This was written as a part of a series about losing weight and breastfeeding. You can read about how many extra calories you need to eat while breastfeeding here and my experience with losing weight while breastfeeding here.
A lot of women keep exercising when they are pregnant, right up until their baby is born. I am definitely not one of those women, as the most exercise that I did while I was pregnant was walking over to the freezer to get more ice cream. When my baby was born, I felt totally gross and wanted to get back in shape. After I got the all-clear from my OB to start working out, the things that I was worried about were:
- Exactly how many sports bras am I going to have to wear to keep the girls in check? Will they leak?
- Will exercise decrease my supply? Will the baby think my milk tastes bad if I exercise?
- Before I got pregnant, when I worked out, I lifted weights or ran for an hour at a time, and now it’s a good day if I can get a shower in – when exactly is exercise going to happen?
For me, the two keys to staying comfortable while exercising (other than walking) is making sure my breasts are a) empty and b) tightly anchored to my chest.
To achieve this, I try to do any exercise as soon as possible after pumping and wear two bras – first a sports bra and then my normal nursing bra on top. This provides enough support. I had to invest in a new sports bra after my baby was born to make this work – my cup size was larger due to breastfeeding and my band size was larger because I was heavier.
I don’t usually have issues with leaking, but I always wear breast pads just in case.
What Will Exercise Do to My Supply? Will it Change the Taste of the Milk?
In short, good news – exercise should not affect either your supply or your baby’s reaction to your milk. When supply has been studied, the results either showed no change or a slight increase in supply for moms who started exercising.
In terms of taste of the milk, there was a 1992 study that suggested that babies might refuse milk that was pumped after the mother exercised. However, when the babies were fed the pumped milk in this study, they were fed from droppers, which was unusual for those babies. In my opinion, this makes the study’s results unreliable – my babies, for example, are seriously pissed off if they aren’t sucking when they are hungry, and pissed off babies are not effective eaters. Other studies showed no difference in the amount of expressed milk that infants drank after their moms had exercised. Personally, I haven’t had any issues.
The only thing that I would watch out for is sweat – if you are sweaty after your workout, it might be a good idea to wash off with a washcloth before pumping or nursing, as your baby might not like the taste of the salt in your sweat.
Trying to Fit Exercise In When You Have a Baby
When my son (my first child) was born, I had to adjust my definition of what a “workout” was. Before I got pregnant with him, I had all the time in the world; after he was born, time was a precious commodity. The key to working out while having a baby for me is to either:
- Work out with the baby, or
- Work out really fast.
For the most part, working out with the baby meant talking long walks in the stroller. I invested in a jogging stroller, carseat adapter, and weather protector. (According to my pediatrician, jogging strollers can’t be used for actual jogging until babies are at least 9 months old, so I had to wait a while to start running again.) I live in Chicago and my baby was born in Febuary, but I bundled both of us up really well and we went for walks all over the city. When my second was born, I got a double jogging stroller (pictured above) and now I do the same thing with both of them.
The other option that worked for me was to do a short, intense exercise video like the 30 Day Shred. It is only 20 minutes long, but trust me, Jillian Michaels will own you by the end of it. Something short like this can be done while the baby naps or your partner, if you have one, takes a shift. I found it also gave me more energy to get things done around the house and with the baby when I’d finished it.