Breastfeeding & Exercise
If you are reading this post it is highly likely that you recently gave birth to a beautiful bundle of joy or you might be welcoming yours into the world very soon. If you were active all throughout your pregnancy and would like to get back into your exercise routine as soon as possible once the doctor gave you the green light you might be wondering "will exercise have an influence on my breast milk?" or "won't exercising while breastfeeding decrease my supply?". Well then, let's jump straight into the facts regarding this frequently asked (and misunderstood) question!
Once you get the all clear from your doctor to resume exercise postpartum it comes highly recommended that you resume a safe, low-moderate intensity exercise programme. Not only will exercise postpartum help you with regaining your strength & rehabilitating your core & pelvic floor, but it also plays a big role in your emotional & mental well-being by releasing endorphins which leads to a happier, healthier mommy! So let's have a look at some of the most common questions I get from breastfeeding mommies and why you shouldn't be concerned about exercise having a negative effect on your milk supply.
The most frequently asked questions about breastfeeding & exercise:
1. Is it safe to exercise while breastfeeding?
YES! Most definitely! It comes highly recommended to get back out there as soon as your doctor gave you the green light. During pregnancy your bone density also decreases, and taking part in a regular strength training programme can be of great benefit to help increase your bone density levels. Further, as mentioned above it gives you an endorphin rush which goes a long way in lifting up your mood and improving your mental & emotional well-being
2. Can exercise affect my milk supply/production?
In short, NO! This is a very common misconception about exercising while you are breastfeeding. If you stick to a moderate intensity exercise plan your milk supply should not be affected in any way whatsoever. In fact, some women find that exercising can actually lead to a slight increase in supply and this is all once again due to endorphins being released which in turn leads to a higher production of prolactin, the hormone responsible for milk production.
3. At what intensity can I train?
There is a BIG misconception that exercise can change the taste of your breast milk - the studies regarding this has been inconclusive so there is no proof that this is in fact true. Starting with a low to moderate exercise programme and gradually building it up to strenuous intensity again.
Some women do report that very high intensity exercise can change the taste of your breast milk - but it is not harmful at all, your baby might just not like the taste of it. It is important to note that this is not guaranteed to happen and is highly individualised!
Therefore to be on the safe side it is recommended to keep your intensities below 80% of your max heart rate and once you have stopped breastfeeding ,only then to push your sessions past that threshold again. If you are more than 3 months postpartum and really want to push your sessions to HIIT it would be advised to wait 90 minutes - 2 hours before feeding your baby to ensure the taste, if altered at all, goes back to normal.
4. Don't skimp on your diet
The number of calories burned extra per day due to the body producing breast milk varies greatly from one woman to another. It is important to note though that you do burn more calories while breastfeeding and therefore need to ensure you are supplying the body with sufficient amounts of nutritious foods and when you add exercise to your daily routine, this will become even more important!
If you are exercising every day and not eating enough food to replenish the calories it may affect your milk supply due to low energy balance. So stock up on healthy foods, don't eat empty calories and remember to drink a lot of water to stay hydrated!
5. Try to feed/pump before a workout
This can be something that is a personal preference, but I have had many clients tell me that by doing this it ensured their baby had a full tummy while you are out exercising and as an added bonus it made the weight of their breasts lighter and therefore exercising was a little more comfortable.
It is also very important to ensure you have a proper sports bra that you wear while exercising. Make sure you have one that provides adequate support and is comfortable, especially if you are running again.
A few extra tips:
*Take a shower post workout before you feed your baby again. They might not want to feed if you are still sweaty from your workout
*Take off your bra straight after your workout as well, this can go a long way in preventing plugged ducts.
*Getting them use to a bottle can help in scheduling your workouts. If you don't have a lot of time in your day to fit in a workout and you can't afford to wait for them to nap, it can help a lot if you can feed them pumped milk from a bottle and someone else can tend to that while you squeeze in your workout
*Take it easy mommy, yes working out is great and beneficial, but if you are having a rough day and simply don't get around to it don't put yourself under pressure. Tomorrow is another day!
Mrs.Milk is a great company that makes lactation bars and milk boosting snacks - if you want to up your supply I highly recommend giving her a call.
Sophie & Jane also sells the most amazing nursing bra's - go have a look and find your perfect fit!