Does exercising during breastfeeding reduce breast milk?
New mothers often wonder if exercising and breastfeeding can go hand in hand. The good news is that, they can, and are also very beneficial for both the mother and the baby. Mothers who regularly exercise have healthy hearts and are happier than the ones who don’t. Exercising during breastfeeding decreases stress and helps shed a few kilos of the post pregnancy weight.
Effect of exercise on breast milk production
Exercise does not affect breast milk production in any way. The only thing to remember is to have enough water before and after exercise, as hydration is very important for a lactating mother. To avoid the feeling of engorgement or fullness that can make you uncomfortable while working out, feed the baby just before you start exercising. Exercise does not reduce breast milk and hence you don’t need to worry if your baby will get enough nourishment. After exercise, lactic acid levels in the milk change temporarily. This can alter the flavour of the milk, but not its nutritional status.
Benefits of exercising while breastfeeding:
Some of the important benefits of exercising while nursing are:
- Gives you more energy: Being a new mom is no easy task. Waking up at all times of the night to breastfeed can make you feel exhausted. Exercise can help build up your energy stores for such challenges.
- Improves your mood: Exercising can help prevent postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is a very common problem that affects one in nine mothers.
- Helps in weight loss: Mothers who breastfeed burn up to 300 to 500 calories per day. If you pair this up with exercise, then weight loss can be very easy.
- Builds bond with the baby: Exercise helps elevate your mood, and along with breastfeeding, helps strengthen your body. This will give you the energy and motivation to bond better with the little one.
When to start exercising?
- You have to wait till your baby is at least 6 weeks or older.
- If you have had a caesarean section, then you need to talk to your doctor and then start exercising, after 6 to 8 weeks post-delivery.
- Start with any exercise slowly and gradually.
- Keep hydrating yourself so that you replace the lost fluids.
- You can do some simple kinds of exercises like walking with your baby.
- You can even join a postnatal workout class that allows you to work out with your baby.
- Brisk walks, mild aerobic exercises and water exercises are ideal exercises to begin with.
- Keep monitoring how you feel pre and post-workout as some women take longer to reach their fitness levels than others.
How to dress while working out?
A good sports bra that is supportive is a necessity. The wrong kind can cause a blocked duct though. Breast pads can be helpful in managing leakage. Choose any dress that you are comfortable in and something that is not too flowing and not too tight.
Some of the best exercises for a breastfeeding mother are:
- Postpartum yoga
- Brisk walking
- Weight training - start with the light weights and then increase the intensity
- At home, you can do exercises like push-ups, lunges, planks and sit-ups
A hundred and fifty minutes of moderate aerobic exercises per week along with two strength training sessions are recommended for breastfeeding mothers. Initially, start with a short exercise routine and gradually increase the duration and intensity as you get comfortable.
If you were already used to exercising before the pregnancy, then the progression can be faster. If you do not get time to do weekly workouts as you are busy with breastfeeding and other house chores, you can start doing some easy home workouts while your baby is napping or take your baby in a stroller for a jog. If you have a partner, relative or a caregiver who can look after the baby, then you can go ahead with your exercise routine.
However, if you are experiencing any abdominal pain, bleeding or any other fluid leakage, any bulging in the centre of your abs or heaviness in your pelvis, it is better you stop exercising and contact a doctor.
Always take the advice of your doctor before you start with your exercise routine as some women can get into it too soon. Mothers who have had complicated births will need to take it easy for some time.