Can Exercise Decrease My Milk Supply?
By Yafa’ Ajweh, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant
Postpartum exercise is one of the best things you can do for yourself and breastfeeding is not an excuse not to train. Here, I dispel the most common myths surrounding exercise and breastfeeding, along with tips for a nursing mama.
1. Staying hydrated and well-fed
Drinking plenty of water before, during and after workout sessions will help you avoid dehydration.
As tempted as you are to get your pre-pregnancy body back, now is not the time to cut back on calories when you are trying to keep your milk supply up.
A breastfeeding mother can burn 300 to 500 calories a day just by feeding her baby. If you have started your workout regime after pregnancy, make sure you also compensate with getting extra calories.
2. Investing in a supportive bra
The most important exercise equipment you will need is a supportive sports bra. Brands have launched maternity and nursing underwear for the active mother. Look for one with adjustable straps to accommodate your changing breasts and with a nursing clip to allow easy access for your baby to feed. Most importantly,
make sure you take it off after your workout to prevent plugged ducts and mastitis.
3. Breastfeeding or pumping before exercise
Incorporating best breastfeeding practices while staying active includes breastfeeding or pumping before exercise because it will:
Alleviate the weight in the breasts
Increase your freedom of movement
Help avoid engorgement (when the breast tissue overfills with milk, blood and other fluids), mastitis (inflammation of breast tissue that sometimes involves infection) and blocked breast duct (thin tube in the breast that carries milk from the breast lobules to the nipple)
Keep the milk from being filled with lactic acid right after a challenging workout (Lactic acid is a substance that muscles make during exercise which may adversely alter the flavour of the milk)
4. Being kind to your body
While you want to get back to your pre-pregnancy fitness and shape, it’s important to be mindful of what you’ve been through physically, mentally and emotionally. To ensure a healthy post-birth recovery, consider these before you get back to exercise:
Checking with your doctor if you can get back to exercise
Being mindful of any aches and pains from delivery
If you have a trainer, checking if the trainer is qualified to train postnatal clients
Waiting for your bleeding to stop (sometimes bleeding gets heavier with exercise, a sign that your body needs more rest)
Keeping in mind that it is best to establish your milk supply before trying to exercise
5. Starting your workout regimen
Listening to your body is the first step in deciding when to get back to exercise. Not sure where to start? Walking outside with your baby in a stroller or carrier is a great way to get moving again and something you can do right away. I recommend starting with an easier training routine so that it’s not too stressful for you to manage in terms of time and also for your body.
6. Being flexible and timing your workouts with nursing and naps
A few weeks after delivery, babies start to follow a pattern of sleep and feeding. You’ll want to make a note of it. Your working doesn’t necessarily have to be for long hours. You can exercise when your baby naps. Allow yourself some flexibility, which means also being open to working out in the morning, afternoon or evening.
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