26 May

Breastfeeding and Exercise

As we come towards the end of Move in May 2022, we are reflecting on the challenge undertaken over the month by many people. 

We are often asked questions about exercising while breastfeeding, and want to share some evidence-based information so you can make the right decisions for you and your baby when it comes to exercising. 

Can you exercise when breastfeeding?

Yes, absolutely. Perhaps not while you are actually feeding baby(!) but exercising is a great way to improve and maintain your physical and mental health.

How soon after birth can you exercise?

We recommend you follow advice given by your GP or midwife, as circumstances can differ based on your birth experience and physical health.

Generally, pelvic floor and tummy exercises can be started within days as well as gentle walking, getting some fresh air with your baby is a great way to get out in those first few weeks.

After your 6-8 post-natal check-up, your health professional will be able to advise what is suitable for you going forwards, so do wait until this health check before you start any high-energy or high-impact exercise like running or aerobics.

Start slowly and build up rather than jumping in, your body has spent 9 months growing a baby and needs time to recover. The newborn stage can be a time of big adjustment and some challenges, so don’t put any pressure on yourself to get back to a pre-baby figure, fitness level or physical health.

Are any types of exercises off-limits?

As long as you feel physically able and are not experience pain or discomfort while exercising, there are no exercise types that should be off-limit while you are breastfeeding.

Some people find it helpful to follow specific post-natal exercise or training programmes as they are tailored more specifically to the recovery needed after pregnancy and birth.

Does it have an impact on your milk supply?

There is no evidence that normal levels of exercise would affect your milk supply. You may find that baby may be a little fussy at the breast due to excess salt in mothers sweat if feeding soon after exercise. A quick shower or wash will help to remove the excess salt.

Strenuous exercise has been shown, in some studies, to lead to a temporary increase in lactic acid levels in human milk – some mothers report their baby is fussy for a while afterwards but they do not report any effect on their milk supply or their baby’s growth.

What should I wear to exercise while breastfeeding?

Anything you feel comfortable in! Try to pick lightweight fabrics as you may feel warmer from the physical activity, and a good sports bra is often desirable to help you feel secure. Some parents choose to purchase post-natal / nursing sports bras, and it’s important that these are a good fit for you – your back and cup shape is likely to change between pregnancy and a few weeks into breastfeeding so be aware of this and check you are wearing the correct size.

When should I feed my baby if exercising?

You may feel more comfortable feeding your baby before you exercise, so you don’t feel ‘full’ while undertaking physical activity.

If you are incorporating your baby in your exercise regime e.g. baby yoga, a sling/carrier workout or a buggy fitness class, it’s best to make sure your baby has around 20 minutes between the end of the feed and the start of the exercise. This helps their stomach to settle and start digesting the milk – the same as we wouldn’t exercise directly after eating a meal!

We hope you find this information helpful to assist in your decision-making surrounding exercising while breastfeeding. Further information and references for this article can be found using the following links: 

Keeping fit and healthy with a baby – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Exercise – La Leche League International (llli.org)

Breastfeeding and diet – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

 

We want to thank Claire at Natal Active for co-authoring this article as part of our Move in May 2022 campaign.