Congratulations! Now that you just had your baby, what are you going to do next???
Okay, so you're probably not going to plan your next trip to Disneyland. At least not right away.
(And yes, you guessed it...that's my - at least poor attempt - on all those post-victory Super Bowl commercials 😉).
My guess is you're also probably not going to start training for a marathon or even a 5K anytime soon either.
But, what I can tell you after hearing time and time again from so many of the mamas I've worked with over the years is that there definitely comes a point when "losing the baby weight" and "getting back in shape" eventually becomes part of the dialogue.
So what's a mama to do? And what if she's a nursing mama?
Is it safe to exercise while breastfeeding? Can exercising change the taste of breast milk or even lower milk supply?
I hear you!
These are all valid questions and I've totally got you covered.
So let's drive in...
Is it safe to exercise while breastfeeding?
First things first - exercise most definitely can and should be a healthy part of every new mama's daily routine, whether she is breastfeeding or not.
Unless there is a medically indicated reason as to why exercise must be avoided, a healthy exercise routine is not only safe for new moms but can also provide significant health benefits such as strengthening and toning the uterus, reducing the risk of postpartum depression, promoting better sleep and stress management, and getting back to your pre-pregnancy weight during the post-pregnancy period and beyond.
Of course, ALWAYS MAKE SURE YOU CONSULT WITH YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE STARTING ANY POSTNATAL EXERCISE PROGRAM.
Now with that little disclaimer out of the way and getting back to the question at hand, yes it is perfectly safe to exercise while breastfeeding, but there are a few key points to keep in mind.
Be gentle with yourself. You and your body have gone through a lot.
The best advice I have here is to proceed with caution. Although you might be anxious to jump right in and fully commit to a regular exercise routine - take it slow and listen to your body.
If you stayed fit and exercised regularly throughout your pregnancy, bouncing back might come a bit easier for you; however, you should still allow yourself at least a couple of weeks and a doctors clearance before implementing anything serious.
The bottom line is to take it slow and give your body time to heal.
Make sure you stay well nourished and hydrated. And this advice really goes for any nursing mama whether she is working out or not.
Now's not the time to skimp on calories or go into extreme dieting mode.
According to reports, it's actually a drastic caloric restriction and/or weight loss - not exercise - that can have an negative effect on and decrease milk supply.
Of course, that doesn't mean you have a pass to go overboard either. Keeping an eye on your daily food intake and avoiding excess sugary and processed foods is always a good idea, especially while trying to lose the baby weight.
Finally, do yourself a favor and invest in a good sports bra.
As I mentioned above, you and your body have been through a lot - so have your breasts. At this point you might be dealing with breasts that are bigger and possibly more sensitive than they were even during your pregnancy.
Plus, if you plan on having your little one tag along with you during your workouts, you're probably going to want to find a nursing sports bra that provides more easy access.
So what should you be looking for while purchasing a sports bra as a nursing mama?
Besides being easy access, look for something that fits you properly and is comfortable to wear. It should provide great support to your ever changing breasts while also making sure not to be too tight or too restrictive.
IMPORTANT: Any bra that's too restrictive on any part of the lactating breast can very quickly lead to plugged ducts.
Following these few tips will help ensure that you can safely exercise even while breastfeeding.
But, I know what you're saying. What about the concerns you might have heard regarding exercising while breastfeeding and how it can decrease milk supply or make your milk taste weird? Is there any truth to this?
Does exercising change the taste of breast milk?
I know there's some chatter circulating among some mama circles from time to time suggesting that babies might not nurse after exercise since it changes the taste of breast milk.
The truth is - there really isn't much evidence to support this notion.
The thought behind this is the idea that exercise will increase lactic acid levels in the blood - and thus in breast milk - which could alter the taste of the milk. However, what we have to understand is that higher levels of lactic acid have been found in breast milk ONLY after maximum intensity exercise (100% of VO2 max). Studies have actually shown that moderate intensity exercise does not increase breast milk lactic acid content.
So what does this mean?
Well, the likeliness that you'll be working out at full intensity during this time might be slim to none. If this is your plan and even if the lactic acid content in your breast milk does increase, there is no real evidence that baby will reject the breast.
