Breastfeeding and Exercise


Today’s newsletter is on breastfeeding and exercise, as I thought it may interest some of you. Even if you’re not breastfeeding and you think this doesn’t apply to you, keep reading, as you may learn a thing or two. Knowledge is powerful, remember.

Here are a couple of points that I think are relevant for postnatal women about breastfeeding and exercise:

Feed before exercise

I’d always suggest that you feed your baby before your exercise. I know this is not always possible, but it’s advisable to do so. If your breasts are full, chances are they will feel uncomfortable, and any amount of activity, regardless of how vigorous it is might stimulate milk flow, so it’s advisable to wear breast pads.

Is a sports bra necessary?

Getting a properly fitted sports bra is essential if you’re embarking on any type of fitness class or activity to reduce the amount of “bounce” and provide adequate shock absorption to the breasts. Although wearing a nursing bra is very convenient for feeding before or after class, I’m here to tell you that a feeding bra doesn’t provide enough support for exercise, ok? Consider wearing two bras, with a nursing bra on first, then a sports bra over the top. I know it sounds like a bit of a nuisance, but this “double-bra” effect will you with the support you need. Tight elasticated sports bra tops aren’t that suitable for a new mum who is breastfeeding either, because they compress the breasts into the chest wall, which may constrict you milk ducts and/or lead to infection eg mastitis.

Body positioning

Lying directly on your front may feel extremely uncomfortable for some of you. For others, this position can be tolerated for a short period of time. When performing any exercise in this position, I suggest placing a rolled up towel above and/or below your breasts to reduce the amount of discomfort/pressure.

Range of movement

Again, for comfort, it’s advisable to keep the range of movement of some arm exercises smaller and controlled. Anything vigorous that involves you reaching your arms over your head repetitively will cause tenderness, so it’s important you keep the range of movement of your arms smaller. You know your body best, at the end of the day, so choose what feels comfortable for you.

Milk production

There is no significant research to suggest that moderate-intensity exercise inhibits milk production. Examples of moderate-intensity exercise include: weight training, low-impact aerobics, walking, swimming. A study by Carey & Quinn (2001) suggested that lactate levels of milk production changed only after a mother performed maximal intensity exercise, and this may affect baby’s acceptance of post-exercise breast milk. But, the authors agreed that it’s highly unlikely that a postnatal women would feel comfortable pushing themselves to this level, so its findings have been discounted. Moderate-intensity exercise however, with good hydration will not affect the quantity or the quality of breast milk.

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