The Breastfeeding Mom's Best Exercise Guide
Having a baby can mean adjusting to a lot of lifestyle changes, but once you feel ready for it, that shouldn’t stop you from pursuing your fitness goals! As a breastfeeding mama, you’ll enjoy many benefits of exercise including building physical strength, losing pregnancy weight, and improving your mental wellbeing.
Studies have shown repeatedly that regular exercise can reduce stress and help with depression. Paired with a healthy diet, it will also help you lose fat without lowering your milk supply!
If you’re considering getting back into fitness after birth, follow some of the tips below.
Start with low-impact exercises.
Walking outside with the baby in good weather is a great way for both of you to get some fresh air and light exercise. Regular walks can increase the levels of serotonin, promoting positive feelings and mood. Babies can also benefit from getting outside!
In the first few weeks of your baby’s life, focus all your energy on caring for yourself and your baby – try to sneak in some sleep whenever possible and drink lots of water to stay hydrated. Once you’ve recovered from birth, and you feel ready, talk to your doctor and see if you’re ready to start with moderate exercise. This will usually be around your two-month mark. You can then slowly start to introduce cardio and strength-based exercises to your daily routine to tone your body.
Avoid losing weight rapidly.
Losing more than 1 pound a week during lactation may increase the amount of environmental toxins in your breast milk. This is caused by burning fat too quickly, which causes the toxins in your body fat to move into the bloodstream, and into the breast milk. If rapid weight loss happens, consult your doctor about how you can avoid it. A diet rich in nutrients and calories can help.
Consume at least 1,800 calories per day.
Research shows that moms who breastfeed their babies for at least the 3-6 months of baby’s life may or may not have an easier time when trying to lose pregnancy weight – it depends on each mom’s unique situation.
Losing weight while breastfeeding can be safe as long as you maintain a nutritious and balanced diet. Most breastfeeding moms need to consume at least 1,800 calories per day. Not eating or drinking enough daily calories can lead to rapid weight loss, lower milk supply, low levels of necessary vitamins, malnourishment, and weakness.
Especially in the beginning, the weight loss may be too rapid, and a mom may need to add nutrient rich calories from her own kitchen to meet the minimum calories per day.
Drink water, and then drink more water.
Hydration is key when you’re exercising as a breastfeeding mom. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workouts.
Consider getting a supportive, high-impact bra.
Your breasts may change significantly from pregnancy to post-pregnancy and through breastfeeding and your old sports bras might not do the trick anymore. Consider getting a supportive sports bra (or two!) that’s designed for high-impact sports that require a lot of movement. A bra with adjustable straps will help accommodate the changing size of your breasts throughout your journey. You can also try investing in a nursing sports bra with easy flaps that open when you need to breastfeed or pump.
…but don’t forget to take off your bra as soon as you’re done working out.
Sitting in a tight-fitting sports bra might bother your breasts especially if they’re full of milk and can lead to mastitis.
Try breastfeeding or pumping before exercising.
Exercise may be uncomfortable when your breasts are full. Many women find they exercise more comfortably when they feed the baby or pump before working out.
And for mamas who do more strenuous exercises…
Some of you may have heard that exercise will make milk “sour.” This is caused by intense exercises as they increase the amount of lactic acid in your breast milk. But don’t worry – this does not make the baby unwilling to breastfeed and it’s not harmful for baby! Lactic acid disappears quickly from breast milk, even after a strenuous workout.