Ready to get back into working out, but not sure how that might affect breastfeeding? Here’s everything you need to know about exercise and breastfeeding, and the best nursing sports bras.
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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. The most exercise that I did while I was pregnant was walking over to the freezer to get more ice cream.
After I got the all-clear from my OB to start working out after my baby’s birth, I was ready to get going again. But I had a lot of questions around exercise and breastfeeding.
Specifically, my concerns were:
- How do I make sure these (bigger than I’m used to) breasts are supported? And will I leak while I exercise?
- Will exercise and breastfeeding decrease my supply?
- Will my baby think my milk tastes bad if I exercise?
- When exactly is exercise going to happen? Before I got pregnant, 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.
Let’s go through these one by one.
Get a good nursing sports bra
For me, the two keys to staying comfortable while exercising (other than walking) is making sure my breasts are a) on the empty side and b) tightly anchored to my chest.
To achieve this, I tried to do any exercise as soon as possible after pumping and to wear a sports bra.
It’s a good idea to get a nursing sports bra, because they are built for lactating breasts (meaning they usually are without wires and seams in places that they could cause problems).
I didn’t usually have issues with leaking during exercise, but I always wore breast pads just in case.
Exercise, breastfeeding, and milk supply
In short, good news – exercise should not affect your supply, either the quantity of milk produced or the composition of it.
When exercise and its affect on breast milk has been studied, the results either showed no change or a slight increase in supply for moms who started exercising.
One thing to be careful of is making sure that you are getting enough food to fuel your exercise. You’re already burning quite a few calories by breastfeeding (about 20 calories for every ounce that you pump – more info here), and you want to make sure you’re eating enough to keep yourself healthy.
Exercise and the taste of breast milk
A 1992 study 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. This makes it hard to distinguish whether the issue was really the milk, or if it was the feeding method.
Other studies showed no difference in the amount of expressed milk that infants drank after their moms had exercised.
So go ahead and try exercising and then feeding, and see what happens. If you don’t notice any difference in how your baby takes the milk, you know it’s not a concern.
One thing that I might watch out for, though, 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.
Fit in working out and breastfeeding with 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.
Working out with baby
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 February, 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 and did the same thing with both of them.
Working out really fast
The other option that worked for me was to do a short, intense HIIT (high intensity interval training) exercise video on YouTube. Something that is only 20 minutes long, but intense.
This way you can do it while the baby naps (I often had to pause the video to replace a pacifier) or your partner, if you have one, takes a shift.
I found doing a HIIT workout also gave me more energy to get things done around the house and with the baby when I’d finished it.
Have you exercised as a breastfeeding mom? Tell us about your experience in the comments!
- Bonyata, Kelly, IBCLC. “Exercise and Breastfeeding.” https://kellymom.com/bf/can-i-breastfeed/lifestyle/mom-exercise/
- Prentice, A. “Should lactating women exercise?” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7816355
- Wallace, JP. “Infant acceptance of post-exercise breast milk.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1306643
- Dewey, Kathryn G. “A Randomized Study of the Effects of Aerobic Exercise by Lactating Women on Breast-Milk Volume and Composition.” https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199402173300701