Exercise and Breastfeeding


 

Exercise is an important part of their life for many breastfeeding mothers. Walking is the most common form of exercise post baby and its incredibly motivating. Online programs have also become very popular.

 

Exercise can:

  • improve heart health and general fitness
  • improve mental well-being and energy levels
  • reduce stress levels
  • assist with weight control
  • improve bone strength
  • assist with the treatment of post-natal depression

Effect of exercise on breastmilk and supply

Some research has looked at the level of lactic acid (a by-product of high intensity exercise) in mothers’ breastmilk after exercise.

While lactic acid can increase in breastmilk following maximal exercise (exercising to the extreme of exercise intensity), mild or moderate exercise does not cause lactic acid to increase in breastmilk and does not affect a baby taking the milk. Since most mothers only wish to exercise to a moderate intensity to lose weight, and improve/maintain fitness and general wellbeing, most would say that maximal exercise is not relevant anyway. Regardless, there is no evidence to suggest that breastmilk with increased lactic acid levels harms a baby in any way.
Moderate exercise does not affect:
  • breastmilk supply
  • important immune factors in breastmilk (SIgA, lactoferrin, and lysozyme)
  • major minerals in breastmilk (calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium and sodium)
  • major nutrients in breastmilk (fat, protein, lactose) or energy density.

Effect of exercise on growth of baby

Recent research suggests that mothers can exercise and breastfeed without affecting the growth of their babies. Research also suggests that, once breastfeeding is established, overweight women may do moderate exercise 4 days per week to promote a weight loss of 0·5 kg per week without affecting their baby’s growth.


Breastfeeding, exercise and 'loose ligaments'
Hormonal changes in pregnancy and childbirth allow a woman’s pelvic ligaments to loosen so that a baby can be born. After birth, many of these hormones are no longer needed and so their levels drop off. Various hormonal, postural and muscular changes that occur during pregnancy and childbirth may play a role in causing various musculoskeletal conditions (eg pelvic floor or abdominal muscle weakness, or ‘loose ligaments’). For some women these changes may cause pain (particularly in the pelvic or lower back regions) or other problems (eg incontinence). For some women, these problems may continue for a period of time after birth. A mother who has any of these conditions may benefit from seeing a physiotherapist who can advise on ways to relieve the condition and which forms of exercise may be suitable for her. There is no evidence to suggest that breastfeeding plays a role in causing, maintaining or worsening any of these conditions. Provided the mother is comfortable, breastfeeding is not a reason why a mother has to avoid any form of exercise.

Exercise tips for a breastfeeding mother

  • Breastfeed prior to exercising for your comfort.
  • Wear a supportive bra, I love Cadenshae!
  • Drink water.