Is working out while breastfeeding possible? 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, though, I wasn’t sure what the deal was with exercise and breastfeeding.
Specifically, my concerns were:
- Exactly how many sports bras am I going to have to wear to keep the girls in check?
- Will I leak while I exercise?
- Will exercise and breastfeeding decrease my supply?
- Will the 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.
Breast Comfort While Breastfeeding and Exercising
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 tried to do any exercise as soon as possible after pumping and to wear two bras – first a sports bra, and then my normal nursing bra on top. This provided enough support.
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). The best nursing sports bra that women in our Facebook group seem to like are the Kindred Bravely Sublime sports bra and the Motherhood Maternity nursing sports bra.
I didn’t usually have issues with leaking, but I always wore breast pads just in case.
What Will Exercise Do to My Supply?
In short, good news – exercise should not affect your supply, either the output quantity or the composition. 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.
The one thing to be careful of is to make 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.
Will Exercise Change the Taste of My 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. This makes the study’s results somewhat unreliable according to Kellymom.com.
Other studies showed no difference in the amount of expressed milk that infants drank after their moms had exercised. (Personally, I never 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 in Working Out and Breastfeeding 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 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.
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.
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.References
- 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