It seems like everyone is talking about prenatal fitness these days. There are DVDs, fitness classes, and clothing lines dedicated to prenatal exercise. There is a lot of care taken to ensure you are safely staying active while growing your baby. But many moms are still asking themselves, can I exercise while breastfeeding? The same care should be taken in postpartum fitness. Let’s look at some keys to safely, comfortably, and effectively exercise while breastfeeding.
You should always put your body’s safety first. You have just birthed a human being! You are the food provider for your child! You are amazing! Remember how incredible your body is, but also remember to give it time to heal. The general rule, according to doctors, is to wait six weeks after a vaginal birth and eight weeks after a C-section to begin exercising. Some women, especially those who did not receive a C-section, may be given the green light by their doctor earlier. What you need to consider, as a breastfeeding mom, is your body’s healing process. It is proven that exercising will not decrease your milk supply, but fatigue can. Consider how much sleep you are getting, your current milk supply, and monitor your baby’s feeding habits after you’ve exercised. If you are severely sleep deprived, starting an exercise routine may not benefit you or your breastfeeding. I have skipped workouts because I know I am exhausted, which could also lead to an injury due to lack of concentration. Ease into your postpartum fitness slowly. You will not be back at your peak running pace or max weight lifting shape right away. As a breastfeeding mom, being as rested as possible will help with feeding and fitness.
You MUST hydrate. We all know that breastfeeding moms need to drink a lot, but you must drink while you exercise. If you preferred not to hydrate while exercising pre-baby, seriously consider changing your ways. You can dehydrate easily while breastfeeding, so exercising without hydrating could increase your chances of producing low milk supply. If you find you don’t like water, consider drinking Gatorade, Nuun, or coconut water before and after you work out.
Your new body may make things a bit uncomfortable. As a runner, my runs felt odd for a few weeks. Your body is completely different; hip width, girth, weight distribution, possibly your shoe size and oh, that chest! This all creates a body that can feel awkward when getting back to fitness. Make sure you wear clothes that are comfortable; that may mean buying a top or bottom that is a size bigger. The number one area I would recommend investing in is a sports bra. As a breastfeeding mom, your chest has inevitably changed! I purchased a nursing sports bra, which has come in handy often. Trust me, trying to peel off a sweaty tight sports bra is more difficult when your baby is hungry and crying! Wearing comfortable workout clothes strengthens your chances of wanting to throw them on and get a little sweat in during your limited time as a breastfeeding mom.
To make your workouts effective, plan your workouts around your feeds. I use the term “plan” loosely. Who can firmly plan with a baby?! What I mean is, if you intend on exercising, plan it around your estimated feeding time. I have found that exercising an hour to an hour and a half after feeding is optimal during an every three hour cycle. When you get closer to the next feed, you may feel your chest growing heavier, which can be uncomfortable. Exercising while breastfeeding should be all about your comfort, so try out what timing works best for YOU! Generally when the baby is happy and fed I have found that I can get a great workout in and entertain my little one at the same time. If you are exercising close to the next feed and don’t have time for a full shower, be sure to wipe down your chest. The salt in sweat may turn a baby off to feeding. Also, there may be germs on your body if you used mats, weights, the pool or other equipment at a gym, so keep your milk makers and hands clean!
What if you can’t make it to the gym? Being a new mom, or the mom of multiple children, is time consuming. Being a breastfeeding mom is even more time consuming. Consider some at home options that you can do. I have found websites like Daily Burn, Fitzala, and YouTube fitness stations have really great options. Of course, you can always pop in a DVD, do a Pinterest workout or hit the open road with your stroller! Another great idea is a Mommy And Me fitness class!
Most importantly, do what makes you happy. Breastfeeding can feel tiring and hard some days, so do something endorphins-driven for YOU.