Breastfeeding? Exercise is good for you

Last summer we heard about Olympic athletes who faced obstacles to their need to breastfeed their children while participating in the games. Spanish athlete Ona Carbonell described the rules imposed by Japanese officials as dangerous and impractical. Because it is World Breastfeeding Week, a yearly event promoting breastfeeding and its important role in food security and infant nutrition, I thought I would highlight some of the things you can do while breastfeeding, including physical exercise and other fitness-type activities.

A white woman sits under a tree breastfeeding her child in a park. Photo by Dave Clubb on Unsplash

If you’ve had a baby and are breastfeeding, either through direct nursing or pumping, you may have wondered about the impact of exercise. LaLeche League offers peer support worldwide to nursing parents. The organization says regular exercise offers physical and mental benefits and notes even moderately vigorous exercise won’t affect milk supply. They offer these helpful guidelines:

  • 1. Wait until your baby is at least 6 weeks old or more. (Give yourself time to recover physically!)
  • 2. If you had a cesarean section you can usually start exercising 6-8 weeks after birth. However, you should talk to your healthcare provider before beginning any type of exercise program.
  • 3. Start slowly and gradually. (Perhaps you had a pretty active lifestyle before baby; however, even if you are very fit, don’t start where you left off.)
  • 4. Be sure to consume liquids to replace those lost by sweating. (Be sure you drink a glass of water every time your baby feeds regardless of your activity before or after.)
  • 5. You may wish to wear a supportive, or sports, bra for your own comfort. (I second this. Extra support is essential.)
  • 6. Some kinds of exercise, such as walking, can be done with your baby.
  • 7. You may also find post-natal exercise classes in your area that allow you to bring your baby with you. (I attended some baby and me classes at my local Y which was great for getting back into physical activity and also connecting with other new parents and their babies.)
  • 8. Walking briskly, mild aerobic exercises and water exercises are ideal in the beginning.
  • 9. Monitor how you feel during and after exercise and let this be your guide for how much to do. Some moms find they can regain their fitness and stamina levels quickly after birth, and others take longer.

This article from Today’s Parent also offers some useful firsthand advice if your fitness level is beyond beginnner. I was on maternity leave post recovery from birth in early spring and summer which also made the temps ideal for working my way back into regular exercise. I also found walking with my baby in a carriage or stroller to be easier than babywearing and it was a great way to spend time with my partner and family. If you are pregnant and planning to breastfeed, I hope this post offers some insight into how you can maintain your fitness too.

MarthaFitat55 enjoyed her breastfeeding experience and was very grateful for all the support she received to make it possible.