Our Coaches Share Tips for Breastfeeding Runners
Many avid runners struggle with navigating when it is safe to resume the activity they enjoyed pre-pregnancy and before the baby. Breastfeeding moms have even more questions because that is an extra layer of concern.
- How do you know when it is safe to begin moderate exercise?
- How quickly can a new mom engage in strenuous exercise?
- How many weeks postpartum is it safe to begin serious training?
Although all final decisions are between you and your healthcare provider, we have some general rules of thumb regarding running after pregnancy.
When Is It Safe to Exercise for a New Mom?
Most physicians advise that a new mom should wait at least 6 weeks post-partum to begin any type of exercise. Although childbirth is a natural part of life, it also takes a lot out of a woman.
No matter how excited you are to start working out again, be patient and give your body some time to heal.
It is also worth mentioning that a lot depends on if you have had a natural childbirth or a C-section.
For the purposes of this article, assume that this is about breastfeeding moms who had a natural, vaginal childbirth.
Is Running Safe for You and Your Baby?
When new mothers decide to run after having a baby, it is important to clear that with their physician. Speak to your lactation consultant if you have questions about proper hydration and fueling when adding exercise.
It is crucial to remember that most pediatricians say an infant should be at least 6 months old before going in a jog stroller (while the person pushing it is running). Infants should have adequate neck and head control to ensure their head is not wobbling around in the stroller.
If your doctor says you are healthy enough to run, you know how to ensure your milk production does not suffer and either your baby is old enough for the jog stroller (or you are jogging without him or her), you are good to run!
Can You Run While Breastfeeding?
The La Leche League International suggests waiting at least 6 weeks before beginning to exercise. The advice is to start nice and easy with activities such as walking and yoga.
As time passes and if your body tolerates zero-impact activities well, it may be time to add more vigorous activities. The key is remembering nice and easy and adding activity slowly and deliberately.
Running while breastfeeding is safe, but there are extra considerations.
Tips for Breastfeeding Mothers Who Are Runners
- Adequate Calories: Even if you are trying to lose that baby weight, don’t cut calories. Your body needs fuel to produce milk and also fuel your body for exercise. Be certain to get in some extra calories to accommodate for those you burn through exercise.
- Hydrate: Breastfeeding requires taking in enough water and exercise makes this even more essential. This could be the reason if your milk production decreases when you start to exercise.
- Pump Before Exercise: It helps to pump your milk before engaging in physical activity.
- Supportive Sports Bra: You will need to find a sports bra with extra support if you plan to engage in high-intensity and high-impact exercise. Breastfeeding moms will find jiggle to be uncomfortable or even painful. There are even some great nursing sports bras out there.
What are the Benefits of Running While Breastfeeding?
- Elevate Energy Level: Even though new moms are often exhausted, exercise can actually raise your energy level.
- Improve Self-Esteem: Having a baby can sometimes leave a new mom feeling frumpy and sad. Running (or any type of exercise) can help make you feel better about yourself.
- Mental Health: Running releases serotonin and endorphins that are excellent for mental health.
- Social Activity: Joining a running group (or even running with just one friend) is a great way to get mom out of the house for a bit.
- Weight Loss: Many women struggle to return to that pre-baby body weight. Running is a great way to lose some weight if you want to do so.
What is Not Safe To Do While Breastfeeding?
There are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- Don’t forget to pump or nurse before you exercise.
- You mustn’t allow your breasts to get engorged, as this can cause mastitis.
- Be certain to stay adequately hydrated or your milk production is sure to suffer.
Nursing mothers typically don’t see a decrease in milk production with moderate or easy exercise.
Vigorous exercise, however, can decrease lactation. If you are a nursing mom who is exclusively breastfeeding, this is an important thing to know.
Can Running Affect Your Breast Milk?
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), “regular aerobic exercise during lactation does not affect milk production, composition, or growth of an infant but improves maternal cardiovascular health.”
Can Running Cause Clogged Milk Ducts?
Running does not cause your milk ducts to clog. What causes the problem is allowing yourself to get engorged (by not pumping or nursing for too long) or not having adequate support for your breasts.
What are Some Other Activities You Can Do While Breastfeeding?
You can engage in pretty much any activity while nursing. Some things you might want to consider as cross-training include: cycling, swimming, walking, strength training and yoga.
Training for a Half Marathon While Breastfeeding
Looking for tips for half-marathon training?
- Drink Water: Remember that hydration is crucial for milk production.
- Nothing New: The old adage “nothing new on race day” goes double for new moms. Practice everything from your food to your fuel and what you wear.
- Patience: Be patient with yourself if you are only a few months postpartum and resuming exercise. Also, plan to add mileage and time on feet slowly.
- Pelvic Floor Exercises: New moms often struggle to get the pelvic floor muscles back in shape. There are exercises you can do to help with this.
- Training Plan: Find a plan you know you have time for within your busy day and lifestyle.
- Practice for Race Day: Do everything you think you will have to do on race day. If you are traveling to a starting line, this includes pumping before leaving home as well as in the parking lot of the race. Have a plan for pumping as soon as you finish (if you are feeding or pumping every couple of hours).
- Offer Yourself Grace: Remember that having a baby is a lot and if your workout regimen is not perfect, offer yourself grace.
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