Exercise and Weight Loss While Breastfeeding
Posted By: April Picon
With her baby due any day now, April is equal parts excited and nervous.
For the past six weeks, my life has revolved around my little guy. Breastfeeding is a huge commitment especially in these early weeks since baby is eating so often. He is growing so fast – we already started gathering clothes that no longer fit him to give away. I am thrilled that baby Aiden is such a good eater and he’s packing on the pounds, but as he gains the weight, Mama would like very much to lose it!
I had my six week postpartum check-up today and was given the green light to go ahead and start exercising more. Up until now, I’ve been taking long walks or doing some Wii Fit a little each day for cardio and I’m pretty sure that carrying the stroller up and down the stairs counts as strength training. But I am so ready to hit the gym and get my body back!
There is so much information out there about diet and exercise for breastfeeding moms and as always, I have been given a ton of advice about it. These are some of the most interesting I’ve heard:
- burning fat while exercising can release toxins into my breast milk and harm my baby
- working out will make my milk taste salty and my baby might not like it anymore.
- working out will decrease my milk supply
- I can get plugged ducts from lifting weights
Kellymom.com has some great articles about weight loss while breastfeeding and put a lot of these issues to rest for me. Some women think they have to wait until after they wean their babies to even start to lose the pregnancy weight, but so long as we go at a healthy, steady pace it is totally possible to get back in shape while nursing. Plus, breastfeeding in itself burns about 200-500 calories per day so not only will I be committed to hitting the gym but I’ll keep nursing! I may be wearing a one-piece swimsuit this summer, but I plan to look fabulous in it!
In response to April’s post on exercising and weight loss while breastfeeding, we turned to Heather Kelly -- Bravado’s trusted breastfeeding brain and resource -- for some sage advice on the topic.
An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Heather has been affiliated with the Elizabeth Seton Childbearing Center and is a member of the Manhattan Lactation Group, a private practice group of four consultants in New York City. She also serves as a lactation consultant for Realbirth, NYC’s premier pre and post-natal education center.
Read on to see how our resident expert weighs in…
Getting back into shape after growing and carrying your little one for nine months can be daunting. Starting on an exercise regimen too soon post-partum can put extra stress on you at a time when you are juggling so many new demands. Don't be too hard on yourself; it took nine months for your body to change and adapt to growing a baby, so it can take several months for your body to return to its former shape. However, breastfeeding in those early months can actually help the weight come off. The act of breastfeeding itself contracts the uterus back to its pre-pregnancy size through the repeated release of the hormone oxytocin. Additionally, the body of a nursing mother does not seem to need extra fat while her levels of estrogen are lowered.
In terms of exercising while nursing, there really are no rules or do's and don'ts. One thing to be vigilant about: make sure you don’t wear a sports bra or a restrictive bra for too long either before or after exercising. Since your breasts will be heavier and denser during lactation, it is important that your exercise bra be supportive and properly fitted. However, wearing an exercise bra for too long could set you up for plugged ducts or mastitis. Remember to stay hydrated during any exercise, including that during lactation.
In terms of dieting during breastfeeding, it is perfectly fine. Any diet you do should include well-balanced nutrition. Some women worry that cutting calories can reduce their milk supply; this is not true. Humans have evolved to nurse through famines and food shortages; dieting or cutting calories will not negatively affect your supply, especially if you are doing it in a healthy way.
So when you feel ready (and this could be several months after the birth of your baby) it is fine to resume an exercise/weight loss regimen – just remember to go easy on yourself and start slowly.
I wish there was a really good and supportive running/workout bra that was also a nursing bra.