Are exercise and breastfeeding compatible?

 Yes they are. There are no contraindication to exercise while breastfeeding, and it’s going to be a process that will get easier with time, once your baby has established a feeding pattern. Both breastfeeding and exercise are demand energy, and are a physiological processes. For both you, hydration is essential, ,as well as  rest and adequate calorie intake. Follow these few rules and exercise during breastfeeding will be a breeze.

When is the good time to start exercise?

It’s usually safe to start exercising around 8 weeks after delivery, and after the breastfeeding relationship between you and baby is established. If you notice patterns in your baby’s feedings and can predict when your breasts will be full again, you can start to create a schedule that will fit in an exercise session that won’t interfere with feedings. You want to make sure that you exercise after a feeding, or pumping, so your breasts are empty and you won’t have to cut the session short because either you feel uncomfortable with full breasts or if the baby is hungry.

Milk supply, weight loss, and exercise myths

As we know, breastfeeding requires extra calories (between 200-500 kcal per day.). But be mindful, 200 kcal is equivalent to a serving of plain yogurt and a banana.  You do not need to consume large amounts of food to meet the demands of breastfeeding.  Make sure you are not overeating, and remember to hydrate. Carry a bottle with you everywhere, because you need a lot of water.

Can you safely exercise without risking your supply of breastmilk? You are safe! Research shows, that even though breastfeeding requires some extra calories, women who’ve breastfed and were not actively dieting, also naturally ate more after exercise, therefore, they didn’t experience excessive weight loss that could jeopardize breastfeeding.
If you are looking to lose weight (If you gained more than recommended weight during pregnancy, always consult with your doctor first!) while lactating and exercising, it can be done safely. You might want to consult with registered dietician who will help you create a plan for weight loss during lactation.

Calcium and B6

Even if you are not restricting your calories, you might be prone to nutritional deficiencies during lactation. Two of the most important vitamins and minerals are calcium and B6.  You should supplement B6 – which is crucial for the infant growth.
Calcium is important for your bones and baby’s growth. Lactation has profound, detrimental effects on bone mineralization in lactating women. Supplementation and resistance training (but not light exercise) enhance bone mineralization in postpartum women during lactation. Weight training is recommended for breastfeeding moms.

A few tips for active, breastfeeding moms:

  1. Exercise after baby is fed, or when breasts are empty
  2. Intensity of exercise should not exceed 60-70%
  3. Avoid strenuous and exhaustive exercise, even for short periods of time
  4. Ensure adequate hydration and caloric intake to support both: lactation and exercise
  5. Calcium and vitamin B6 should be supplemented
  6. Wear a supportive bra, without wiring and not a traditional sports bra, as this helps to prevent compression

Exercise in the postpartum period: Practical applications Article in Current Sports Medicine Reports · January 2003 DOI: 10.1007/s11932-002-0049-z · Source: PubMed Michelle F Mottola

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About the Author : Ania Schietzelt
Ania Schietzelt
Ania Schietzelt NASM Personal Trainer and mom of 2 living in NYC. On a mission to find healthy balance through exercise in her life and help other women to do the same, because “the greatest gift you can give your family and the world, is a healthy You”.

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