5 Things I Wish I Knew About Exercise and Breastfeeding
During pregnancy, especially in the last few months, exercising can be difficult. The exercise you partake in while pregnant should be of only moderate intensity. If you can't hold a conversation while exercising, you're overdoing it. So, this limits the type of workouts you can do.
Therefore, it's natural for new mums to be eager to get back into exercising once their little one arrives. However, health professionals recommend waiting six weeks before recommencing exercise. But even then, it's essential to take it slow, listen to your body and don't do anything before being assessed by your doctor or Physiotherapist.
Keep in mind that moving your body during the first six weeks is okay, as long as it's very light. A daily walk around the block or some stretching are two exercises that will benefit your recovery and your mental health. Research shows that getting out for a short walk each day can do wonders for mental health and help to reduce feelings of anxiousness.
1. Exercise Has Many Health benefits for New Mums
Improved mental well-being is just one of the health benefits of exercising as a new mum. Exercise can also improve heart health, bone strength, energy levels and overall fitness.
And if you can make your exercise social, even better. Try suggesting a walk for your mother's group catch up. Or have a look into post-natal, mums and bubs yoga classes. Getting out of the house with other new mums is a great way to switch off and remember what it's like to do something for yourself.
2. Exercise Won't Impact Your Milk Supply
Some mothers are worried that exercise could potentially reduce their milk supply. But despite the myths around this topic, exercise won't impact your milk supply. That's right; you can run, skip and jump as much as you want without causing any disruption to your milk making abilities.
However, what is important when it comes to milk production is hydration. So, if you're exercising, you must make sure you're sufficiently hydrated. Ensure you're drinking water before, during and most importantly, after exercise.
Pro tip: try to work out just after a feed. This way, you'll be much more comfortable and less likely to leak. Plus, your lactic acid levels can change temporarily after exercise, and this can alter the flavour profile. So, if your little one is on the fussier side, you might find them refusing feeds immediately after your workout. But be assured it won't impact the nutrition or quality of your milk.
If you’re ready to get back into exercise but not sure where to begin, start with something simple like walking, yoga, Pilates or swimming. Just make sure if you’re going to a Pilates or yoga class that it’s especially for post-partum women. This will ensure there are no movements included that you’re not ready for like crunches or anything that involves jumping.
3. You Can Exercise, even with ‘Loose Ligaments’
A women's body is a miraculous thing. It's designed to carry a baby, allow for birth, and then provide a whole food source to top it off. But for all of these things to occur, there are many elements involved. One particularly significant physiological event is the hormonal changes that allow a woman's pelvic ligaments to loosen so much that a baby can be born. For some women, these levels of hormones drop quickly after birth, but for many, they stick around. And these hormones are often to blame for ongoing pelvic and back pain.
Women who experience pain from loose ligaments often believe they can't exercise and are worried working out could make their discomfort worse. However, as long as you're careful, exercise can improve pain associated with hormone-induced muscle aches. The best thing you can do is seek advice from a physiotherapist who will best be able to provide a tailored, safe workout.
4. Breastfeeding and Exercise Can Lead to Increased Weight Loss
On average, breastfeeding women burn an additional 300-500 calories per day. Making milk is no easy job, and a lot of our energy is funnelled into making it happen. So, in general, women who breastfeed tend to lose weight faster than those who don’t. And they’re also more likely to return to their pre-pregnancy weight than women who formula feed.
When you add in burning extra calories through exercise, you can see how the weight can begin to shift a little easier. But you must still be careful with the type of workouts you do. You don’t want to be burning too many calories as this could negatively impact your milk supply. So instead, aim for slightly above moderate workouts that burn no more than 200-400 calories.
And be sure to refuel adequately. While breastfeeding, you want to be eating breakfast, lunch, dinner and 2-3 snacks per day. If you’re exercising, aim for the three snacks and ensure your meals are made up of healthy fats, carbohydrates and protein.
5. Invest in Breastfeeding Sports Bar – It’s Worth it
Our breasts are one of the things that change the most through pregnancy and breastfeeding. And, they have a pretty important job to do once bub arrives. So, finding a sports bra that is comfortable, supportive and fits properly is essential.
We recommend a sports bra over a regular one because having to change your bra to workout will only pose a barrier to you getting your exercise done. If you’re already in your activewear and sports bra, you can jump straight into a workout as soon as bub goes down for a nap.
Exercising While Breastfeeding
Exercise while breastfeeding will look a little different for everyone. Some women are eager to get back into regular workouts right away, whereas others don’t feel up to doing much at all for a few months.
The nature of the pregnancy, birth and initial post-partum period will all impact how interested a new mum is in partaking in exercise. It’s important to be kind to your body and listen to its cues. If exercise doesn’t feel right, hold off a little longer. And alternatively, if it feels good, then enjoy it. New mums’ lives are constantly changing, so being flexible and open to your circumstances will help you navigate.
Shevi is a qualified nutritionist with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and food sciences. As a new mum herself, she is passionate about postnatal-related nutrition. Shevi has worked alongside some of the most famous leaders and celebrities in the fitness industry throughout Australia and the UK.
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