Exercise and Breastfeeding – The Do’s and Don’ts of Slimming Down After Baby

New moms are often curious about exercise and breastfeeding.  Is it OK?  Will it affect my breast milk?  Will I get dehydrated?  Will it hurt my breasts?  For most nursing moms, exercise is encouraged once you’ve been cleared for physical activity by your OBGYN or physician.

This time of year, many of us are focusing on our health and putting our best efforts towards our fitness-focused New Years resolutions.  Getting in shape after having a baby can be especially challenging.  Gaining a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy is advised for the optimal growth of your baby.  But only a portion of the ultimate weight gain is the baby itself, so dropping the pounds may take a little work.  Here are some do’s and don’ts on how to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight:

Exercising and BreastfeedingDo drink lots of water.  Hydration is essential for exercising in general, but be sure to add in a few extra cups when you’re breastfeeding.  Water makes up 90% of breast milk so it’s important!

Don’t overdo it and drop too much weight too fast.  Major weight loss usually stems from crash diets and over-exercising.  This is unhealthy for any body, especially one that is lactating.  Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to dropping weight and keeping it off.

Do start slow and build up your intensity over time.  If you haven’t worked out in awhile, take it easy until your muscles get used to the activity.  Injuries can easily occur when muscles are overworked.  The last thing you want when caring for a baby is a strain or injury.

Don’t believe the myths about exercise and breastfeeding.  Many moms have heard that exercise causes lactic acid build-up in your breast milk that can be harmful to your baby.  It’s not true.  This effect is very minor and if anything, may only slightly alter the taste of your milk.

Do feed or pump before you exercise.  For your own comfort, you may want drain your breasts prior to exercise, especially when you’re doing higher impact activities.  Full breasts can be heavy and with added motion, may cause discomfort during your workout.

Don’t make excuses. Find time for exercise 4 to 6 times a week.  Sneak in workouts during naptimes or when grandma pops by for a visit.  If you can’t get a full workout in at one time, break it up into several mini-workouts throughout the day.  Also, try to incorporate some extra cardio into your daily routine.  Your baby will probably delight in the silliness of watching you do jumping jacks.  Baby-wearing adds weight to all of your daily activities with the added bonus of keeping baby super close.  You can also use your baby as resistance by carefully doing bridge extensions and leg lifts with baby sitting on your abdomen or legs.

Do make sure you wear a supportive nursing sports bra.  No only will you be prepared for breastfeeding before or after a workout, nursing sports bras prevent bounce to keep you lifted and comfortable during exercise.

Don’t get discouraged.  The normal, healthy rate of losing weight is 1 to 2 pounds per week.  Don’t expect the weight to shed immediately.  Be patient and with diligence will come results.

Enjoy your workout, new mamas!