From my own personal experience, I've never had a baby who didn't seem to like the taste of breast milk post-workout. With that being said, they have at times not enjoyed the taste of sweat on the breast.
If this is the case with your own baby, give your breast a quick wipe and nurse on!
Can exercising lower milk supply?
Contrary to some differing opinions, exercising in itself does not lower milk supply.
Additionally, this research also shows that exclusively breastfed babies of mothers who exercise regularly grow at about the same rate as that of the babies whose breastfeeding mamas live a more sedentary lifestyle.
So now that we know exercise doesn't affect milk supply, breast milk composition, or the growth of baby - what are the best workouts for breastfeeding mamas?
The 5 Best Postpartum Workouts for Nursing Mamas
Walking may, in fact, be the perfect postnatal workout.
Why, you ask?
Because it's something everyone can get involved with.
Unfortunately, I feel it might not always get the credit it's deserved unless kicked up a notch to more of a power walking or hiking status, but the benefits of walking are tremendous.
Getting into a postnatal walking routine should be an essential part of your healthy lifestyle and recovery. Truthfully, and of course please always check with your doctor before doing so, walking more times than not can be incorporated into your daily routine before you officially get the clearance to engage in any other exercise regimen.
Walking can also get you out of the house and into the fresh air and is something baby, friends and family can join you on.
How great is that?
Just remember to be gentle with yourself and don't overdo it. Your whole body - muscles, joints, connective tissues, and pelvic floor - will thank you!
Yoga is an awesome exercise many may argue every-BODY should be practicing regularly throughout every stage of life.
Not only can it provide tremendous benefits to the mind-body-spirit for those young to old, but postnatally, yoga benefits breastfeeding moms because it provides the opportunity for mothers to practice self-care and to connect with their ever-evolving body and mind.
My friend and founder of Little Heroes Yoga: Kids' Yoga for the Courageous, Kimberly Fujitaki says "a breastfeeding mama needs to care for her new baby and herself simultaneously and postnatal yoga gives moms ways to connect to themselves through movement, mindfulness, breathing and meditation -- all useful tools in navigating breastfeeding and the postpartum period."
Kimberly also notes that "the physical asana (postures) help with opening the chest and creating space within the front body, so that optimal milk flow and milk production occurs."
How cool is that!?
While Pilates does offer several of the same awesome benefits as yoga - you can rest assured that any good postnatal Pilates program will focus on strength, muscle toning, body control, and flexibility with the main emphasis being on core strength.
With so much attention centered on firing up the "powerhouse" - your abs, upper and lower back, hips, booty, and inner thighs - Pilates offers new mamas a rockin' workout since it helps restore the core in addition to improving the pelvic floor muscles and diastasis recti (separation of the rectus abdominis muscles in your abdomen) that needs additional love post-pregnancy.
Breastfeeding mamas will reap the benefits of incorporating Pilates into their regular routine by strengthening and toning the abdominal and back muscles in order to improve posture and prevent back pain which is a very common complaint among nursing mothers.
Once you've been given the okay to take the plunge and submerge yourself in water again after giving birth, I say go ahead and jump in feet first!
Swimming is another one of those exercises that's so incredibly wonderful and beneficial for any stage of life.
During the postpartum period, swimming will not only help your body bounce back and shed excess baby weight, but it can also help restore muscle tone as well since it works your upper and lower body simultaneously while also gently engaging your core - again, great at preventing back pain in nursing mamas.
Additionally, due to the fact that swimming is such a low-impact workout, this type of postnatal exercise is ideal as it decreases the stress on your joints which were made looser during pregnancy. Yes, I'm looking at you relaxin!
Mommy + Me Fitness
Alright, so I know this isn't a specific type of exercise, but Mommy + Me fitness classes are a awesome way to get your workout on!
And since Mommy + Me-style fitness classes come in so many different varieties of exercises - from yoga, to Pilates and barre, or stroller fitness to many more - well the chances that you'll find one to fit your taste are highly likely.
Not only are Mommy + Me fitness classes extremely beneficial when it comes to restoring your strength and fitness level post-pregnancy, but they also allow mamas to take the time to feed, change and comfort baby while also connecting and bonding with other new mamas - hopefully with a little extra breastfeeding support added in as well.
Postnatal fitness plus community equals the perfect prescription for any new mama!