Exercising Whilst Breastfeeding: What You Need to Know.
So you’re pregnant, congratulations. Life is about to change in so many ways and your pregnancy journey will change your body in many ways. One of the least desired of these changes is weight gain. As the saying goes you are now eating for two (well maybe one and a half!) and are often craving some weird and wonderful things, things not always good for your waistline.
Doctors will often advise you that weight gain is completely normal after all you are growing a baby inside you. Ensuring your baby is healthy takes precedence over weight concerns which can be contemplated after you have given birth.
The big day arrives, baby is born and you are eager to get into a routine. Part of which is working towards getting you weight back to pre-baby days. Exercising and good eating are the best solution but should your approach change whilst breastfeeding?
The simple act of breastfeeding your baby burns around 300-400 calories a day as your body is working constantly to produce milk. But this is only part of the weight loss puzzle and this alone may not rid all your excess weight. Exercise may be required to complete the puzzle.
This raises the question of what is and isn’t safe to do and how your milk supply may be affected. Moderate exercise will also improve your health and well-being and can give you some much needed ‘me’ time to recharge the batteries.
So let’s take a look at some of the common questions new mum’s ask.
Is Exercising Whilst Breastfeeding Safe?
In a word; yes. That does not mean go out and run a marathon but there is no evidence to suggest that moderate exercise is anything but beneficial for breastfeeding mum’s. As always listen to your body, if you are feeling abnormally fatigued or things just don’t feel right, stop and rest. The key is moderation.
Are There Any Exercise Guidelines?
This is a question you should ask your doctor as everyone is different. The most important thing is to consider your health and that of your baby and to make exercise work for you.
Don’t overdo it and take things at your own pace doing exercise you know and feel comfortable with. Ideally exercise after feeding so your breasts won’t be full and uncomfortable (you’ll also avoid any leaking!).
Supporting your breasts during any physical activity is very important as the natural pregnancy weight added to the weight of the milk can make your breasts feel sore and may cause long term sagging, noooo!!! A high support sports bra is a must to support your breasts and to reduce excessive bounce common for women with larger breasts.
Can I Involve Baby During Exercise?
You certainly can. Whilst it is sometimes nice to take an hour on your own to focus on ‘you’ and to clear you head with a good workout. It can also be a great bonding experience for you and baby to workout ‘together’.
Place baby in a carrier and go for a power walk, use a specially designed pram and take baby for a run. Go even faster and tow baby in a buggy behind your bike for a trip to the shops. The possibilities are endless and you often get to do a daily task and a workout at the same time.
Another great option is to join a local mother’s exercise group.
Will Exercise Affect My Milk Supply?
Exercising does many good things to your body but it does not affect the supply of milk you naturally produce as long as it is accompanied by a sufficient, balanced diet.
Eat well and the amount and quality of milk you produce will not be affected no matter how much you exercise.
Does Lactic Acid Increase After Exercise?
There is no research that shows that lactic acid levels increase in the breastmilk of mothers who exercise moderately (50-75% intensity). This is a different story when you increase the intensity level to 100%. At this level lactic acid levels in breastmilk do increase.
This is called exhaustive exercise and the increase in lactic acid is present for around 90-minutes post-exercise but it will go back down again. This isn’t a problem for baby as there are no know harmful effects of feeding after intense exercise.
What About the Taste?
Ah the old wives tale that exercising affects the taste of your milk. Not true, the only taste difference will be if you try to feed baby and you haven’t showered!
Your sweat will leave a salty taste on your breast which your baby may not like so have a shower or quickly rinse your breast before feeding. If you have a very hungry baby and don’t have time for either simply give you breast a quick wipe to remove and sweat residue. Unless of course your baby likes the taste…
Will My Baby Refuse the Breast After Exercise?
Much research has been done on babies accepting their mother’s breast after exercise, including after maximum intensity exercise. A recent study noted there was no change in breast acceptance by babies after exercise.
If you baby is refusing the breast then think of other factors. Are they distracted? Are they put off by the salty taste? Maybe they don’t like the increased lactic acid levels after your high intensity workout?
If this is a concern or becomes a problem consider expressing before your workout. It will make things more comfortable for your during the workout and baby afterwards.