I’m posting this after a couple of posts and questions on the topic… I myself remember being a bit worried about breastfeeding and exercise but my experience was that as long as I fed before and after exercise I had no problems (the hubby on the other hand sometimes had a fractious baby!). I’ve based some of this on my initial questions and those I’ve been asked.
Feed before exercise
I’d always suggest that you feed your baby before your exercise. If your breasts are full, chances are they will feel uncomfortable, and any amount of activity may stimulate milk flow, so it’s advisable to wear breast pads. If it’s a class like the ones I teach you can probably arrange to get there early and feed the baby before class. If not feed at home or even in the car! Remember you could also express if feeding is not an option.
Is a sports bra necessary?
Getting a properly fitted sports bra is essential if you’re embarking on any type of fitness class or activity to reduce the amount of “bounce” and provide adequate shock absorption to the breasts. Although wearing a nursing bra is very convenient for feeding before or after class it will not provide enough support. Consider wearing two bras, with a nursing bra on first, then a sports bra over the top. I know it sounds like a bit of a nuisance, but this “double-bra” effect will you with the support you need. I remember doing this and then whipping my top and sports bra off to feed in between classes on occasion – rather crazy but necessary 😉 I’m going to be looking out for a breastfeeding sports bra with baby 2 on the way, these are now more readily available thankfully.
I’m always quite aware of this in my post-natal classes. Lying directly on your front can feel uncomfortable when breastfeeding. For others, it feels fine. When performing any exercise in this position, if it feels uncomfy, either mention it to your instructor who should be able to offer you an alternative exercise or you could try placing a rolled up towel above and/or below your breasts to reduce the amount of discomfort/pressure. Personally I only put ladies on their tummies for a short period of time then we change position.
Range of movement
Again, for comfort, it’s advisable to keep the range of movement of some arm exercises smaller and controlled. Anything vigorous that involves you reaching your arms over your head repetitively will cause tenderness, so it’s important you keep the range of movement of your arms smaller. You know your body best, at the end of the day, so choose what feels comfortable for you.
There is no significant research to suggest that moderate-intensity exercise inhibits milk production. Examples of moderate-intensity exercise include: weight training, low-impact aerobics, walking, swimming. A study by Carey & Quinn (2001) suggested that lactate levels of milk production changed only after a mother performed maximal intensity exercise, and this may affect baby’s acceptance of post-exercise breast milk. But, the authors agreed that it’s highly unlikely that a postnatal women would feel comfortable pushing themselves to this level, so its findings have been discounted. Moderate-intensity exercise however, with good hydration will not affect the quantity or the quality of breast milk. Note the key here is good hydration. A great tip is to have a glass of water every time you breastfeed.
I hope this helps, any questions let me know and I’d love to hear your feedback too.