Maria Banks, OTD, OTR/L
Can I exercise while breastfeeding?: Dispelling the myth + Helpful tips.
If you currently breastfeed your child and you were told that exercise can negatively impact your milk supply, please continue reading so that you can better understand this myth.
As a breastfeeding mother you are cautious to ensure that your actions do not have a negative impact on your child. Breastfeeding mothers are constantly told to check with their healthcare provider prior to consuming certain products and completing activities. You may be cautious in regards to exercising due to a common myth regarding exercising and breastfeeding.
An old wives tale is that exercise decreases the quantity and spoils the taste of breastmilk. You’re probably wondering how this became an issue; well let me further explain. There was a study completed on cows that demonstrated increased activity caused an increase in the amount of lactic acid in the milk; which in turn gave it a sour taste and the calves rejected the milk. Luckily for us, studies on humans do not demonstrate the same effect.
Recent studies demonstrate that frequent, sustained moderate-high intensity exercise does not impair the quantity and quality of breastmilk. Studies demonstrate that there was no difference in volume and it did not have a negative effect on infants growth patterns. It was shown that there’s no difference in composition and volume between women who are physically active and sedentary women.
In fact, it is believed that exercising while breastfeeding can have a positive impact. Physically active women typically consume more calories to keep up with the increased energy demands. Typically, active women consume 300-500 more calories a day; it is recommended that breastfeeding women consume an additional 400-500 calories a day. Due to active women consuming increased calories, this can in turn have a positive impact on milk supply among breastfeeding women.
Now that you know exercise does not have a negative impact on your milk supply, here are some helpful tips that breastfeeding women can take while staying active.
Nurse prior to exercising
Prior to exercising, it is recommended that you should nurse your baby if possible. Working out while engorged can be painful, especially if you are participating in moderate-high intensity
Wear a supportive bra
Due to the increased size of your breasts, wearing a supportive bra is recommended. Your bra should also be all cotton to avoid breast and nipple irritation.
Consume more calories
Ensure that you are consuming enough calories to keep up with the energy demands of breastfeeding and physical activity. It is recommended that you should consume at least an additional 400-500 calories/day.
You want to ensure that you drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and fatigue.
Overall, exercising during the postpartum phase has many benefits including, increased energy levels, decreased fatigue, decreased stress, decreased anxiety and increased socialization opportunities (depending on the physical activity). So if you are breastfeeding, do not worry about your physical activity negatively impacting your milk supply, but still take extra precautions to ensure your comfort and safety during exercise.
If you are interested in custom and individualized health coaching and fitness services during pregnancy and/or postpartum, visit www.thehealthmamas.com. Dr. Maria Banks, owner of The Health Mamas, is a mom, a Certified Pre and Post Natal Fitness Specialist certified by AFPA, and a Doctor of Occupational Therapy. She has over 10 years experience helping adults reach their health goals. You can also follow The Health Mamas on Instagram and Facebook at @thehealthmamas for more information and tips.