner, friends and training buddies. A good support network is invaluable. Mummy guilt is huge! I know that initially I felt incredibly guilty leaving my bub to take the time out to myself to exercise. Over time I realised a few things.
Firstly, leaving my daughter with Hubby gave my husband an excellent opportunity to bond with our baby (without me watching over his shoulder wanting to offer him advice!) It also gave me my ‘time out’. I found myself to be a more patient, more energetic and happier mum when I had had the opportunity to exercise.
Talk with your partner and let them know your goals in returning to exercise. It will take some commitment on his/her behalf, and having them on board early and knowing your fitness goals will help them to support you.
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Keep a towel handy…
Some mums say that their baby is less likely to nurse when they are salty/have sweaty skin. (I don’t blame them!) Depending on the age of your bub and their feeding demands, you may find that don’t have time to shower before your next feed after exercising. Having a wet face washer and towel ready to give yourself a quick wipe over before nursing will help.
On this note, take caution with deodorants and body sprays too… The scent can be unappealing to baby, and can irritate their skin if they come in contact with it. Try all natural alternatives instead.
Invest in a good Bra!
Find yourself a good sports bra! Yes, you know it! Your breasts have changed and they are bigger than you ever could have imagined. You need a good bra. Invest in something that is comfortable for you. Personally I liked the cadenshae fit2feed nursing sports bra, or a soft crop top. Sometimes I would wear two to give me the added support I was looking for. You may also find exercise more comfortable if you nurse before you exercise. This will prevent engorgement, allow your baby to feel satisfied until you return. It will give you piece of mind whilst you are away from your baby too.
Do what is Right for you
Remember, only you, your baby and your family can decide what is right for you. Do what you enjoy, and what makes you and your family happy. Never feel any pressure to perform at any particular level. Just ‘giving it a go’ is what counts. If it makes you happy it is right of you.
These tips are designed to give you the confidence to try exercising whilst breastfeeding. As you progress into your training regime, you will need to remain mindful of the demands on your body. Please remember that your body needs time to heal postpartum. Seek clearance from your midwife, doctor or physiotherapist before engaging in your exercise regime. I recommend seeking clearance from a Womens’ Health Physiotherapist prior to engaging in high impact sports and sports that involve heavy lifting to ensure that you have adequate pelvic floor strength and support and no signs of potential prolapse. While you are here, why not check out a few of my other articles relating to pelvic floor strength, and exercise postpartum!
- Know your priorities
- Give yourself time
- Nutrition and hydration are key
- Keep a towel handy
- Invest in a good bra!
- Do what is right for you!
Remember if you have any concerns regarding your milk supply read about it here.
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