Can you exercise when breastfeeding?

Absolutely yes, it’s important for moms to take care of themselves and have ‘me’ time. One way to do that is through exercise. Happy moms make happy families, right? Breastfeeding alone burns 300-600 calories per day, that combined with exercise could be what you need to lose those extra kilos gained during pregnancy. Many breastfeeding moms have trouble knowing where to start therefore end up giving up on exercise while breastfeeding. Some have little information regarding the same. First of all, it’s important to get a go ahead from your doctor. From there ease into any fitness routine. If you don’t know how to go about it, ask a fitness expert to help you out.

Does exercise affect milk production?

Studies show that moderate exercise ,50-75% of maximum intensity, does not affect milk production. There is no difference in immunologic factors in breastfeeding moms that workout and those who do not. However a higher workout intensity of up to 100% will increase the amount of lactic acid in the mom’s body for up to 90 minutes after a workout session. This means that the baby will not like the taste of the milk if you breastfeed them immediately. It is advisable that you wait for up to two hours after a workout session to feed the baby.

Benefits of exercise when breastfeeding include:

  • energy boost that could help you in the wee hours of the night while nursing the baby
  • reduce stress levels from production of happy hormones (endorphins) which boost your mood
  • strength to take care of the family and other household chores
  • improved lipid profiles and insulin response
  • toning of the body
  • quality sleep
  • lose that extra weight from pregnancy
  • alleviate depression symptoms
  • raise your body’s level of prolactin
  • higher level of cardiovascular fitness
  • help with hormone regulation

Where can I start?

Plan your workout sessions around the baby’s feeding program. The best time would be after feeding or pumping because this is when your breasts are emptier and lighter for workout. Consider getting a comfortable and supportive sports bra, not so tight to cause a blocked duct.

It’s always best to start small and build up the workout intensity as you progress. If you had an exercise program before and during pregnancy, you will have an added advantage. Otherwise, don’t worry, you can start with some low impact exercises such as a walk, some swimming, Pilates, water aerobics, strength training, yoga and simple home workouts. Given that you are not familiar with these consult an exercise expert and they will advise and guide you accordingly.

Always be on your toes concerning hydration, continuously drink water: plain or flavored, vegetable juices and fruit juices. This will ensure you won’t be dehydrated and milk production is not affected by your fitness program. Eat whole natural foods and avoid empty calories during this time, do not cut calories by eating less.

It’s also good to wash up nicely after a sweaty session of workout as the sweat on your skin could cause an unusual taste for the baby when breastfeeding.

When to stop?

Our bodies are different and respond differently to exercise especially postpartum since the body has been through a lot of changes therefore it’s always good to pay attention to your body when you get into a fitness program. If you experience any of these symptoms stop immediately and consult your doctor:

  • abdominal pain
  • bleeding
  • fluid leakage
  • bulging in the center of your abs
  • heaviness in your pelvis
  • dizziness
  • palpitations
  • shortness of breath

Find something you enjoy doing and knock yourself out, wink wink .

A sports, exercise and wellness consultant. Check out her Instagram @muenikimani

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