Today I’m pleased to share a guest post by Tracey Montford, founder of Cake Maternity, an award-winning maternity/nursing clothing company.
Exercise should be a part of everybody’s day-to-day life to help ensure you stay healthy and fit. Nursing moms are no exception.
Exercise helps boost your energy level, promotes happiness, keeps your body strong and toned, and builds cardiovascular fitness, which is wonderful for the heart.
The short answer is no.
Mothers who workout produce milk much the same way as mothers who do not. Moderate exercise does not affect the composition or nutritional value of your milk, nor does it affect your baby’s growth.
A brisk workout could affect the taste of your milk. Lactic acid will build up in your milk supply and you may find that your baby will refuse the breast right after exercise. Some babies will also shy away from the breast after a workout due to the sweat content on your body. I recommend wiping your breast clean and showering before breastfeeding.
Also, many women do find that doing too much vigorous exercise decreases milk supply. If you do notice a decrease in supply, make sure to scale back on your physical activity for a while to see if that helps.
You may also experience more fatigue and hunger while nursing, so listen to your body. Take it slow, and work on building strength and stamina at your own pace.
Any form of exercise is great, as long as it is something you’ll stick with long-term. For women who are new to exercise, I recommend starting slowly and building over time as you gain stamina, and choosing something that is easy to adjust to your ability level.
Here are my favorite types of exercise for new moms:
Yoga is a wonderful low-impact form of exercise. It focuses on strength, flexibility and balance. It is also wonderful for the mind.
There are many different styles of yoga; try a few out first to find one that works for you. A good yoga teacher will modify his or her class to cater to both beginners and advanced participants.
Swimming is another great form of low-impact exercise. Swimming will not only help tone and strengthen your muscles, but will also help build your cardiovascular fitness with little to no jarring on the body.
Take the stroller out for a long walk. Early morning or evening is a great time as it is generally cooler and you will avoid the hot midday sun. Start slow, but then take a path that will challenge you: climb hills, speed up the pace, and extend your walk over time to build endurance.
Start slowly and build up your distance slowly over time. Avoid running everyday, as it can be jarring on the body, especially if you are running on a hard surface. Give yourself days off and remember to stretch to avoid achy, sore muscles the next day.
Gym or Local Rec Center
The gym or local recreation center is a great place for variety. Lift weights or attend one of the many classes they have to offer. Variety is key to staying motivated.
Find a place with a licensed nursery and get yourself into a weekly routine for a bit of alone time. Or consider joining a mommy and me fitness class and interact with your baby while you work out.
For those new to exercise, I recommend visiting your healthcare provider first to get the all-clear. It is important to make exercise a part of your routine, so pick a time each day when you can set aside at least 20 or 30 minutes to devote to working out. If you’re not able to do every day, try for at least three times per week.
Here are a few other items that will help you make exercise an enjoyable part of your day:
Invest in a high-quality nursing sports bra. Breasts full of milk are heavy. Go and get fitted by a professional bra fitter to ensure the fit is secure and that your breasts are fully supported.
Avoid going for a cheap, seamless bra in its stead. You will need a fully structured bra with drop-down cups.
You may want to use nursing pads as a precaution to avoid leakage. Opt for washable ones made from natural fiber such as cotton (high quality baby washcloths work in a pinch!). The cotton will allow your skin to breath and you will feel more comfortable while working out.
Invest in a quality pair of athletic shoes and comfortable workout gear that fits properly. Workout gear that is cheaply made and fits poorly can cause chafing and blisters. If you’re not comfortable when working out, you’re less likely to stick with it. And furthermore, when you look good, you feel good too!
Breastfeeding mothers need to drink plenty of water for their well-being, to help flush the body of toxins, and to help with milk supply. You may want to invest in a “fun” new stainless steel, glass, or ceramic water bottle that you keep with you all the time to encourage you to drink water throughout the day. You can also add things like sliced cucumber, strawberries, citrus, or a sprig of mint to give your water a bit of flavor.
Do not skimp on calories. Good food will give you the energy to work out and will also aid in producing nutritious breast milk for your baby.
Consume a rainbow variety of fruits and vegetables. Many are provide important antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, folic acid, and beta carotene.
Fat is an important component of breast milk, and therefore the quality of fats you eat is extremely important. Be sure to stay away from non-organic animal products, trans-fats and vegetable oils.
Make time to eat meals and snacks regularly throughout the day. If you are nourished, you’ll have more energy to exercise and also maintain your milk supply.
Eat until you’re full! Make sure you’re eating at least one large meal a day that is deeply satisfying as well as nutritious. It’ll help your brain produce oxytocin, which aids in the production of breastmilk.
Avoid overworking yourself. Take it slow to start with and build up over time. You should feel energized and relaxed after a workout, not exhausted or weak.
When exercise is enjoyable and boosts energy levels, you know you’ve hit the right amount, which will help you look forward to your workouts every day.
Think of exercise as “me time”: the time of day when you look after YOU. It’s easy for new moms to get so caught up in their responsibilities that they neglect to take care of themselves. But remember, taking care of yourself first enables you to be a better parent and partner. Daily exercise can be a wonderful form of self-care. You will learn to love it!
Like many women out there, Tracey Montford is an exceptional multi-tasker! Apart from steering a global business, managing 2 young boys & keeping the clan clean and fed, Tracey still finds time to provide creative inspiration and direction to the exceptional designs of Cake Maternity. From the branding, presentation and delivery, creativity is a big part of what Tracey does so naturally and effectively. Find out more at cakematernity.com or catch up with her on twitter @cakematernity.