Breastfeeding And Exercise

Mother exercising with breastfed baby

Does breastfeeding and exercise go together?

Many moms feel called to exercise and get their pre-pregnancy body back. And, generally speaking, that is a terrific goal that will give you more energy and better health. However if you are breastfeeding, you have to approach exercise in a smart way, otherwise you could see a backlash in your milk production. Here are the rules of the breastfeeding and exercise:

Breastfeeding and Exercise Rule #1: Medical Clearance

Get clearance from your doctor or other health care professional before beginning any exercise routine. Delivering a baby is an incredible physical stress on your body, similar to breaking your arm or leg. Your body needs sufficient chance to heal and recover. Organs need to shift to where they belong. And like a broken bone mending, this process takes time and is a bit different for every woman. Even if you are not breastfeeding, be sure to get medical clearance before exercising.

Breastfeeding and Exercise Rule #2: Avoid Overexertion

After “borrowing” our bodies to the baby during pregnancy and waiting six to eight weeks or more to get medical clearance a lot of moms want to dive right in with a rigorous exercise routine. It’s tempting but overexertion can cause your body to cut milk production. When push comes to shove your body values your life more than the life of your baby and if the exertion of your exercise routine is too much for your body to handle, it will cut milk production to conserve energy.

And speaking of overexertion, it doesn’t have to be exercise in the conventional sense. Even seemingly little things like cleaning the house before company arrives can cause a reduction in your milk supply.

To avoid overexertion, ease into your exercise routine. To start with keep your heart rate at 120 bpm or lower during exercise. If that goes well, increase to 130 bpm in two weeks and to 140 bpm two weeks after that. This will allow your body to get used to the demand of exercise without penalizing your milk production.

Breastfeeding and Exercise Rule #3: Diet smart

Almost all exercise programs include a diet component, however drastic dieting, calorie cutting and weight loss can cause your body to go into “starvation mode.” This survival that helped our species survive famines works by cutting out all nonessential functions including milk production.

Making breast milk is a calorie intensive process, so be sure you are getting enough high quality calories.

Final thoughts on Breastfeeding and Exercise

In general dieting and exercise are terrific means to better health, more energy and feeling good about how we look. However breastfeeding moms need to take a balanced approach to diet and exercise. Get the okay from your doctor, ease into an exercise routine, and make smart choices about your diet. If you do these things, you can continue breastfeeding and reach your fitness and body goals! 

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