They say breastfeeding is like strapping a treadmill to your chest – the weight just falls off. But this isn’t always the case for everyone. Some moms really do struggle to lose their pregnancy weight. If you’re breastfeeding, but wanting to get back into an exercise routine you probably have some questions and concerns about whether it’s safe to do so and if exercising will affect your milk supply.
We answer moms’ most frequently asked questions when it comes to exercise and breastfeeding:
Can I exercise if I’m breastfeeding?
The short answer is yes. “Exercise is a crucial component of health, and no less so during breastfeeding. Bone density also takes a knock during pregnancy, and weight-bearing exercise during and after pregnancy can help maintain and improve it,” says fitness and wellness expert Lisa Raleigh.
When can I start exercising?
By six to eight weeks after giving birth, your doctor will most likely give you the go-ahead to resume normal activity and once you find the time between feeds, nappy changes and sleep, exercise may help you get back into the swing of everyday life. Remember to listen to your body when you start and to go at your own pace.
How intense can my workouts be?
There are old wives’ tales about exercise souring your milk, but studies supporting this are inconclusive, and breastfeeding moms don’t report this either.
Lactation consultant Brenda Pierce suggests starting with moderate exercise and building up to a more strenuous workout. She explains that excessive lactic acid production can result in a change in your milk’s taste, but it isn’t harmful to your baby and won’t change the composition or benefits of breast milk – your baby may just not like the taste. “Intensive exercise that may alter the taste is described as exhaustive exercise. It is recommended that you keep your cardio activity to 80% of your maximum capacity to keep your baby happy. This means your heart rate should not exceed 220 minus your age,” explains Lisa.
Can exercise affect my milk supply?
“It’s a common misconception that exercise drops milk supply,” says Brenda, who explains that if you exercise moderately you should have no issues at all. In fact, in some situations, exercise can actually increase milk volume. This is due to the increase of endorphins, your body’s natural feel-good hormone. “These hormones can increase the hormone prolactin, which produces milk,” says Brenda.
Should I change my diet if I’m working out and breastfeeding?
Generally, a breastfeeding mom needs to increase her kilojoule consumption to keep up with the demands of making milk. “If you are exercising more than an hour a day, you may need to increase your normal calorie consumption,” says Lisa.
If you are maintaining a healthy diet and not restricting calories, general exercise shouldn’t affect your milk supply – just ensure you include enough fluids and protein in your diet.
Can I breastfeed immediately after moderate exercise?
While it won’t harm your baby to feed right after a workout, your little bundle might not like the salty taste of your skin, or your elevated heart rate. You may want to hop in the shower and relax a little before going straight into feeding, suggests Lisa.
Is there a specific time I should exercise?
Whenever you can fit exercise into your schedule is the best time! But if possible, try to exercise after you feed your baby. That way, you won’t be heavy with milk, which can make physical activity uncomfortable.
Do I have to wear any special garments if I’m breastfeeding?
Wear whatever is comfortable. It’s a good idea to invest in a supportive bra.
What exercise is beneficial for nursing?
Now that you are no longer pregnant, you can resume all forms of exercise. Start off with anything you feel comfortable doing. Walking and body-weight movement is a great way to get going. Once you feel fitter and stronger, you can add some light resistance training and interval training. You can then advance to weight-bearing exercises and more endurance cardio.
What exercises should I avoid?
You are free to do whatever exercises you want – as long as you have your doctor’s clearance. Just remember not to do anything too strenuous. Wait an hour and a half before feeding your baby to make sure your milk still tastes the same to him.
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