Is it safe to exercise while breastfeeding?
Because I have a three month old whom I’m currently breastfeeding and because I am an instructor for stroller fitness classes, I frequently get questions about the impact exercising has on breastfeeding. Unfortunately, with my daughter my milk production does seem to decrease as the months go by, so I’m making sure I’m doing all that I can to keep my milk production. But it is also extremely important for a new mom’s mind & body to fit some sort of exercise into their daily routine.
Us breastfeeding mommas have plenty to worry about: our newborn’s sleep patterns, potential food sensitivities, what & when you are eating, timelines for feeding, among many other things but exercising while breastfeeding does not have to be a concern.
According to kellymom.com, a top parenting and breastfeeding resource, moderate exercise has a host of benefits for breastfeeding moms. It improves their cardiovascular fitness, improves blood lipids and insulin profiles, and can help alleviate postpartum depression symptoms. It’s a misconception that exercising while breastfeeding can cause a reduction in a woman’s milk supply. Typical causes of a reduced milk supply have more to do with our hydration (insufficient hydration can cause immediate shifts in milk supply), stress levels (women under high stress produce hormones that can suppress milk supply), and caloric intake (too few calories can suppress milk supply).
When you are reducing calories to shed pregnancy weight, it is best to do so in small doses while paying close attention to your hydration levels. If your body is not taking in enough calories to sustain your minimum caloric requirement, it will stop producing the milk your baby needs. A general guideline of calories needed to produce breastmilk is 20 calories per ounce you are producing a day. So, if you are feeding your baby 25-30 ounces of milk a day, you will need to consume between 400-600 extra calories on top of your daily minimums (which vary according to your body weight and other metabolic factors).
A good rule of thumb for breastfeeding moms is to consume at least 2000 calories per day, especially when engaging in an exercise program. That doesn’t give you license to go out and eat donuts and chips. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fiber, protein, and healthy fats are essential for your milk production.
When incorporated into a lifestyle that includes increased calories (more food!), proper hydration, and stress reduction techniques, exercise can do you and your new baby a lot of good. Here are three tips for moms returning to exercise with a new baby while breastfeeding:
- Buy the right bras. You want a good nursing bra that also supports you for moderate movement. When a bra is too tight, it can lead to problems like clogged ducts and mastitis. Buy bras that fit snugly and support you, but are not too tight.
- If and when possible, try to nurse or pump before you work out. This tip is mainly for your comfort and to help keep your baby happy while you are exercising.
- Drink half your body weight in ounces of water each day. You want to drink water before and after exercise, especially on hot days. You will want your urine to look like light lemonade – that is a sign of good hydration. If you consume caffeine, then make sure to add more water to your day to replace any fluid loss. Coffee has a host of benefits, but is also a diuretic and can cause dehydration if it is not consumed with extra water.
Don’t let the myths surrounding exercise and breastfeeding scare you. You are best served by incorporating moderate exercise on most days of the week. It is not only great for you, but it is good for your baby as well!