A Guide to Exercising for Breastfeeding Moms
Having a baby shouldn’t stop you from pursuing your fitness goals! If you’re considering exercising while breastfeeding, follow these tips.
Having a baby can mean adjusting to a lot of lifestyle changes, but once you feel ready for it, that shouldn’t stop you from pursuing your fitness goals! As a breastfeeding mama, you’ll enjoy many benefits of exercise, including building physical strength, losing pregnancy weight, and improving your mental wellbeing.
Studies have repeatedly shown that regular exercise can reduce stress and help with depression. Paired with a healthy diet, exercise can promote mental and physical wellness without diminishing your milk supply! To help you on your fitness journey, here are some tips to help you exercise while breastfeeding.
Tips for Exercising While Breastfeeding
Start with low-impact exercises. If you’re considering getting back into working out while breastfeeding, you should consider low-impact exercises at first. Walking outside with the baby in good weather is an excellent way for both of you to get some fresh air and light exercise. Regular walks can increase your serotonin levels, promoting positive feelings and mood. Babies can also benefit from getting outside!
In the first few weeks of your baby’s life, focus all your energy on caring for yourself and your baby – try to sneak in some sleep whenever possible and drink lots of water to stay hydrated. Once you’ve recovered from birth and you feel ready, talk to your doctor and see if you’re approved to start with moderate exercise. This will usually be around your two-month mark, though this may vary. You can then slowly begin to introduce cardio and strength-based exercises to your daily routine.
Avoid losing weight rapidly. When developing a fitness routine or diet plan, focus on overall health rather than losing large amounts of weight. Losing more than 1 pound a week during lactation may increase the amount of environmental toxins in your breast milk. This is caused by burning fat too quickly, which causes the toxins in your body fat to move into the bloodstream and into your breast milk. If rapid weight loss happens, consult your doctor about how you can avoid it. A diet rich in nutrients and calories can help.
Consume at least 1,800 calories per day. Research shows that moms who breastfeed their babies for at least the first 3-6 months of baby’s life may or may not have an easier time when trying to lose pregnancy weight – it depends on each mom’s unique situation.
Losing weight while breastfeeding can be safe as long as you maintain a nutritious and balanced diet filled with healthy, good-for-you foods. Most breastfeeding moms need to consume at least 1,800 calories per day. Not eating or drinking enough daily calories can lead to rapid weight loss, lower your milk supply, lower levels of necessary vitamins, malnourishment, and weakness.
Especially in the beginning, the weight loss may be too rapid, and a mom may need to add nutrient-rich calories from her own kitchen to meet her minimum calories per day. Creating a diet in consultation with a doctor or nutritionist can help you and your baby get the nutrients you both need to stay well.
Drink water...and then drink more water. Hydration is key when you’re exercising as a breastfeeding mom. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workouts.
Consider getting a supportive, high-impact bra. Your breasts may change significantly from pregnancy to postpartum. When you resume your exercising routine while breastfeeding, your old sports bras might not do the trick anymore. Consider getting a supportive sports bra (or two!) that’s designed for high-impact sports requiring a lot of movement.
A bra with adjustable straps will help accommodate the changing size of your breasts throughout your journey. You can also try investing in a nursing sports bra with easy flaps that open when you need to breastfeed or pump. Don’t forget to take off your bra as soon as you're done working out! Sitting in a tight-fitting sports bra might be uncomfortable, especially when engorged or right before it's time to nurse or pump. Wearing a compressing sports bras for too long can also potentially lead to mastitis.
Try breastfeeding or pumping before exercising. Exercise may be uncomfortable when your breasts are full. Many women find they exercise more comfortably when they feed the baby or pump before working out. Try creating a workout or fitness schedule so that your exercise routine follows pumping or nursing. This way, you’ll ensure maximum comfort during your workouts.
Don't forget to work on your whole self too. For days when a high-impact workout just isn't feasible, consider the benefits of a mindfulness app. Expectful, for example, features an expansive library of meditations designed for every stage of the parenthood journey, as well as virtual fitness classes and consult opportunities with perinatal physical health experts so you can learn how to return to your exercise routine safely.
What About Strenuous Workouts?
You may have heard that exercise will make milk “sour.” Intense exercises can cause this, as they increase the amount of lactic acid in your breast milk. But don’t worry – this does not make the baby unwilling to breastfeed and it’s not harmful to baby! Lactic acid disappears quickly from breast milk, even after a strenuous workout.