Balancing Breastfeeding and Fitness
Trying to maintain a fitness routine while breastfeeding can certainly pose some challenges for new moms. The demands of caring for a newborn can be overwhelming, and adding exercise into the mix can feel like an additional stressor.
Breastfeeding can also cause physical discomfort and make certain exercises more challenging. For example, your breasts may feel tender or engorged, making running or jumping exercises uncomfortable. You may also need to wear a supportive bra or nursing pads to prevent leakage during exercise.
Despite these challenges, breastfeeding moms can maintain a fitness routine. It may require creativity, such as incorporating baby into workouts or finding ways to exercise at home. Still, it can be a great way to boost energy levels, reduce stress, and promote overall health and well-being. Here is everything you need to know about balancing breastfeeding and fitness...
Exercise and Your Milk Supply
One of the main challenges of exercising while breastfeeding is the potential impact on milk supply. Some women may find that their milk supply decreases if they are not consuming enough calories or engaging in too much high-intensity exercise. It's essential that you are consuming enough calories to support both your own needs and your baby's needs, especially if you are exclusively breastfeeding.
To maintain your milk supply while exercising, there are steps you can take to help ensure that your baby continues to receive adequate milk:
- Stay hydrated: Staying well-hydrated is essential for maintaining milk supply. Be sure to have enough water before, during, and after exercising. How much water should you drink while breastfeeding?
- Fuel your body: Consuming enough calories to support your energy needs and milk production is important.
- Gradually increase exercise intensity: Start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts over time. This can help your body adjust and minimize the risk of a sudden drop in milk supply.
- Listen to your body: If you feel overly tired or notice a drop in milk supply, it may be time to reduce the intensity or duration of your workouts. Pay attention to your body's signals and adjust your exercise routine accordingly.
Making Time for Exercise
Another challenge of exercising while breastfeeding is the logistics of managing breastfeeding and exercise schedules. For example, you may need to plan your workouts around your baby's feeding schedule, or you may need to pump milk before or after exercising if you are away from your baby. Finding the time and energy to fit exercise into an already-packed day can be difficult, especially when you are sleep-deprived and adjusting to life with a new baby.
It's important to remember that your body has been through a lot during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. It's okay to be easy on yourself and take your time to get back into a fitness routine. Here are some reasons why:
- Your body needs time to heal: Pregnancy and childbirth put a lot of strain on your body, and it takes time for your body to heal and recover. Pushing yourself too hard too soon can lead to injury and may prolong your recovery time.
- Your baby needs you: As a new mom, your time and energy are likely focused on caring for your baby. Remember, taking care of yourself is also taking care of your baby. Being gentle with yourself and focusing on self-care can help you be a better mom in the long run.
- Consistency is key: Consistency is more important than intensity when establishing a fitness routine. By taking your time and gradually increasing the intensity of your workouts, you can build a sustainable routine that you can stick with over time.
- Your mental health matters: Exercise can be a great way to boost your mood and reduce stress, but it's important to remember that there is no one "right" way to exercise. If you find that pushing yourself too hard is causing anxiety or stress, it's okay to take a step back and focus on gentler forms of exercise like yoga or walking.
- Celebrate small victories: Fitness and health are not all-or-nothing propositions. Celebrate small successes, like going for a walk or trying a new exercise class, and don't get too caught up in comparing yourself to others.
Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to fitness and health; what works for one person may not work for another. Be gentle with yourself, listen to your body, and focus on making small, sustainable changes over time.
Strength Training and Cardio
Strength training is crucial for moms, especially as they age. It helps to maintain muscle mass, improve bone density, and increase metabolism. Incorporate weightlifting, resistance bands, or bodyweight exercises into your routine for a complete workout.
Cardiovascular exercise is also crucial for maintaining fitness levels. It helps to burn calories, increase endurance, and improve heart health. Incorporate activities such as running, cycling, or swimming into your routine.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Eating a balanced diet while exercising and breastfeeding is important to support both your health and your baby's growth and development. Here are some tips for eating a healthy and balanced diet:
- Eat a variety of foods: Aim to include a variety of foods from all the food groups in your diet, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. This can help ensure you get all the nutrients your body needs to produce milk and stay healthy.
- Consume enough calories: It's important to consume enough calories to support your energy needs and your baby's milk production. Most breastfeeding women need an additional 500 calories per day, but this can vary depending on your individual needs and level of physical activity.
- Snack wisely: Eating small, frequent meals and snacks throughout the day can help keep your energy levels up and prevent hunger. Choose healthy, nutrient-dense snacks such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and yogurt.
- Plan ahead: Meal planning and preparation can help ensure that you have healthy, balanced meals and snacks when needed. Consider meal prepping on the weekends or packing healthy snacks to take with you when you're on the go.
- Choose nutrient-dense foods: When choosing what to eat, focus on nutrient-dense foods that provide a lot of vitamins and minerals for the calories. For example, choose whole-grain bread instead of white bread, and opt for lean proteins like chicken and fish.
Find our breastfeeding calorie calculator here.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep deprivation can affect milk supply. Studies have shown that mothers who sleep less than six hours per night have a lower milk supply than those who sleep more than seven hours per night. Sleep deprivation can also lead to stress, further impacting milk production.
Furthermore, lack of sleep can make it more challenging to make healthy food choices, leading to increased cravings for high-calorie, high-fat foods. This can make it harder to maintain a balanced diet, which is essential for both the mother's health and the baby's growth and development.
New mothers need to prioritize getting enough sleep, especially if they are also exercising and breastfeeding. It may be helpful to incorporate naps into the daily routine or to enlist the help of a partner or family member to care for the baby while the mother gets some rest.
Finally, don't be afraid to seek support regarding your fitness goals. Join a fitness group, hire a personal trainer, or seek support from friends and family. Having a support system can help keep you accountable and motivated.
In conclusion, juggling fitness and motherhood can be challenging, especially for breastfeeding moms. However, with some creativity, patience, and self-care, it's possible to maintain a fitness routine while ensuring your baby receives an adequate milk supply. Prioritizing your health and incorporating strength training and cardio can help you achieve your fitness goals. Eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and staying motivated can support your overall health and well-being. Remember to be patient with yourself and seek support from friends, family, or professionals. Balancing breastfeeding and fitness can be a challenging journey, but with the right mindset and support, you can achieve a fit body while caring for yourself and your baby.