Chestfeeding or breastfeeding and exercise are compatible. They don’t need to be a tricky duo. But there’s no denying that they can, at times, feel like competing priorities.
Here are 10 things to consider if you are chestfeeding or breastfeeding and exercising after pregnancy.
1) Invest in a great NURSING-friendly sports bra.
They’re out there. Your breasts are going to be fuller, heavier and more sensitive than they were before you became pregnant. Extra support is essential.
If you buy a bra with nursing access, you’ll be able to easily nurse or pump immediately before and after your workouts.
I reviewed my favorite nursing sports bras for bigger busted folks in this blog post.
Pro tip: Only wear your sports bra while you’re exercising:
-Wearing a tight bra for a long time can contribute to plugged ducts or mastitis. Over time, it may also impact your milk supply.
-Hanging out in a sweaty bra can contribute to yeast infections.
-The extra compression around your rib cage will inhibit good core function.
2) Lighten your load.
Nurse your baby or pump before you exercise, if you can. You’ll be 1000 times more comfortable. (Yes, 1000 times.)
3) You can run, lift weights or do just about whatever you like while you’re breastfeeding.
It’s not selfish. It’s not dangerous. It won’t impact your milk (see #8).
4) Just because you can, doesn’t mean you have to.
You’re allowed to not want to exercise yet. Or have days when you feel extra tired or run down. You don’t have to be the person running an ultramarathon and pumping along the way. You do you.
5) Plugged ducts are a red flag.
If you are experiencing plugged ducts, it’s advisable to rest. If you experience mastitis, it’s essential.
Plugged ducts are uncomfortable and a nuisance. Mastitis is a full-blown illness accompanied by pain, fever and flu-like symptoms. If you develop mastitis, you’ll need to contact your doctor or a lactation consultant.
If you are curious about the symptoms of plugged ducts and mastitis, check out this great resource.
6) Pay extra attention to your body alignment and how your joints feel while you exercise.
Breastfeeding or chestfeeding impacts your body alignment and hormones in ways that may influence how you feel when you exercise.
For example, you may develop a more rounded upper body posture due to the hours you spend feeding your babe. The extended periods sitting while nursing may also impact your pelvis alignment and the the tone of your pelvic floor.
Postural adaptations to feeding and caring for your baby can impact your core function, center of balance and stability . Fortunately, exercise represents the perfect laboratory for experimenting with your body alignment and correcting for compensations
7) Relaxin is probably not a big deal.
The jury is still out here. Some will say that the relaxin present in your body when you’re lactating leads to increased instability and injury risk. There’s no data to actually support this.
My two cents: I wouldn’t go nuts worrying about this one. Ultimately, exercise will help you build strength and stability around your joints. Pay attention to how you feel, and as always, if something feels off- back off that particular movement and/or consider checking in with a professional.
8) Exercising shouldn’t impact your milk supply or flavor.
Exercising most likely will not impact your milk production, provided you eat and drink enough to keep up with both demands.
If you are exercising and chest/breastfeeding, please don’t cut calories. Lactation and exercise both require adequate nutrition and hydration. If breastfeeding or chestfeeding is a priority for you, I urge you to table weight-loss goals until after you wean your child.
On a similar note, exercise should not impact the flavor of milk.
If baby is rejecting the chest or breast after exercise, it is more likely to do with the taste of salty sweat on skin. Wipe yourself down and try again.
9) Chest or breastfeed for the right reasons.
Lactating will not help you lose the baby weight.
Some people hold on to extra fat tissue while they breastfeed. There is no correlation betewen fat loss and breastfeeding, it’s a total myth.
10) Adjust your expectations.
If you’re resuming exercise while lactating, you’re exercising under a set of conditions that is new-to-you. You’ll inevitably have less energy and less control over your workout schedule and performance.
You’re a parent. But you’re also so much more than that. You’re YOU and you deserve to do all the things that make you feel whole. If exercise and chest/breastfeeding and exercise or sport are both on the list, I hope these tips help you make the most of both experiences.
As you return to exercise after pregnancy, here are a few more things to consider:
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My mission is to make sure that having a baby is not a reason why you can’t do all the things.
Contact me if you have questions about exercise or pelvic health pertaining to pregnancy or postpartum. I also offer personal training services and consultations to folks locally (Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland) and online.