The journey back into working out after having a baby, and while breastfeeding, can feel daunting. Many mothers worry about the effects of working out during the postpartum period while breastfeeding. When you’re ready to get back to training there are often many questions that come up:

 

  • What is the best way to prepare to exercise if I am breastfeeding?
  • Will exercise decrease my milk supply?
  • Will my baby want to feed after I workout?
  • What about pumping before I workout?

 

 

Happy baby and mother

 

Here is a guide to some frequently asked questions and answers, along with some helpful tips, to help you find breastfeeding success.

 

7 Frequently Asked Breastfeeding Questions and Answers

1. How should I plan and prepare to exercise while I am breastfeeding?

 

Often breastfeeding mothers complain of feeling over full with milk during exercise or they don't know how to schedule workouts around feedings. It's a good idea to plan to feed your baby or pump before your workout. It's always best to breastfeed your baby before you start exercising because a happy, fed baby equals a happy mommy.

 

When exercising, your body may feel more comfortable, especially in the first six months, with empty breasts. Always wear a supportive, high quality, cotton lined, comfortable bra for workout sessions. In the first few months you may have to take a few unplanned rest times to feed. This is normal and will ease a bit as the baby gets older and used to your workout routine. 

 

2. Are there any movements I should avoid while breastfeeding?

 

Most moderate exercises are appropriate in the postpartum period, after you have been cleared by your OBGYN to workout again. Some yoga movements and exercises in a prone position (see below) should be avoided.

Prone position

3. Does my exercise routine change my milk supply or any alter any nutrition content?

 

No, studies have repeatedly shown there is no difference in milk production or nutrient composition in women who exercised regularly. 

 

4. Does exercise affect the taste of my breastmilk?

 

This is a common concern among many new mothers, that milk will taste bad after a mother exercises, and that babies will refuse to feed. In my experience, this does not happen and research has consistently demonstrated that this phenomenon occurs very rarely, and only if the mother exercises to an extreme. Most studies have found no difference in breastfeeding, even after a maximum intensity exercise session. In my experience, if your baby doesn't seem hungry or open to breastfeeding right after you exercise, take a shower and then try again. 

 

5. How often should my baby be breastfeeding?

 

Baby led, unscheduled, and frequent breastfeeding in the early weeks is critical for establishing a strong milk supply. Many newborns will breastfeed at least 8-12+ times per 24 hours. Always feed at the first indications of hunger. These can include: rooting, hands in mouth, searching around with mouth, and fussiness. Try not to wait until the baby is upset and crying. Feed your baby in a calm, uninterrupted location and allow your baby plenty of time at each breast when sucking actively. Many newborns become very sleepy in the early weeks when breastfeeding. Remember breastfed babies need to feed often. Try to wake baby to feed every 2 hours during the day and every 4 hours during the night.

 

6. Is my baby getting enough milk?

 

The two important indicators of breastfeeding success and infant health are weight gain and diaper counts.

 

  1. Weight gain: You can expect the average breastfed newborn to gain about 6 ounces a week. Always consult with your pediatrician, midwife, OBGYN, or your lactation consultant if you are concerned that your baby is not gaining weight as expected.
  2. Diaper count: You can expect about 3-4+ stools per 24 hours in a breastfeeding baby. The normal stool of a breastfed baby is yellow and loose and may appear to be seedy or curdy. At around 4-6 weeks many babies will stool less frequently. You can expect about 5-6+ wet diapers per 24 hours in a breastfeeding baby. At around 6 weeks, the wet diaper count will change to about 4-5+ wet diapers per 24 hours. Many new diapers on the market have a moisture indicator strip which allows for easy wet diaper counts. When in doubt, open the diaper and feel for any wetness.

 

7. What about about my milk supply?

 

Many mothers worry about adequate milk supply. Remember, as long as your baby is gaining weight on schedule, your milk supply is adequate. Your pediatrician or midwife should be doing weight gain checks with each visit, and these visits should be often. Diaper counts in the first 4-6 weeks are also a good indicator of sufficient milk supply. You can record the number of wet and dirty diapers then review with your medical professional if you have any doubts.

 

Tips for Breastfeeding Success

  • Educate yourself. Start a home library of reference books.
  • Attend a Le Leche meeting in your area.
  • Consult a Lactation Educator, a Licensed Lactation Consultant, or Le Leche Group Leader before your baby is born.
  • Take a breastfeeding class (these can be live classes at your local hospital, with a local lactation consultant, or online).
  • Rent or buy a hospital grade breast pump.
  • Breastfeed immediately after birth.
  • Breastfeed on demand, not on a set schedule.
  • Co-sleep safely with your baby for night feedings.
  • Limit pacifiers and bottles, especially after birth, and during the first 4-6 weeks postpartum.
  • Eat well for optimal breastfeeding success. Have a nutrition plan that includes a varied, balanced, natural, whole foods diet.
  • Keep yourself hydrated by drinking filtered water, coconut water, and herbal teas. Hydrate while nursing, before, and during your workout.
  • Join a local workout, walking, or running group for mothers with small children.
  • Buy at least three quality 100% cotton, no underwire, breastfeeding bras.
  • Buy at least three high quality cotton lined, no underwire, supportive sports bra for workouts.
  • Buy a good quality breastfeeding pillow.
  • Feed or pump before your workout session.
  • Wear your baby in a sling. Wearing your baby is a convenient, yet easy workout and a perfect bonding experience for new moms. During the first few weeks after birth, walking with your baby in a sling is nice way to bond and move. Baby wearing is strongly associated with healthy a breastfeeding relationship.

 

 

Focus on Recovery

Most importantly, go slow. Your primary goal in the postpartum period is maternal and baby health and recovery. Take your time to get back into your fitness program. Don’t over think or over-stress about breastfeeding. Do your best, ask for help, and stay healthy!

 

Try the following organizations for more resources for both parents and professionals:

 

La Leche League

Medela Breastfeeding

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

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