What to know about exercise while breastfeeding

Breastfeeding can be a special chapter in motherhood, but it can also be the source of many new worries. Of all the parenting questions you may be wondering, does working reduce your breast milk supply? Don’t worry; You are not alone. Many moms share the same concerns as me, but research debunks the misconception about exercising while breastfeeding.

Studies show that moderate exercise doesn’t reduce breast milk supply—in fact, it can increase human milk oligosaccharides (HMO) in your breast milk. What is the specialty of HMO in breast milk? Studies have shown that HMOs significantly affect a child’s developing gut microflora and immune system. The same study indicates that colostrum, the nutrient-dense milk produced during the first two to four days after birth, has a higher concentration of HMOs than mature milk, indicating its importance in your baby’s diet.

While your workouts won’t affect your lactation, inadequate nutrition certainly can. And trust me, I get it. I’ve been in your shoes, and I’ve worked with countless moms who can relate. The baby stage can be challenging, and your needs often take a back seat. However, for your benefit and the benefit of your baby, it is essential to provide your body with the nutrients it needs.

Nutritional requirements during breastfeeding

Have you ever heard the saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup?” This is true for many aspects of motherhood, but it speaks almost literally to breastfeeding. According to the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, breastfeeding increases the mother’s nutrient needs by an average of 330 to 400 calories per day, depending on the stage of lactation. Lack of this increased energy demand can put your breast milk supply at risk.

If exercise is new to your fitness routine, consider the calories you burn with each workout in the postpartum phase. Motherhood pulls you in many different directions. Making sure you get the nutrients you need can take a little planning and prep work. Try making meals and snacks that you can take on the go or enjoy while you nurse your toddler.

In addition to nutritious meals and snacks, it’s also important to have water on hand, especially if you lose fluids through sweat. Alison Curley, a registered nurse at the University of Maryland St. Joseph’s Medical Center and International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), notes the importance of hydration while breastfeeding. “Being well-hydrated is good for mom’s overall health,” she says, “but it can also help make sure you’re physically equipped to produce enough breast milk.”

Best form of exercise while breastfeeding

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, mothers should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week during both pregnancy and postpartum. And exercise routines can be gradually resumed after pregnancy, once medically cleared by your doctor.

Power walking, light jogging, biking, swimming, and even gardening, yard work, or a more rigorous vinyasa yoga flow can count as moderate aerobic exercise as long as it gets your heart rate up. A good rule of thumb is that if you can still talk and carry on a conversation while doing cardio, you’re in a moderate-intensity zone.

To help motivate you, “set sustainable goals that focus on rebuilding core strength and returning to favorite activities,” suggests Brittney Szymanski, a professional ballerina celebrity fitness trainer and CEO of Britsbar Virtual Studios. She recommends working with a certified prenatal trainer to make sure your workouts are designed with postpartum changes in mind. For example, in the first few weeks postpartum, Szymanski recommends focusing on breathing exercises, pelvic floor activation, and short walks at a leisurely pace.

Here’s a postpartum core workout to help you get started:

Breastfeeding moms may find it helpful to nurse before starting their workout, and finding the right sports bra can make all the difference. Look for a bra that provides enough structural support without being too tight. Finally, if your baby is ready to nurse before you have a chance to shower, you might consider rinsing the breast to remove the salty taste of your sweat and help them latch.

TL;DR? Studies have shown that exercise does not reduce your breast milk supply but can help boost your baby’s immune system. Inadequate nutritional intake, on the other hand, can affect your breast milk production. Breastfeeding increases your nutritional needs by about 330 to 400 calories per day.

Of course, it is important to note that this article does not take the place of medical advice. Nutritional needs are individual, and general guidelines do not apply to everyone. If you have questions about nutrition and exercise while breastfeeding, talk to your doctor or registered dietitian nutritionist.

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