What you need to know about Breastfeeding and Exercise
Although it can be challenging to find the time, we all feel better when we exercise! Many women have asked if vigorous exercise will affect breastfeeding.
Autumn Bonner summed up the answers in this wonderful post on her website, Tailored Fitness, reposted here with permission.
My resource for all things exercise and pregnancy related has been Dr. James Clapp’s book Exercising Through Your Pregnancy. He has a chapter on breastfeeding and exercise that has a lot of great information. Here are the highlights.
- Regular exercise, even at high intensity, does NOT alter with the quality or quantity of breast milk produced.
That’s great news! Dr. Clapp refers to several studies that looked at the effect of exercise and breastfeeding and none of them showed that there was any difference in the milk production of exercising and non-exercising women.
- Women who exercise and breastfeed should be sure to eat at least 1500 calories per day so that their breast milk production is not reduced.
When you exercise, you burn calories, and breastfeeding also burns calories (about 500 per day), so breastfeeding moms need to make sure they are consuming enough calories to cover the extra they are burning off during exercise and breastfeeding. If the number of calories consumed drops below 1500 total, milk production can be affected. You will also need to increase your water intake, especially if you workout outdoors in warm weather.
- Exercising while breastfeeding DOES NOT affect infant growth rate.
Since the quality and quantity of breast milk stays the same, you do not need to worry about your exercise affecting your baby’s weight gain.
Ok, now onto some practical tips that will help make exercising while breastfeeding more comfortable:
- Buy a supportive sports bra.
Prior to being pregnant, I never really had to worry about supportive sports bras because, well, I wasn’t to well endowed on top. But that changed when I became pregnant and even more since Sienna arrived. Luckily, the girls in my Stroller Strides class told me about the sports bra Juno by Moving Comfort. It’s a great, supportive bra that even has adjustable straps. They also have a non-racerback version called Fiona. Lululemon also sells a bra called the Tata Tamer. Don’t you love the name? It doesn’t have the adjustable straps, but it works well too. I wrote a blog post about supportive sports bras that you can read here.
- Feed your baby right before you exercise.
This will help a lot with comfort during your workout, especially for high impact activities like running or kickboxing. If you are exercising at a gym or outside, this may involve breastfeeding in public. Pick a workout top that will be easy to either pull down or pull up for nursing. Side note, did you know that there are laws that protect the right for women to breastfeed in public? My lactation consultant Robin was actually just involved in resolving an incident here in San Diego where a woman was told she could not breastfeed her baby while she was waiting in traffic court. She wrote a really interesting article detailing the incident here.
- Try low impact exercise if you still have pain.
If you still have any pain, try switching to lower impact exercise until your milk supply regulates and you are able to move around more comfortably. You can still get a great workout without any jumping. In all the Tailored Fitness videos, I give low impact options. I also just filmed a series of exercise with your baby videos, which are all low impact and designed specifically for the newly postpartum mom.
I hope these tips help you be able to breastfeed and exercise comfortably!
Thank you, Autumn, for allowing to repost these tips. You can see Autumn’s post in its entirety here.
Cindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have assisted over 20,000 families.
Download their app NuuNest – Newborn Nurse Answers and Baby Tracking for expert guidance through the first crucial weeks after childbirth.