10 Tips for Exercising and Breastfeeding
Contributed by Brittany Citron is a pre/postnatal exercise specialist, and certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor and founder of PROnatal Fitness.
If you’ve been nervous about resuming exercise post-baby due to concerns of how it may impact your milk supply, you can relax! It is a myth that exercise decreases milk production. Studies have shown absolutely no difference in milk production or nutrient composition between mothers who exercise, and those who do not. Moreover, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) states that “regular aerobic exercise in lactating mothers has been shown to increase cardiovascular fitness without affecting milk production, composition, or infant growth.” That said, it’s good idea to follow the 10 tips below to ensure both you and your little one have the best experience possible with nursing.
1. Feed your baby, or pump, prior to exercise. This helps to avoid discomfort or engorged breasts.
2. Wear a supportive, and well-fitted bra! Proper breast support is imperative, as your breasts are larger and more sensitive when you are nursing. Bras that compress (like a sports bra) are better than those that lift. However, it is also important to make sure the bra is not too small or too tight, as this can cause pain and impede milk production. If possible, buy a bra from a store where you can get a proper fitting. Yummy Mummy has a bra expert that can help you find the right bra for your size and needs.
3. Put on the bra just before exercising, and change it immediately afterward. While a supportive bra is important for exercise, you don’t want to wear a firm sports bra for an extended period of time, as it could impede milk production.
4. It is best to take a shower after exercising. Sweat can leave a salty taste on your breasts that your baby *may* reject, so try to take a shower, or at least rinse your breasts before nursing or pumping.
5. If you develop a plugged duct, cut back on exercise. A plugged duct typically comes on gradually and affects only one breast. You may notice a hard lump that feels tender, hot, swollen, or even a little red. In some cases, you may just feel tenderness without an obvious lump. It will typically feel more painful before a feeding, and less tender afterward. If you suspect you have a plugged duct, do NOT stop nursing, but DO cut back on exercise until it is resolved. Once the duct is cleared (typically rest, hydration, and proper nutrition can do the trick), resume exercise more slowly.
6. STOP exercise if you happen to develop mastitis. Unlike a plugged duct, mastitis is an actual infection where the inflammation is often accompanied by pain, heat, redness, as well as fever, chills and other flu-like symptoms. A plugged duct can develop into mastitis if not treated promptly. If you suspect you have mastitis, stop exercising and speak with your doctor immediately for proper treatment. Do not resume exercise until the infection has completely gone away.
7. Nursing requires an additional 300 – 500 calories per day. You will need more calories if you are exercising, underweight, or feeding more than one baby. These additional calories should ideally come from nutrient dense foods and can be added in the form of 3-4 light snacks during the day (yogurts, cottage cheese, avocado, turkey, fruit and nut butter, etc). Do not try to significantly reduce your calories in an effort to lose weight. Following the 300-500 additional calorie guideline will still help you lose weight due to the increase in your metabolism.
8. Stay hydrated! Nursing moms often need 12 or more glasses of water each day – more if you are exercising. Be sure to stay hydrated and consider drinking water before, during, and after exercise. Also best to have a glass within reach while nursing.
9. Be careful about "nursing posture." Nursing often naturally places you in a hunched and rounded forward position. When you think about the sheer amount of time you spend in this position each day, it's easy to see how it can lead to a “hunched over” look, along with upper back and neck pain. To improve your posture and reduce pain, perform some simple chest stretches by placing your elbow at a right angle against the corner of a wall and gently stretching in the opposite direction. In addition, work on strengthening the backs of your shoulders and mid/upper back muscles. You can do this quite simply by just squeezing your shoulder blades together, almost as if you are trying to make them touch. Do this for about 10-15 seconds and repeat 5-7 times.
10. If your baby is rejecting your milk post-workout, wait 30 minutes. In a small minority of women, very high-intensity anaerobic exercise may increase lactic acid levels in breast milk enough to cause a sour taste and decrease infant suckling. If this happens, consider waiting 30 minutes following exercise to nurse your baby.
Brittany Citron is a pre/postnatal exercise specialist, and certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor. She is also the founder of PROnatal Fitness, which offers prenatal and postnatal group fitness classes, personal training, and Diastasis Recti rehabilitation – all developed with input from experts in the fitness, medical, and healthcare fields. All PROnatal workouts are designed for the specific needs of expecting and new mothers’ bodies, and incorporate modifiable cardio conditioning, total body strengthening, and proper core training. Brittany lives in Manhattan with her husband and 3-year old son, and a little girl on the way!
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