Many breastfeeding moms have concerns about exercise. Sadly, these concerns may prevent them from working out and enjoying a big advantage in shedding postpartum pounds, building functional strength and accelerating their postnatal recovery. Here are some common issues for breastfeeding moms and what to do about them.
Breastfeeding mothers are usually sleep deprived, from having to feed their newborns every 3 to 4 hours. This fatigue may lead to a decreased desire to exercise. When you're getting a few hours of sleep a night who feels like exercising?
Janet Currie, Ph.D. recommends exercising in the morning. She states that it may be more convenient for the mother to exercise before a regularly scheduled feeding. Sleep is also recommended for the new mother to properly recover from workouts. Short naps taken during the daytime while the child naps can offset the nightly sleep interruptions.
Fall Asleep Fast With "Triple Four" Breathing
Moms who are trying to cram in 15 minute naps need every second asleep. Here's a technique to put you on the fast track to dreamland and make every nap second count. It's called Triple Four breathing.
Get comfortable, close your eyes, relax and slowly inhale for a count of four – 1 … 2 … 3 … 4 … Then hold for a count of four – 1 … 2 … 3 … 4 … now exhale slowly for a count of four – 1 … 2 … 3 … 4 … Repeat a few times and you'll improve your odds of falling asleep fast. Even if you do not fall completely asleep, your brainwaves will move closer to a theta pattern leaving you refreshed and energized when you open your eyes.
Breastfeeding moms may find an increased weight in their breast tissue due to the hyper-activity of the mammary glands and production of milk. This may cause discomfort while exercising.
It's extremely important to wear a supportive bra when exercising. During the breastfeeding period, a specially fitted sports bra is recommended to prevent over-stretching of the breast ligaments. Nursing sports bras designed specifically to meet the needs of nursing mothers are a good choice.
One concern of breastfeeding mothers is that the lactic acid produced during exercise may affect the quality of their breast milk. They fear their breast milk may have a sour taste and that the child may reject it.
A study conducted at the University of New Hampshire examined the effects that both a maximal and moderate intensity bout of exercise has on the amount of lactic acid in the milk and the infant's acceptance of the breast milk.
The study found the amount of lactic acid in breast milk did increase with maximal exercise, but did not increase in with moderate exercise. In both cases the child accepted the mother's breast milk one hour after exercise. It is recommended that breastfeeding mothers wait 30-60 minutes after exercise before breastfeeding. However, if this is not possible you still have options.
Use RPE to insure quality breast milk.
The key to insuring your breast milk is not affected by exercise is to workout at a moderate intensity level. An easy way to measure this is by using a Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale.
Here's how it works. The difficulty level of an exercise can be given a number between 1 and 10. 10 being exhaustion or maximal intensity (you can barely breathe and are close to having to stop the exercise). The scale then drops as you lower the intensity. It ultimately ends at 1 or an exercise effort you can barely feel.
To ensure your breast milk is unaffected by exercise, your workout intensity should be no greater than a 7 on an RPE scale of 10.
So to wrap things up – if you're breastfeeding and have your doctor's approval, please start or keep exercising. To make the fitness development process easier for you – remember to keep your workout intensity at a moderate level, wear the proper breast support and try to steal naps at every opportunity.
You may also consider the following recommendations from the American College Of Sports Medicine's Health and Fitness Journal with regard to breastfeeding moms:
1. Participate in moderate exercise 3-4 times per week
2. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after to maintain fluid for milk production
3. Weight loss recommendations for the first 6 months
a. normal weight mothers = 2-2.5 lbs / month (1 kg)
b. overweight mothers = 4-4.5 lbs / month (2 kg)
1. Currie J. and Rich M. Fit and Well: Maintaining Women's Participation in Pre- and Postnatal Exercise. ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal. 2004: 8 (4): 12-15.
2. Quinn TJ and Carey GB. How Do Diet and Exercise Influence the Amount of Lactic Acid in Breast Milk? Nutrition Research Newsletter. March 1999.
3. Wright KS, Quinn TJ, and Carey GB. Infant Acceptance of Breast Milk After Maternal Exercise. Pediatrics. 2002: 109 (4): 585-589.