Should You Exercise While Breastfeeding?
Pictured: Pregnant Chontel Duncan (Fitness Blogger) with Son Jeremiah
Being physically active post pregnancy has many documented benefits for both mother and baby. Increased health and wellbeing, weight loss, reduction in stress and mental health issues, improved bone strength and the opportunity to get out of the house and treating yourself to a coffee are all great bonuses of keeping fit. Some women worry about the effect exercise will have on breastfeeding but with a few of these handy tips, you can continue working out and feeding your baby easily.
- Research has found that mild to moderate exercise does NOT cause lactic acid to increase in breast milk (any increase may temporarily change the taste but does not harm the baby in any way). Exercise has also shown to have no effect on supply or the nutrient composition of breastmilk.
- Start exercising slowly and gradually. The effects of relaxin (makes ligaments more elastic in pregnancy in preparation for child birth) can stick around for up to 6 months post birth, so be careful when doing high impact activities. If it doesn’t feel good, stop. Listen to your body.
- Breastfeeding prior to exercise can make it a whole lot more comfortable. Breasts can store about 170mls milk at one time (depending on size) so if your exercise with full breasts they can be quiet heavy and tender ( not to mention leaky!). Emptying them (by either feeding or pumping) may provide you more comfort, less bounce and gives you more time before baby is due for a next feed.
- Invest in a breastfeeding friendly sports bra! The MOVEMAMI sports bra range is perfect for nursing mothers. Being supported without the use of underwire assists in reducing the chance of blocked ducts and mastitis. Being able to unclip the straps one handed makes juggling a baby and feeding easy. The bra’s design makes feeding ‘discreet’ and can reduce any stress or anxiety you may have about feeding in public. You may even be able to feed and exercise at the same time (practically a super power!). The anti bacterial and moisture wicking fabric assists with reducing the chance of developing nipple thrush (it loves moist warm environments) and it has built in breast pads to catch any leakage!
- Drink plenty of water - breastmilk is made up of about 88% water and even though research doesn’t support low water intake equally reduced supply, anecdotally most women find if they don’t drink enough, they see some reduction in supply. Make sure you take along a drink bottle and sip throughout your exercise. Take plenty of breaks and ensure you make up for any lost fluids if you get particularly sweaty.
- Sweat is salty and some babies won’t like the taste of sweaty breasts, so take a few wipes or a towel with you so you can wipe down prior to a feed if bub won’t take the breast.
- Most midwives and obstetricians and gynaecologists will suggest waiting for your 6-week postnatal check to return to any serious exercise. It’s a good idea to have a physio check you for any abdominal separation (aka Diastasis Recti) post delivery too. It is a fairly common condition of pregnancy as the abdominal muscle spread apart due to the force of the uterus pushing out and can cause pelvic floor dysfunction, hernias and back and pelvic pain.
- Being away from your baby for long periods, especially when establishing lactation can cause a reduction in supply. Missing feeds can cause anxiety, distress or discomfort for not only you and baby but also who ever is looking after the hungry baby. Try doing activities such as walking with baby in a pram or carrier, mums and bubs yoga, buggy boot camp or kanga-training to ensure you don’t miss feeding cues or feeds.
Disclaimer: Always consult with your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before embarking on a new treatment, diet or fitness program.
Written by MOVEMAMI Resident Lactation Consultant Bel Moore.
Bel Moore is a Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), Midwife, Child and Family Health Nurse, Nurse Immuniser, Babywearing Consultant and mum of two beautiful boys.