I’d like to start off by saying that breastfeeding is not the only way to feed your baby, so if you choose formula or breastfeeding didn’t work out for you and baby, there is no shame or guilt is surrounding those decisions.
Breastfeeding is one of many aspects of the postpartum chapter that is challenging, not to mention returning to activities that we enjoy and know are good for us. Whether we are starting a new fitness routine postpartum or getting back to what we were we were doing, it is hard to adapt to our new post-baby body.
Here are some tips on resuming or beginning a new fitness routine postpartum while breastfeeding.
Healing & Recovery
Every woman’s healing process is different after giving birth. Many factors influence this process. Breastfeeding is one of them.
According to Dr. Kierra Larsen, PT, DPT of Nebraska Pelvic Therapy,
“Breastfeeding influences the immediate healing process postpartum due to the continued impact of hormones on the musculoskeletal system. Pregnancy hormones that loosen our ligaments and allow increased joint mobility continue to influence our bodies for a minimum of three months postpartum. For some breastfeeding women, these hormones continue to influence our bodies even months after breastfeeding. Easing into a core strengthening program (with proper guidance from a physical therapist or fitness professional) will help provide stability for your joints and minimize the risk of injury during this period of healing.”
The best guidance is to start slowly and progress slowly.
It is not a race. Get in touch with how your body feels moving around by doing simple things. You are healing from the trauma of birth—no matter what kind of labor and delivery you had.
Sleep is hard to come by during this time and is a challenge.
Prioritize your sleep over working out.
This helps regulate hormones themselves and benefits you in the long run. Take advantage of those days that you did get enough sleep and feel more like yourself to get in some type of activity.
Nutrition & Hydration
Eat when you’re hungry and drink water when you’re thirsty. It’s simple.
Prioritize nutrient-dense foods like fruits and veggies, lean protein, and high-quality fats. Try to avoid skipping meals and overdoing it on the sweet and starchy foods. This keeps blood sugar levels steady, which is a large part of getting hormones to regulate postpartum.
As hard as it is during this time, quality nutrition is the foundation for feeling great.
There is a misconception out there that postpartum exercise can adversely affect your milk supply.
La Leche League International states that,
“Research shows that moderate exercise does not affect milk supply. Strenuous exercise has been shown, in some studies, to lead to an 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 affect on their milk supply or their baby’s growth.”
Musculoskeletal & Postural Issues
While in the trenches of breastfeeding it can feel like we’re spending a majority of our day assuming the “nursing position”. This is the hunched-over-baby rounded back, head down, shoulders forward position. This position takes a toll on our bodies causing aches, pains and tension in our neck, back, ribs, shoulders, and hips.
The use of nursing pillows to bring baby higher to the breast as well as a good supportive nursing bra can alleviate and prevent some of these issues.
There are some awesome restorative exercises and treatments out there that can combat these issues. Meeting with a physical therapist or other health care professional that specializes in women’s health and treatment of postpartum women is helpful.
Slowly progress the intensity, duration, volume, and frequency of your postpartum fitness routine as your body and your lifestyle adjust.
Don’t assume that because you worked out throughout your pregnancy, your body and lifestyle are ready to jump back into the saddle. Getting back into a sustainable fitness routine can do wonders for our mental health during this period.
Plenty of resources exist to help you through this process. Seek them. Don’t go do it alone.