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Breastfeeding and Exercise: Milky Mama’s Guide to Managing Both

Breastfeeding and Exercise: Milky Mama’s Guide to Managing Both

Posted by Krystal Duhaney, RN, BSN, IBCLC on Apr 12th 2019


You made it! You made it through pregnancy, you made it through delivery, and now you’ve finally been released to get back to your regular exercise routine. But you’re breastfeeding… Can you do both?

First things first: your postpartum body is beautiful, regardless of its shape or size. You just grew a tiny human, and now you are nourishing that human! You are strong. You are gorgeous. Don't feel pressure from anyone to "hurry and lose that baby weight" or "tighten up that flab."

However, if you want to get into an exercise routine for yourself - whether it be to tone, lose weight, gain muscle, or you are just itching to be active - this post is for you.

There are several considerations to keep in mind when you are breastfeeding and looking to return to an exercise routine, but you absolutely can do both. In fact, returning to your exercise routine can help combat the baby blues and will certainly help you maintain your health. Many mothers express concern over the risk of lowering milk supply, but the level of activity that one must maintain is fairly high before it will hinder supply.

One thing that may concern you is whether or not the milk itself is affected. There have been many studies done on the level of lactic acid that is secreted into milk after exercise. Lactic acid does cross the barrier into breast milk but the levels decrease significantly within one hour after activity. There is nothing to indicate that lactic acid affects a baby’s growth or health in any way. It may change the flavor of your milk, but it does not affect any of the other wonderful health benefits in breastmilk.

You will want to be prepared for exercise. Make sure to maintain a healthy diet and eat enough calories to make up for the additional lost calories due to exercise. Not maintaining a high enough calorie intake can negatively impact your milk supply over time. You will also need to get plenty of rest. Lack of sleep and inadequate rest periods have been linked to decreased supply. Therefore, as long as you allow your body time to rest and you keep eating a healthy, high-calorie diet, you should not see any dips in supply.

Don’t forget to buy a really good sports bra! Having excellent support is imperative during exercise because of the increased size and other changes in the breasts during breastfeeding. There are several options for clip down sports bras now, but many times baby won't breastfeed if you are sweaty. Make sure you have time to clean off because the salt on your skin can be off-putting for baby. If you don’t plan to have to feed before a shower, then you can certainly invest in a regular sports bra. Whichever bra you choose, make sure it is breathable fabric and ensure that it’s not too tight!

Don’t allow breastfeeding to keep you from getting back to your normal exercise routine. Make sure to be prepared, eat a healthy diet, and always listen to your body. If you notice any changes in your supply, or if baby seems to be having issues with digestion or growth, then you may want to discuss your exercise routine with your pediatrician. Be sure to ease back into exercise and give yourself grace. You may not be able to go right back to your pre-pregnancy routine, but you will get back to it. Allow yourself and your body the time to build back up!