As a lactation consultant, a common question I receive from moms revolves around working out and milk supply. A common misconception is that exercising leads to a decrease in milk supply. However for most, this is not the case.
Ok, let’s back up for a minute and talk about establishing a healthy milk supply. This is so important and begins with your first latch (or pump) after delivery. Establishing a healthy milk supply from day one helps set you up for long term success. We know that the more often that we drain the breasts (feed baby) the more our body is signaled to produce milk (supply and demand).
Here are my top tips to a great start:
- Limit visitors in your delivery room until AFTER your first breastfeed. This is usually 1-2 hours after delivery
- Offer breast at least every 2-3 hours
- Feed On Demand for the first 4-6 weeks
- Offer BOTH breasts at each feeding (but if baby only feeds off of one side, that’s ok!)
- Softer breasts (and weight gain) after a feeding is a great indication baby is draining efficiently
So, you have established a healthy milk supply, baby is gaining weight and getting older, you have been cleared by your OB to resume physical activity and you want to start implementing exercise into your days but you don’t know where to begin. You are a also little hesitant because you don’t want to lose your milk supply that you just spent so many weeks and a lot of hard work to establish.
Now, I am so excited to share with you my recommendations for a healthy post-partum journey.
Give yourself grace. As your adjusting to this new phase of life, cut yourself some slack because not every day will go according to plan and some days may feel totally out of control. That’s OK! Embrace the change knowing that every day will get better, easier, and feel more manageable.
Set short-term goals. Whether its daily, weekly, or monthly, set a goal for yourself to strive for. Maybe it’s getting out for a walk every day. Maybe it’s committing to do a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout you found on Pinterest every day that you can do without weights at home. Whatever your goal is, do your best to show up every day.
Proper sports bra. This is KEY! There are so many great “nursing sports bras” on the market but many of them don’t provide the support your breasts need if you’re doing medium to high impact exercise; think anything more than, taking a walk, yoga or Pilates. I highly recommend investing in a few “high impact” sports bras. These typically won’t be nursing friendly, but they will provide the support you need to help decrease your risk of plugged ducts, engorgement, or mastitis. Check out my guide to finding the perfect bra for more details.
Timing is everything. Workout AFTER feed your baby. Your breasts will be less full making working out more comfortable and decrease your risk for clogged ducts, engorgement, or mastitis. Your baby will also have a full tummy and hopefully drift off to sleep allowing you to complete your workout. If you happen to get a little engorged or uncomfortable, Lil’buds are my absolute favorite for both cold and hot packs. We use them for everything in our house!
Eat smart NOT less. Fuel your body with WHOLE FOOD nutrition and WATER. Skip the junk and processed foods, but definitely not the chocolate! Throw out the long recipes with ingredients you can’t pronounce and keep it simple. The less time you spend cooking, the more time you get to snuggle and nibble on those chubby baby cheeks. Load up on the veggies and protein, save your fruit for dessert after meals, and indulge in oatmeal (which is great for milk supply). As a breastfeeding mom, you will need 300-500 extra calories while breastfeeding so make them healthy calories and you will see a change mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Get an accountability partner. Both in your breastfeeding journey AND your post-partum health journey, accountability is vital, it’s a must. Whether it’s you SO, best friend, mom, or sister, share with them your goals and ask them to keep you accountable. If you know yourself and you know that you need extra accountability to reach your goals, I would love to invite you to join one of my online accountability fit camp groups filled with women who share a common goal; to pursue their healthiest self, so that they can care for and love their families better. I would love to connect and hear your story. Simply shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject line “Fit Camp” and I will reach out to you asap so we can chat. Or, you can find me on IG @milksprouts.
You are absolutely amazing mamma and I am so proud of you. Remember to give yourself lots of grace as you transition into this new life. You are nourishing this new life which is truly amazing and a huge commitment itself and your top priority. Pursing post-partum health is another learning curve that takes a lot of practice. Give you best every day, make healthy choices, and snuggle your little one to your heart’s desire. You got this!
About the Author
Sarah Lang MS, RN, LC is a mom of 2 boys and 2 girls under 5. She is founder of MilkSprout, a private practice offering breastfeeding support services both online and in-person through classes, consults, blog, and online support. She offers online, in-home, or hospital services before and after baby is born. Sarah's mission is to support and encourage moms through education to meet their breastfeeding and pumping goals along their breastfeeding journey. To schedule a consult (online or in-person), please email email@example.com. For more tips and tricks, follow her on Instagram @milksprouts. She'd love for you to stop by and say "HI!"