Breastfeeding & Exercise

Most women want to get back to their pre-baby bodies but lack of energy and worries about nursing their babies may delay or even halt their endeavours to exercise.

When I started specialising in pre and post-natal training, one of the most common concerns raised by my clients was whether or not it was safe to exercise while breastfeeding, followed by, worries that exercise could possibly affect milk supply.

Let’s be honest figuring out when to exercise again after giving birth can be challenging, especially so when you are a first time mom, struggling to make sense of everything. Not to mention trying to find the time to do so. 

Most women want to get back to their pre-baby bodies but lack of energy and worries about nursing their babies may delay or even halt their endeavours to exercise. 

From being a new mom to being a new mom of two in the space of a year (my boys are just a few days from being born exactly on the same day 1 year apart), I know exactly how hard it is to find time to fit in exercising with your new baby around, this is probably the most difficult part of getting back into your exercise routine. 

There are many ways to get started without feeling overwhelmed. Ultimately the most important element is that even the smallest amount of physical activity is better than none at all. 

Being a first time mother can be daunting and when you have decided to breastfeed, you usually rather concerned about taking care of your milk supply. Far more often than not this means that women hold-off on exercise, worrying that it could alter their precious milk supply.

I'm breastfeeding, is it okay to exercise? 

Yes, yes and yes. Moderate exercise not only improves the mother’s physical well-being but has also shown to have a positive effect on her emotional well-being.

So when should you start working-out once you’ve had baby? Simple, once you’ve gotten clearance from your medical doctor. Your doctor will let you know when it’s safe to start working out based on your particular circumstances, usually this is around 6 weeks postpartum, but for safety always consult with your doctor. 

Once you start with any exercise, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Start small – Short durations for a few days a week. 3 days a week is good. As you start feeling stronger and more comfortable, gradually increase your activity level. 
  • Stop exercising if you experience any form of discomfort or pain.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
  • Full breasts can make exercising uncomfortable, so breastfeed or pump before you get started.
  • Wear breast-pads and a supportive, comfortable bra. If your bra is too tight or does not provide enough support it can place you at risk for mastitis.
  • If you are prone to develop mastitis, you should limit upper-body exercises, especially lifting weights.
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Will it affect my milk supply?

Contrary to some believes and opinions, exercising does not affect your milk supply. It may cause a change in the taste of your milk as studies have indicated that vigorous exercise can lead to the presence of lactic acid in the breast milk. Interesting fact – exclusively breast-fed babies of moms who regularly exercise grow at the same rate as moms with a more sedentary lifestyle. This indicates that the nutritional composition of breastmilk is the same whether you work out or not. However keeping in mind the above guidelines, the safest workout plans would involve moderate activity.

How to avoid breast refusal after a workout.

  • Breast-feed your baby right before your workout. 
  • Wait at least 90 minutes after a strenuous workout before putting your baby on the breast as lactic acid levels can remain high in the breastmilk for at least 90 minutes. 
  • Take a shower after your workout 
  • Hand express a little milk from each breast to dump away before nursing baby.
  • Should baby still fuss to feed, use the time to bond with them and try again later. Do not force baby to feed, but still keep in mind your feeding schedule and keep trying.

 

Don’t be hard on yourself, find your new rhythm and start off slow. Include baby as baby of your workouts, go for walks with baby in the stroller or even have baby on the floor right beside you as you train.

Kim-Tamsin Williams

Kim-Tamsin Williams

Kim-Tamsin Williams is a qualified Sport Scientist (M. Phil) and the owner of Yummy Mommies, specializing in pre-and post-natal group fitness. She is passionate about assisting moms to stay healthy and fit during pregnancy and after childbirth. Her philosophy in life is that a healthy mom provides the best outcomes for her baby and child.