DISCLAIMER: Please note that if you have any pelvic floor issues or have recently had your baby, high-impact exercises should be avoided and it is advised you consult with a postnatal physio for a tailored exercise programme.
As most mums know, exercise is crucial to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise will not only aid weight loss and increase your fitness levels, but it can also help to reduce illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and can also promote the psychological wellbeing of mothers.
Unfortunately, mums who are breastfeeding can become worried about doing exercise and they become anxious that their babies won’t get enough milk or that their milk supply will be negatively affected from doing exercise.
The good news is that this is a myth and incorporating regular and sensible amounts of exercise into your day is not thought to have any impact on milk supply.
Over the past two decades, many studies have looked at the effects of exercise on the milk supply in breastfeeding women and as well as finding that it did not affect the milk supply it also showed that were countless number of benefits to a mum’s health and well being including the fact that exercise increases bone strength which is reduced during lactation.
Consuming Enough Calories
One of the key points about breastfeeding and exercise is that women who are breastfeeding must ensure they are consuming the correct amount of calories. If a women is breastfeeding, exercising and restricting calories then there is the issue of decreased energy levels and running the risk of the body going into starvation mode – as well as potentially affecting milk production levels.
If you are trying to lose weight, it is crucial to follow a sensible and healthy eating plan – and not a rapid weight loss diet, It is also recommended that breastfeeding mums should add extra calories when breastfeeding. The recommended average amount of calories needed in breastfeeding is 500 calories per day on top of your normal daily energy needs (you can use an online BMR & Daily Energy Needs calculator here)
Should You Feed Pre Or Post Exercise?
Research on breast milk composition pre and post exercise have shown that babies prefer the breast milk pre exercise rather than post exercise. The post exercise milk had an increased lactic acid in it. Lactic acid is naturally produced during exercise. Lactic acid is not harmful to babies. Overall babies still breastfeed normally post exercise and a baby’s weight is not affected. Also exercise does not affect the immune factors, vitamins and minerals naturally occurring in breast milk.
Exercise For Mental Health
Postnatal depression is a serious mental health issue and affects many women post birth. Research has shown that women who exercise on a regular basis either have lower risk of having postnatal depression and women who already have it improve more quickly. This is due to the increase of ‘happy hormones’ produced by exercising.
Feel Good Factor
When we exercise we produce serotonin and endorphins which make you feel good, so if you can strap your trainers on and go for a walk every day your body will thank you for it.
When To Start Exercising
The important advice to remember when exercising and breastfeeding is that you only start when you feel you are well and you have approval from your doctor or health care professional. If you didn’t exercise much prior to having your baby then it’s important to start slowly. Wait until your breast feeding is well established and start with brisk walking up to 45 minutes per day, 5 days a week.
Once you are comfortable at this point then you can then start increasing intensity.
Another important factor to be aware of is that your ligaments are still loose after having a baby due to your hormone levels, so if you are feeling pain or discomfort during exercise then make sure you stop and do a gentler form of exercise. Our exercise DVD is a great one to use and is safe for pelvic floor issues.
Also, be mindful of your pelvic floor and make sure an exercise related to this is incorporated into your exercise routine. Finally, always make sure you wear an appropriate supportive bra and drink lots of water.
You can also see more information on safe weight loss in breastfeeding here.
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