Hi, mamas! I’m Lacey Parr, a lactation educator and mom of 3. I’m here today to talk about exercise and breastfeeding.
After healing and resting from pregnancy and childbirth, many moms feel the need to bring some more movement into their routine. Often moms are concerned about how exercise and breastfeeding can go together. Luckily, studies have shown that moderate exercise will not affect your milk supply (1). So why do so many moms worry about exercise and breastfeeding? Lots of new moms begin exercising around 6 weeks postpartum and at the same time, baby often starts nursing more frequently. Many moms think this means they are having issues with supply, related to their exercise. But actually, 6 weeks is a normal growth spurt when baby will need to nurse more often. So feel free to start moving your body in healthy ways without any worries about supply. If you do have consistent worries about supply, please contact a lactation consultant. We have 4 lactation consultants here at Lactation Link that can help online or in-person.
Bringing more movement into your life can bring not only physical strength, but the mental clarity mothers need! Be sure to check with your midwife or doctor before returning to physical activity after childbirth. New moms might find it helpful to think outside the exercise box. There are other options outside of joining a gym or starting a complicated routine. The physical movement that nourishes your whole body can be added throughout your day and can include your baby. I hope the following tips will encourage you to feel confident about exercise and breastfeeding. Here are a few ways that have helped other moms bring movement into their lives with a new baby:
- Start small & work up. You already have an 8-pound weight that you are lifting and carrying all day: your baby. So check weight lifting off your list, you’re already doing that ;). You can increase your amount of movement in other small ways as well. Nurse in different positions and locations, like the floor. When going for checkup, take the stairs instead of the elevator. You can also increase the amount of steps you take each day by parking in the back of the parking lot, or a block away from your destination. Anytime you can walk, rather than drive, will add more movement to your day.
- Include your baby. Many gyms do have daycare as an option, but if you aren’t ready to be away from your baby, you can remove the stress of pumping, finding a sitter and leaving your baby behind a few hours by bringing your baby along for more movement! Look at local barre, yoga and even Zumba classes that encourage babywearing. Natural movements at home like stretching on the floor and going for a walk can all include baby. With some practice, you’ll be able to hike and nurse at the same time with your baby carrier!
- Bring community along. Movement and exercise are more fun with friends. Put a call out on social media and meet up with other friends to take a walk. Bring your baby carrier or stroller with you and you’ve received fresh air, exercise and socializing all at once! In this relaxed environment, you can take breaks to nurse as often as baby needs.
- Get outside. Simply getting outside of our normal sedentary surroundings, we find more opportunities for movement. Take a walk in your neighborhood or find a hike in your area. Even a playground can be a great place to get more movement. The monkey bars can be a great place to hang (literally) and work muscles that need more movement. Take your vegetable chopping to your balcony or deck. Squatting or sitting on the ground to chop will not only work different muscles than doing it at the counter, it probably has a better view!
- Stack your life. I learned one summer when we were without a dryer that hang-drying my laundry was totally counting as exercise. Lifting a basket of heavy, wet laundry, walking it to the line, and going through the repetitive motions of bending, lifting and reaching was moving my chest and arm muscles in ways I hadn’t in months. I was cleaning, helping my family, getting fresh air and getting more movement. Think outside the exercise box. Do you have a flower bed or garden that needs weeding? Think of all the bending and squatting necessary to weed and tend to your plants. In addition to being outside, learning more about your food and helping it grow, you are exercising! Bring your baby along in your sling or on a blanket for easy access for nursing.
Being more active and adding more movement into your life after a baby doesn’t have to involve a gym membership or a strict exercise routine. Exercise and breastfeeding are compatible and helpful for you and baby. Recognizing the new movements you are already doing, including your baby, bringing along community, getting outside and stacking your life are all great ways to bring movement into your motherhood.
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Thanks for coming by,
Lacey Parr, BS, CLE
(1) Daley, A.J., Thomas, A., Cooper, H., Fitzpatrick, H., McDonald, C., Moore, H., Rooney, R., Deeks, J.J. (2012). Maternal exercise and growth in breastfed infants: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Pediatrics, 130 (1). 108-14. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22711727