Exercise and Breastfeeding

We’re answering your most commonly asked questions about exercise and breastfeeding

Whether you exercised throughout your pregnancy or you’re looking to get into a new routine after having a baby, you probably have some questions about working out while breastfeeding. Exercise has so many physical and mental health benefits, so it’s great for new moms to get moving. There are also a few important things to keep in mind as you dive into exercise. We’ve gathered answers to your most pressing questions about exercise and breastfeeding.

How soon can I start exercising after having a baby?

Growing a baby and giving birth are big physical events. Your body experiences a lot of changes and needs time to heal. For the first few weeks after delivery, prioritize rest. Take care of yourself and your baby. Even if you’re feeling good, your internal organs are still shifting and healing, your hormones are changing and your sense of balance may be recalibrating. 

Deep abdominal breathing, stretching and low-impact walks are great options if you want to move and begin restoring some strength. Then, talk to your doctor about when you can start or return to exercise, as well as any restrictions you may have. Many moms discuss getting cleared for exercise at their postpartum checkup.  

How do I get started if I’m totally exhausted?

Regular exercise can actually boost your energy levels and mood. Start smallexercise doesn’t have to be intense and totally wipe you out. A brisk walk around the neighborhood may be the perfect way to get your blood flowing and muscles moving. That being said, with all the sleep deprivation, rocking, feeding, changing your baby, lugging baby gear, and other daily tasks, motherhood is physically taxing. If you’re feeling really run down, choose to rest and try to get moving another day.

Can I exercise without affecting my milk supply?

Yes! Exercise should not affect the quantity or quality of your milk. If you’re concerned, listen to your body and watch for signs that your supply is remaining stable—your baby’s producing enough wet and dirty diapers, he or she is content after feedings and your pumping output is not dropping significantly. Be sure to stay hydrated and consume a healthy amount of calories so you fuel your body and can transfer those nutrients over to your baby.

Can you lose weight while breastfeeding?

Many moms experience weight loss while breastfeeding. The act of breastfeeding causes your body to burn calories, so some moms may lose weight simply by nursing and pumping regularly. But if your body is holding onto those extra pounds, it’s totally normal. Our bodies need calories to fuel milk production. The key is finding the right amount of calories and exercise that work for your body. A sudden drop in calories can actually cause your body to go into “starvation mode” and hold onto extra weight for protection. 

Ultimately, be patient and kind to yourself. Your body just did an incredible thing in growing and birthing your baby. It took nine months to go through that process, so despite what we see and hear, it’s nearly impossible to look like your pre-baby self at a few weeks postpartum. Losing the weight you gained during pregnancy can take upwards of a year. And that’s OK!

Can I do core exercises after giving birth?

During pregnancy, your abdominal muscles stretch and separate to accommodate your growing baby. After the baby is born, those muscles typically come back together over time. However, if you experience abdominal separation—a condition called diastasis recti—it’s very common and can be corrected. Talk to your doctor about any concerns and visit a women’s health physical therapist to be evaluated and treated if necessary. If you very recently gave birth or you have diastasis recti, you’ll want to avoid exercises that may worsen the separation, such as traditional crunches and planks. Instead, a physical therapist can recommend abdominal breathwork and specific exercises to safely strengthen your core muscles.

After having a baby, is it normal to pee when jumping or running?

We’ve all heard the jokes about leaking pee while exercising after having a baby. Your pelvic floor worked hard all through pregnancy, labor and delivery. It takes time to recover, just like the rest of your body! However, while leaking pee is a common problem for new moms, it’s not normal and you don’t have to live with awkward accidents or wearing a pad while working out. A women’s health or pelvic floor physical therapist can help you identify any down-there issues―such as pelvic floor weakness, overly tight muscles, prolapse and more―and correct them so you can work out pee-free.

Are there any nursing-friendly sports bras?

Absolutely. Your breasts change while nursing and pumping: They’re often larger, fuller and more sensitive than they were before or during pregnancy. For that reason, some moms like to nurse or pump before exercise. As a breastfeeding mom, you’ll also want a supportive sports bra that feels comfortable and allows you to be ready to breastfeed whenever you need to. 

Some of our go-to nursing-friendly sports bras include: 

  1. Shefit Ultimate Sports Bra (Shefit.com; $65) and Flex Sports Bra (Shefit.com; $69)
  2. Brooks Running Fiona Sports Bra (Brooks.com; $50) and Juno Sports Bra (Brooks.com, $65) *also available at other retailers, so look for sales!
  3. All in Motion High Support Zip Front Bra (Target.com; $24)
  4. Sweat and Milk Nursing Sports Bras (Sweatandmilk.com; various styles $55–69)
  5. Kindred Bravely Sublime Nursing Sports Bra (Kindredbravely.com; $39)

These bras offer varying levels of support and have velcro-adjustable straps or zippers in the front to provide easy access to your boobs. We also love that many of these brands have a wide range of sizes available. Find a fit that supports you well without being too constrictive (which can cause clogged ducts). A great sports bra will minimize bouncing and help you move comfortably throughout your workout.

Once you’re ready to exercise, strap on that sports bra and go for it! Carve out a little time to move and sweat, enjoy those post-workout endorphins and celebrate your amazing body that nourishes your baby and carries you through every day. Here at Ashland Breast Pumps, we’re cheering for you, mom!