Exercise while breastfeeding: Tips for lactating moms to be healthy and fit

Published on: 4 August 2022, 10:00 am IST
World Breastfeeding Week: If you're apprehensive about exercise while breastfeeding, get some expert-recommended tips right here and set your worries aside.
Dr Priyanka Khanna (PT)
Is it safe to exercise while you breastfeed? Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Being a mother is an important phase of transition for a woman. At the same time, it is about adjusting your lifestyle, and sometimes fitness takes a backseat. As a mother, every woman wants the best for her child, and they have common yet important questions when it comes to breastfeeding their little one. “Will I get enough milk as soon as I deliver? How will I know if my baby is satisfied with my milk? Do I have to eat more to produce more milk? Will I be able to exercise during breastfeeding? Will exercising affect my milk supply?” Let’s get to know more about human milk production and the things to keep in mind regarding exercise while breastfeeding.

Human milk production is the result of two hormones. Prolactin and Oxytocin are the two hormones responsible for regulating the production and letting down of milk. Prolactin is called as the milk-forming hormone and Oxytocin is the milk ejection hormone. As soon as the laboring, starts the two hormones are released in greater amounts from the pitutary gland.

Breastfeeding involves hormones. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

When a baby latches on and suckles at the breast, it triggers sensory impulses from the nipple to the brain. In response, the anterior part of the pituitary gland secretes prolactin and the posterior part secretes oxytocin.

Feeding at night is helpful for a mother to keep up the milk supply since more Prolactin is produced at that time. It is said to make a mother feel relaxed and sleepy, leading her to rest better even if she breastfeeds at night.

In contrast, Oxytocin is produced more quickly than Prolactin. It makes the milk that is already in the breast flow faster, and helps the baby to get the milk easily.

Tips for exercise while breastfeeding

Exercising helps to reduce stress and help with depression. Maintaining some level of fitness can help you improving your stamina and mental health, without reducing your milk supply.

1. Start with core strengthening and low impact exercises:

Get yourself assessed for diastasis recti with your physical therapist and start with core strengthening gradually. Walking is a brilliant exercise and you can take your baby along with you in the evening. Post 6 weeks of your delivery, you can begin with cardio training and circuit training.

If you have diastasis recti, check with your doctor before taking on core strengthening exercises. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

2. Maintain a good and healthy diet:

Consume at least 2400 kcal per day approximately so that you don’t feel weak, as breastfeeding also leads to weight loss and burns 550 kcal per day. Not eating enough can also lead to lower milk supply when you start exercising and feel weakness. Keeping a check on your diet post childbirth is important.

3. Keep yourself hydrated:

Drink three to four litres of water daily as your milk contains 80 percent of water. Do not hydrate yourself before, during or immediately after the workout.

4. Wear a comfortable bra that fits well:

Wear a sports bra which is neither too tight nor too lose to get good support during high impact exercises.

5. Feeding time:

Feed your baby or pump milk before exercising as it’s tough to workout with engorged breasts and it can feel uncomfortable.

Sometimes with strenuous workouts, there is lactic acid accumulation in the bloodstream, making the breast milk a little sour to taste. Some babies are affected by this, while others are not. If your baby refuses to feed, it may be a good idea to pump some milk out and then latch the baby to feed. Or you can pump out before the workout and feed the baby with that milk. Another way out is feeding the baby after an hour post workout so that lactic acid washes away from the breast milk.

Expressing breast milk may help you to make time for exercise. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

6. Meditation:

It is important to work on your mental health too, so try some relaxation techniques or meditation after the workout. It will relax your mind and your milk flow will become easier. Read more benefits of meditation for lactating mothers.

Benefits of moderate intensity exercises for a breastfeeding mother

* Helps losing extra fat gained during pregnancy
* Prevents various cardiovascular diseases
* Helps to manage with mood swings
* Raises prolactin levels hence improving milk supply
* Mother feels more energetic and stress free

Keep exercising as your health is wealth!

Dr Priyanka Khanna (PT)

Dr Priyanka Khanna (PT) Lactation Consultant and Women's Health Physiotherapist Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Punjabi Bagh, New Delhi

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