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Breastfeeding and Exercise: Compatibles Companions?

Welcoming a new life into the world is a joyous occasion, and for many mothers, the breastfeeding journey that follows is a profound and bonding experience. Both breastfeeding and exercise play crucial roles in maintaining and promoting health, and numerous evidence-base studies provide reassurance to health professionals encouraging mothers to continue these practices. It’s essential to nurture both you and your baby’s well-being, especially for mothers who exercise before and during pregnancy

One question that often arises during my consultations is, “Can I incorporate exercise into my routine while breastfeeding?”. The answer is, of course, yes. There are some myths about breastfeeding and exercise; so, in this blog I’m going to dispel the most common ones, plus I’ll discuss the benefits of exercising while breastfeeding, and as usual, I’ll share my top 5 tips for finding the balance between breastfeeding and exercising. 

Dispelling Myths

Moderate exercise is healthy and perfectly compatible with breastfeeding, but many breastfeeding mothers wonder if exercising can cause problems with nursing because of things they’ve been told or have read. So, let’s dispel some myths:

  • “Taste changes, and babies refusing the breast”: Moderate or intense exercise might increase lactic acid concentration, potentially altering the taste of your milk. However, this is usually well-tolerated by babies, similar to introducing new food to your diet. 

  • “Milk production decreases”: Recent evidence-based studies have demonstrated that exercise does not adversely affect your milk supply at the usual levels of activity undertaken by mothers. 

  • “You must drink lots of water”: This is a similar myth as mothers are told while breastfeeding. You only need to drink the amount of water that your body is asking for. There’s not a specific amount, so drink regularly sips to satisfy your needs, and respond to your body’s thirst signals.
Benefits of Exercising while Breastfeeding

When you’re feeling tired, being active and exercising may seem like the last thing you want to do, however in reality regular activity can help to relax you, make you feel more energetic, and helps to prevent postnatal depression. Let’s have a look to these benefits:

  • Stress reduction: Exercise generates endorphins, essential for lowering stress levels during the demanding phase of caring for a newborn. 
  • Improve your health and well-being: As mentioned before, regular exercise promotes a positive mental state, releasing endorphins that make you feel good. 

  • Increase your energy levels: Contrary to common belief, exercise doesn’t deplete energy, it boosts your energy levels and aids in combating fatigue. 

  • Postpartum recovery: Exercise enhances bone and muscle strength, improves posture, and facilitates a faster return to pre-pregnancy fitness levels. 

  • Better sleep: High quality sleep is crucial for breastfeeding mothers, especially the first few days and weeks, as the babies needs to be fed often. Regular physical activity is linked to improved sleep quality. 
My Top 5 Tips for Staying Fit During your Breastfeeding Journey

1. Feed before exercise: My best recommendation is to feed your baby or to pump before exercising to enhance comfort and prevent feeling full during your workout. 

2. Invest in a good sports bra: I would highly recommend choosing a comfortable and secure sports bra to provide necessary support during exercise. 

3. Slow and gradual start: After your 6-week postnatal check, your health professional will be able to advice which exercise you can start practicing. Every mother is different so I would recommend you a slow and gradual start. Listen to your body and build up your routine gradually. There are no limits as long as you’re not experiencing pain or discomfort. 

4. Avoid overexertion: Listen to your body. Having a baby is tiring enough. The goal is to stay active and healthy, not to be exhausted for the rest of your day. 

5. Be cautious with high impact exercise: Prolactin may cause hypermobility in your joints and loose ligaments, so be mindful with this type of exercise. Strengthen muscles to avoid overstretching. 

Balancing breastfeeding and exercise is not only achievable but also beneficial for both you and your baby. Remember that every mother’s journey is unique, and it’s crucial to listen to your body’s cues. Embrace a holistic approach to well-being, nourishing both your body and your baby for a healthier and happier postpartum experience. So, put your trainers on, find an exercise routine that brings you joy and comfort, and embark yourself on a journey of self-care that complements the beautiful adventure of having a baby. Plus remember, you’re not a bad mother for abandoning your baby to exercise; you truly need it.  

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