The Ultimate Guide to Exercise and Breastfeeding
So, you’re reading to start exercising again. Great! You’re breastfeeding your baby. Awesome! But, wait. How does this all work? Don’t worry. I got you! Starting an exercise routine while breastfeeding isn’t too complicated, but there are some key things you should know. Save this post, because it will be your guide to confidently start exercising while breastfeeding.
Why exercise is important
Let’s start at the beginning. You recently gave birth, is exercise really something you need to add to your plate? I get it. You have a lot going on right now, and exercise may not be at the top of your list.
Still, exercise in Motherhood is greatly about the emotional benefits. True, working out will help you gain muscle tone that has been lost throughout pregnancy, and those first weeks/months when you were hopefully lounging with your new bundle of joy! But, exercise has a proven track record of improving your energy and alleviating depression symptoms.
Types of exercise for the new mom
I could, and have, talk about this incessantly. It’s basically the basis of this blog! To sum up, start slow, and move in a way you look forward to and that makes you feel good.
Not specific enough, you say? Focus on rebuilding the core, then add strength training, and get your heart rate up with some form of cardio (power walking counts), for 30 minutes most days a week.
My favorite types include:
For much more detail, check out this post: How to (really) Get Your Body Back After Baby
Will exercising affect your milk supply?
This is probably your biggest concern. Most new moms wonder if exercise will affect their milk supply, and if the lactic acid build up from exercise is harmful for the baby.
Does exercise affect milk supply
In short, nope! This has been a topic for study, and zero studies have shown any affect on a woman’s milk supply, or the nutritional make up of a mom’s milk. The key, which I will address shortly, is to maintain your caloric intake to match your workouts.
Will lactic acid affect my baby?
Lactic acid is produced in your muscles during intense exercise, so you may be wondering if this build up is in your breastmilk and will negatively affect your baby.
Luckily, there have been studies on just this, and it’s nothing to worry about! For starters, research shows that there is no significant build up with moderate exercise (meaning 50%-75% of your max intensity), so the only time there is any build up, is when you’re busting your butt at near 100% intensity. At that point, there is a moderate increase in the breastmilk, but it is not harmful, and dissipates within 90 minutes after your workout.
A few tips
Now that we’ve established the ins and outs of exercise, I want to enlighten you with some specific tips to ensure you have a positive experience exercising while breastfeeding.
Drink enough water
Breastmilk is made of 90% water, so staying hydrated is key whether you are exercising or not. Add in workouts and you risk a quicker rate of dehydration. It’s recommended to drink around 12-16 glasses (96-126oz) when breastfeeding. (source)
No need to worry, your breastmilk is a priority, so if you fall short, your supply won’t instantly drop, rather you will be the one who first experiences signs of dehydration.
Eat enough healthy foods
Breastfeeding moms burn around 400-500 extra calories a day. Add on exercise and you’re likely burning anywhere from 300-700 more. For those wishing to shed some weight, this sounds amazing. But, remember, breastfeeding burns those calories because it needs them to produce quality breastmilk.
Generally, breastfeeding is not the best time to cut calories. Focus on the benefits of working out outside of weight loss, and be sure to replenish your body with a variety of healthy foods. In short, eating too little will drop your supply, and leave you with less muscles-building material.
Invest in a quality sports bra
As you find out in pregnancy, your boobs change a lot when creating and sustaining life! You’ve likely gone up at least one cup size, and perhaps feel tender. Breastfeeding is no different, with fluctuations in size depending on when you last pumped/nursed.
Read This: The Best Gifts for Active Moms
I also recommend getting a front-zip sports bra. This comes in handy if you bring baby with you to workout (hello jogging stroller!), or if you need to nurse immediately once you’re back. If you’re sweaty, just wipe your breast with a baby wipe or damp cloth.
Time your feeds
Gone are the days of your workouts being on your schedule. Your little one is the boss now! It’s going to feel better to workout right after a feed or pump, to avoid the full feeling and increased chance of leaking.
Think about the type of workout you’re going to do, and weigh that with the importance to nurse. If you’re doing cardio or a long (45+ minutes) workout, the emptier breasts the better, but if you’re doing a short strength training or yoga class, it may not be as urgent. Once you know their eating habits a little better it will get easier to plan!
I love helping new moms figure out their new postpartum workout routine. Let’s figure this out together, and get your plan in place so you can feel awesome in your post-baby body! Schedule your FREE 20 minute discovery call to see how health coaching can get you on track!