Breastfeeding can be a challenging undertaking at the best of times.
Even if you’ve nailed the milk production part, what about the aches and pains that result from hunching over your little one every few hours? And from carrying those newly massive boobs around?
And that’s only part of it – think leaks, ill-fitting clothes, intense tiredness and more.
You’d be forgiven for pushing your active wear to the back of your wardrobe and reaching for a big fat chocolate bar.
But there are so many reasons why it’s a good idea to exercise during this period of your life.
For starters, it can help with heart health, weight control and general fitness.
On top of that it can strengthen your bones, reduce stress levels, help improve your mental wellbeing and even help treat post-natal depression.
You may be concerned about the effect exercise will have on your breastmilk, but worry not. Lactic acid in your milk will only increase to levels that will make it unappetising to your baby if you are exercising “maximally” – that means extreme intensity.
If you’re just going mild to moderate, which is all that is recommended at this stage as your body recovers, there will be no lactic acid increase.
It can all be a bit of an information overload with not much practical advice out there to actually help you handle it all.
So, here are our suggestions:
During the breastfeeding period, hydration is particularly important, since breast milk production significantly increases water loss.
Around 87% of breast milk is made of water. So if you’re producing around 750 ml of milk per day, that’s a fair amount of water.
Sweating in the gym can further deplete those levels, so make sure you’re upping your water intake.
Find a comfortable sports bra
Chances are you haven’t been wearing the right size sports bra any away, but now it’s even more important to get some proper support for your bosoms.
Head to your nearest department store to get measured, and go for a maternity brand that will allow you to feed easily without having to squeeze your nipples through awkward openings.
If you’re breastfeeding, there’s a chance some of that milk may make an unwelcome appearance between feeds particularly while you’re working out.
To avoid those tell-tale wet patches pop a breast pad in your sports bra to soak up any unexpected leakages. Or invest in one which will absorb any leaks.
For extra security, try to wear colours that don’t show damp like grey.
Feed before you workout
Lying on your front will place additional pressure on your breasts which can be uncomfortable and can also lead to leakages.
Either simply avoid those kind of positions, or feed bubba before you hit the gym to ease the pressure.
Hold off on high impact exercise
The additional weight in your breasts could make them bounce more. That results in more tissue damage which will make them saggier down the line. So instead of high impact exercise with lots of jumps, opt for gentler activities like swimming, yoga, walking or cycling.
That’ll be good news for your pelvic floor muscles which will have been stretched during pregnancy and labour, and may need a little time to recuperate before hitting it hard once again.
When you return to the gym, try and ensure you observe a 2:1 ration when it comes to working out your back and chest. Do twice as many reps of back exercises as you do of chest.
And really focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together when performing the exercises to ensure you target the right muscles to help reverse that hunching.
Don’t completely skip chest sessions however – it’s important to still keep these muscles working to ensure your body moves well.
It’s really important to concentrate on strengthening your back muscles and opening up your chest even at home.
Do a set of around 12 band pull-aparts a using a light resistance band after each feed. This will help strengthen the muscles in your upper back, helping to improve your posture.
A doorway stretch will also help elongate your chest muscles which can become tight as a result of feeding. Add in some wall slides to stabilise the shoulders and enhance mobility.