Are you breastfeeding? 5 tips for making your life easier at the gym

You may have just gotten the clearance from your healthcare provider to begin exercising again since you've recently given birth to your little bundle of joy. 

Woman lifting weights in the gym.

Woman lifting weights in the gym. Reference Image / Pexels

LatinAmerican Post | Melissa Letellier

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If you've been breastfeeding you may be wondering how exercise can affect your breast milk production, quality, etc.  I know that personally, I've heard so many myths surrounding this, which is why I wanted to not only bust those myths but close out with 5 tips to successfully breastfeed while getting back into shape.

This month is globally known in the breastfeeding world as World Breastfeeding Month. It aims to create awareness and empower breastfeeding mothers who wish to breastfeed.  I myself am a breastfeeding mother and although it is not always easy, it has definitely been worth it!  Some of those obstacles have actually been because of my desire to exercise, but before I share tips on breastfeeding and exercise I wanted to bust two major myths surrounding the topic.

Myth number 1:  If you breastfeed, you cannot exercise because it will decrease your milk supply and you will not be able to make enough milk for your baby.  This is not entirely true.  Breastfeeding mothers do require extra calories from whole foods because for every ounce of breastmilk produced it requires the body to use 20 calories for energy. When you exercise, you burn calories. So what happens if you don't eat enough to maintain the energy for milk production and exercise?  Your body can't keep up with mill production. In order to maintain your milk supply, it is important to replace the calories you have burned with calories from healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and high-quality protein sources.

Myth number 2: Exercise will change the way your milk tastes in a way your baby will not like. This myth is also not entirely true. Intense exercise at the elite level is what will create a sour taste in the milk that some babies will not like, while others will not mind at all.  For the average mother however, our workout sessions do not reach those levels of intensity the taste of our milk will most likely not change. If you wish to stay on the safe side you can always hand express, pump, or feed your baby before leaving to the gym.

Also read: 10 tips to beginning your fit pregnancy journey 

5 Tips for making your life easier at the gym while you are breastfeeding

As a kinesiologist, I knew the ins and outs of exercising while pregnant and breastfeeding, but only by what the literature and textbooks taught. Experiencing both was a whole different ball game. Thus, I give you these tips that may help you way back to the gym.

For example, what the textbooks don't prepare you for while breastfeeding is how uncomfortable it is to do high impact exercise with breasts that have most probably doubled in size and are always full of milk. 

1. For my first tip to any mother who is embarking on their postpartum fitness journey and is breastfeeding: get to your work out as quickly as possible once your breasts have been emptied by your baby or your pump!  The longer you wait, the fuller they'll get. 

2. Wear an extremely supportive bra. One that is even more supportive than the sports bra you wore pre-pregnancy. Personally, I have had to wear two sports bras every time I want to go work out. It's uncomfortable at first, but it works great for me!

3. If an exercise feels uncomfortable because of your breasts, skip it!  Just because the rest of your body can handle it, it does not mean you need to force your breasts too!

4. Start with low impact exercises and work your way up gradually to higher impact exercises to see how your breasts respond. By respond I mean some women will tolerate high impact exercises while breastfeeding better than others.  For me personally, not sure if it is because I am a major oversupplier, but I do not tolerate them well at all!  If it requires jumping or fast changes of directions it is very uncomfortable for me and I do not tolerate them well at all!

5.  Stay hydrated!! While drinking more water does not increase our milk production, not drinking enough water decrease it! Making sure you replenish the water you lose via sweat is very important while breastfeeding.

Lastly, if you are a breastfeeding mother and are currently reading this, you are doing great! Not that mothers who do not breastfeed aren't either, but as a breastfeeding mother I know it can be tough when it is just you and the baby at night, watching your partner sleep peacefully. It can be tough when your bladder fills up or hunger strikes, but you are in the middle of feeding your baby. So to the breastfeeding mother, I see you, I see your sacrifices, and you are doing an amazing job!  Keep it up and remember it is our job to normalize breastfeeding around the world!

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