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World Breastfeeding Week: Breastfeeding and Working out

August 1st through the 7th is World Breastfeeding Week, we are here to share some ideas and facts about breastfeeding, working out, and weight loss risks.

"Danielle nursing her 1 yr old daughter"
Photo taken by Brittany Renae Photography
Working out is not only completely safe while breastfeeding, it's encouraged and can provide many benefits to mom and baby. 

A major benefit that is usually overlooked is that working out naturally releases endorphins and can provide mom with:
  • an improved relationship between mommy and baby
  • increased energy and patience
  • decreased effects of depression and anxiety
  • good health and physical capabilities

One of the questions I get asked a lot is "Does working out effect milk supply?" The studies are a resounding NO, the study actually showed that women who work out regularly and properly sometimes show an increase in milk production.  Anecdotally, I tend to hear moms struggle with this and do see a decrease in milk supply.  However, this is not directly related to the act of working out, it's most often an effect of being dehydrated and a decreased or not sufficient calorie intake.  

Here at Momasté, we support working out for a healthy life and achieving fitness goals, weight loss is not our main goal, though with a healthy diet and healthy fitness habits you will see weight loss and it will happen in a natural and healthy way.

With that said, during breastfeeding to keep your supply up while participating in intense work outs you must do the following:
  • Stay hydrated, drink half your body weight in ounces of water daily (if you weigh 130lbs take 130/2= 65oz).
  • Eat healthy snacks and don't skip meals, make sure you are getting adequate calories (see calorie tracking section below)
  • Avoid weight loss supplements, wraps or anything with "natural herbs" that aren't listed.
  • Make sure you have enough fat in your diet. (I know this one seems counter active, but fat helps support milk supply and when eaten in a balanced diet will not contribute to weight gain).
Another concern with working out while lactating is the risk of plugged ducts due to improperly fitting sports bras.  Wal-mart carries inexpensive yet supportive front closure sports bras, but my favorite are the front zipper sport bras from Target.  Both are supportive and allow for nursing before, during, or after your work out.

The last thing to cover is calorie tracking, what it is and how toro properly do it.

Everything you eat has calories, a normal non-lactating female burns an average of 1200 calories a day.  When you exercise you burn additional calories and when you lactate you burn 300-500 more calories a day.  Most fitness trackers and fitness apps calculate your caloric intake for you, when breastfeeding you have two options for how to track things.  You can either manually add 500 calories on top of you calculated amount or you can add breastfeeding as a "work out" that burns 500 calories a day.  Then your starting goal is to eat within 100 calories of the daily allowance.  

The Equation:
daily calorie amount + breastfeeding + workout = your total daily calorie allowance

1200+500+200=1900 so eating 1900 will maintain your weight and your milk supply.

If weight loss is your goal, instead of adding 500, add 400.  Do this for a week or two, if you see no drop in milk supply and no weight loss, you can drop again to 300.  It is not recommended to drop less than this, but you should see a change if you are following the instructions above.

We do not promote any use of weight loss supplements during pregnancy or nursing, many studies have shown that they are unsafe and should not be used.  This includes but is not limited to ITworks products (including wraps), Plexus products, THRIVE, anything that is a "cleanse" or "detox", anything that contains "herbal mixtures" without labeling the specific herbs, etc.  This is not to say that they are dangerous to you or your baby but most (if not all) can cause you to lose your milk supply and/or pass through your milk and suppress your babies appetite. 

Kelly Mom is always a great resource for Breastfeeding and I have found our local La Leche League chapter has been a wealth of information and support, find your local chapter here!

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