Breastfeeding and Exercise: 7 Things New Moms Need to Know

Is getting back into your pre-pregnancy exercise routine as elusive a dream as a good night’s sleep? If you were working out regularly before, you should be able to safely start exercising again as you heal from birthing your baby. Enclosed are breastfeeding and exercise tips for nursing moms.

Here are seven things to know about working out as a nursing mom.

  1. Heal first. During the first month after delivery, walking is the best exercise for both you and baby. Get outside each day (weather permitting) and aim for a 30-minute walk, timed just after a feeding. Gradually increase both the distance and the speed of your walk as you feel stronger and more comfortable over the first few weeks.
    Tip: Bring a soft front-pack style baby carrier for the inevitable times your baby fusses in the stroller.
  1. Get the thumbs-up. Let your midwife or OB know what kind of exercise you plan to resume (Running? Kickboxing class? Horseback riding?), and ask if there are any special considerations for you. Most providers will “clear” a mom to resume exercise between 4 – 8 weeks, depending on the type of delivery and healing process.
    Tip: If you’re a swimmer, always shower after leaving the pool to remove any chemicals or bacteria found in pool water.
  1. Exercise and Socialize. Many fitness programs offer the opportunity for new moms to bring their babies along. Mom and baby yoga, stroller fitness, or baby bootcamp programs are wonderful ways to meet other new mothers and entertain your baby, while also getting in some exercise.
    Tip: Baby-friendly programs mean that no one will bat an eye if your baby lets out a wail or needs to nurse midway through class.
  1. Does exercise affect breastmilk? No. Normal or even strenuous exercise shouldn’t affect your milk production, or the quality of your milk, as long as you have adequate calories and hydration. Lactic acid build up is a temporary occurrence and occurs during “extreme” exercise like a half-marathon, and not during a Zumba class.
    Tip: For athletes who exercised to exhaustion, one study showed breastmilk lactic acid levels returned to normal within 30 minutes of exercise.
  1. Eat smart! If you’re looking to lose weight, don’t cut calories too severely. Most breastfeeding moms require at least 1500 calories per day, depending on activity level and metabolism. Focus on proteins, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables for most of your intake.
    Tip: Keep hard-boiled eggs in the fridge for a quick and easy high-protein, low calorie snack.
  1. Hydrate! Drink plenty of water before, during, and especially after your exercise sessions. Exercise requires water from your muscles and blood, and so does milk-making. Keep your water bottle handy and full, and enjoy an occasional glass of juice if you crave it.
    Tip: Sugary sports drinks aren’t needed to re-hydrate after normal exercise, and most are full of artificial colors and empty calories.
  1. Support and protect those breasts! If the thought of jumping jacks makes you want to cross your arms across your chest, you might need to invest in a few new sports bras. Some moms find that doubling up with two different styles of bras gives them the extra support they need to be comfortably active. Avoid underwire bras while exercising.
    Tip: Nurse (or pump) just before exercising, for a more comfortable workout.

If you enjoyed this post about breastfeeding and exercise, you should read more from our collection of breastfeeding posts.

Baby+Company Prenatal and New Mom’s Groups are a great place to learn and share on a variety of topics including nutrition and exercise. Find a location near you to join a group!

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