Written by: Annéke da Silva
If you were active throughout your pregnancy and would like to get back into your exercise routine as soon as possible once the doctor gave you the green light you might be wondering “will exercise have an influence on my breast milk?” or “won’t exercising while breastfeeding decrease my supply?”. Well then, let’s jump straight into the facts regarding this frequently asked (and misunderstood) question!
Once you get the ‘all clear’ from your doctor to resume exercise postpartum it is recommended that you resume a safe, low-moderate intensity exercise programme. Not only will exercise postpartum help you regain your strength and rehabilitate your core and pelvic floor, but it also plays a big role in your emotional and mental well-being by releasing endorphins, which leads to a happier, healthier mommy! So let’s have a look at some of the most common questions I get from breastfeeding mommies and why you shouldn’t be concerned about exercise having a negative effect on your milk supply.
The most frequently asked questions about breastfeeding and exercise:
- Is it safe to exercise while breastfeeding?
YES! Most definitely! It comes highly recommended to get back out there as soon as your doctor gives you the green light. During pregnancy your bone density also decreases, and taking part in a regular strength training programme can be of great benefit to help increase your bone density levels. Further, as mentioned above it gives you an endorphin rush which goes a long way in lifting your mood and improving your mental and emotional well-being
- Can exercise affect my milk supply/production?
In short, NO! This is a very common misconception about exercising while you are breastfeeding. If you stick to a moderate intensity exercise plan your milk supply should not be affected in any way whatsoever. In fact, some women find that exercising can actually lead to a slight increase in supply and this is all once again due to endorphins being released which in turn leads to a higher production of prolactin, the hormone responsible for milk production.
- At what intensity can I train?
There is a BIG misconception that exercise can change the taste of your breast milk – the studies regarding this has been inconclusive so there is no proof that this is in fact true. Begin with a low to moderate exercise programme and gradually build it up to strenuous intensity again.
Some women do report that very high intensity exercise can change the taste of your breast milk – but it is not harmful at all, your baby might just not like the taste of it. It is important to note that this is not guaranteed to happen and is highly individualised!
Therefore, to be on the safe side it is recommended to keep your intensities below 80% of your max heart rate and once you have stopped breastfeeding, only then to push your sessions past that threshold again. If you are more than three months postpartum and really want to push your sessions to HIIT then wait 90 minutes – two hours before feeding your baby to ensure the taste, if altered at all, goes back to normal.4. Don’t skimp on your diet
- Don’t skimp on your diet
The number of calories burned extra per day due to the body producing breast milk varies greatly from one woman to another. It is important to note though that you do burn more calories while breastfeeding and therefore need to ensure you are supplying the body with sufficient amounts of nutritious foods and when you add exercise to your daily routine, this will become even more important!
If you are exercising daily and not eating enough food to replenish the calories it may affect your milk supply due to low energy balance. So stock up on healthy foods, don’t eat empty calories and remember to drink a lot of water to stay hydrated!