While you were pregnant, you had to be very cautious with exercise to ensure that you got enough to stay healthy but you didn't overdo it and endanger the baby.
Now that you are breastfeeding, you may feel equally concerned about exercise jeopardizing your milk supply.
The good news is that exercise continues to be encouraged during breastfeeding and generally will not affect your milk supply. Here's what you need to know:
Will baby refuse the breast after you exercise?
The answer is different for every baby, but in most cases, exercise should not impact whether your baby will nurse.
Some babies may not like the taste of salt from sweat on your breast, and others may not like how warm you feel if you have just finished with strenuous exercise.
However, there should be no issue with the milk changing taste or nutritional composition.
According to Kelly Mom, a highly respected source on breastfeeding, a widely circulated study in 1992 found that some babies would not take their mother's after their moms exercised.
But Kelly Mom points out that the study did not take into consideration that these babies were fed using a dropper, which is not how they were accustomed to taking their milk.
Kelly Mom also notes that one study showed that immunological properties were slightly reduced in the milk of women who exercised to exhaustion.
However, most breastfeeding mothers do not breastfeed to the point of exhaustion, and for those that do, the milk of only one feeding per day would be affected, which is unlikely to cause serious long-term issues.
Otherwise, studies have shown that exercise is good for the health of the mother and may even increase milk supply in some cases.
Hydration and Nursing
A key concern for nursing mothers who are exercising is hydration.
If you do not stay hydrated, your milk supply can dwindle, and exercise can easily dehydrate you if you are not drinking enough water before, during and after activity.
Drink plenty of water before you start exercising, and continue to sip water throughout your routine.
Make sure you drink plenty of water to sate your thirst when you are finished.
If you are exercising outside or if it is especially hot where you are, you may need to drink even more.
Pumping before Exercise
If you find that your baby is one that shuns your breast because of the salt from your sweat, you may want to either take a shower before you nurse or pump before you start exercising.
You may want to pump before exercising either way, since having full breasts while trying to perform vigorous activity can be very uncomfortable.
Pump before you get started, and wear a good sports bra to provide extra support.
If you plan to exercise for a long period -- such as if you are training for a race -- you may need to stop midway and pump again, depending on how frequently your baby nurses and how much discomfort you are experiencing.
Benefits of Exercising while Breastfeeding
Not only can you exercise while breastfeeding, but doctors say that you should.
Exercising while breastfeeding has the following benefits:
- Improve bone health (which can suffer while breastfeeding due to the loss of calcium)
- Improve cardiovascular health
- Promote healthy weight loss after pregnancy weight gains
- Balance hormones for improved mood
- Reduce stress
- Encourage more restful sleep
Whether you are breastfeeding a newborn or a toddler, chances are good that you are feeling overwhelmed by the hormonal changes in your body and by the demands of keeping up with your child.
You may not be getting enough sleep, you may be under a lot of stress, and you may be experiencing extreme mood changes.
Regular exercise can help with all of those things.
Even low-impact exercise can help even out your mood, reduce your stress levels and help you get better sleep.
All of that will make for a better you so that you can be a better mom.
Making Time for Exercise
As a breastfeeding mom, you may want to exercise more but struggle to find the time to do so.
You likely spend the majority of your time caring for your baby and your home.
If you work outside the home, you have additional responsibilities that can consume your time.
Fortunately, you don't have to embark on a strenuous exercise program to get the benefits of regular, physical activity. You can fit in exercise when you have the time.
One easy way to move more is to take your little one on a walk with you each day.
Either wear your baby in a baby carrier -- and burn more calories by carrying extra weight -- or push your baby in a stroller.
If you want to jog, you can get a jogging stroller. Your baby will enjoy watching the scenery or may take a nap while you run.
There are even exercises you can do with your baby, such as you can see in this video:
Even taking a 20- to 30-minute walk or strength training for 15 minutes a day can help you improve your overall health and increase your strength.
Give yourself that time each day as a way to care for yourself, or use that time to share something special with your baby.
Over time, you will be setting a great example for healthy activity and self-care for your child.
Do not be afraid that exercise will impair your ability to breastfeed or will reduce your milk supply.
So long as you are staying hydrated and taking good care of yourself, exercise will only enhance your breastfeeding experience, not hinder it.
If are doing heavy strength training and find that you are getting clogged ducts regularly, just ease up on the weight or the intensity.
Otherwise, exercise as much as your body needs to feel good.