Learn the best ways to exercise without losing milk supply for postpartum moms that are breastfeeding and want to stay fit and active.
You had your baby, your doctor has cleared you for exercise, and you are eager to get in shape after baby. So where do you start? You have friends or family tell you to be careful so you don’t lose your supply. But you are determined to feel like yourself again and take control of your fitness. You may be wondering, “How can I exercise without losing my milk supply?” As long as you ensure that you are properly nourished, most exercise that is safe for you, is safe for your supply.
Does exercise affect breast milk supply?
Since you are postpartum, always talk with your doctor before starting any exercise program. Exercise itself will not reduce breast milk. Unless told otherwise by your doctor, do not be afraid to workout while breastfeeding. If you are up for working out after having your baby, and your doctor clears you, then you should! Exercise is so good for the mind and body, especially after having a baby. Workouts can serve as me-time, a mental break, a sleep aide, and help you regain your strength and confidence too. Postpartum exercise is important for moms, and I don’t want you to feel discouraged from doing it. A happy and healthy mommy benefits baby, too.
What can affect milk supply is hydration, caloric intake, stress, and stimulation. If you started working out and notice a drop in supply, take some time to assess. Are you eating enough calories for your activity level to maintain supply? Are you properly rehydrating after your workouts and throughout the day? Has squeezing in workout time become more of a stress inducer than reducer? Or maybe your workout time is disrupting a feeding or pumping session. Although exercise was not the direct cause of a drop in milk supply, these other facts may lead you to believe that is the case.
What is the best exercise while breastfeeding
We are not talking squats versus planks here. Although in regards to individual exercise movements, the most comfortable for nursing moms would be anything that doesn’t crush your chest. So maybe take it easy on the burpees for a bit. *Gasp!*
The best form of exercise to do without losing milk supply would be to start with lower intensity workouts. Generally speaking, these will burn fewer calories than high intensity workouts and you can gradually progress as you become more conditioned. That way you can monitor your milk supply as you get in shape and increase your frequency of workout sessions. Therefore, avoiding a drastic change in your metabolism, causing you to burn more calories than accounted for. Plus, you are going to sweat less from those kinds of workouts as opposed to ones that are HIIT style or heavy cardio.
Not to deter you from doing those kinds of workouts if you are ready for them. But, a swift drop in milk supply will be. And power pumping for 2, 3, 4, or more days to get it back is a hurdle you can strategically avoid.
What if your goal will eventually require higher intensity workouts? Either way, gradually build up your intensity and frequency for that particular mode based on your milk supply.
Then keep in mind to adjust your caloric intake and hydration accordingly. You can do this by using a calorie calculator online (breastfeeding specific, I like this one) or check in with your doctor. To rehydrate, you can weigh yourself before and after workouts and be sure to drink at least half of the difference in ounces. So if you lost one pound, drink at least an 8oz glass of water.
How can I exercise to lose weight while breastfeeding?
Nutrition is key with weight loss, but exercise is still important too. Find a method that you truly enjoy so you remain consistent in your routine. While breastfeeding, you can exercise whichever way you enjoy the most. Strength, cardio, pilates, yoga, or anything in between that gets you active. Keep in mind, it is hard to determine how many calories you need if you work out 2 times one week, then 4 times the next. Consistent exercise frequency makes it easier to track calories and keeps your metabolism up.
Weight loss happens from regular exercise and a proper diet. As long as you are eating in a calorie deficit that is safe and allows maintenance of energy and milk supply, you will see weight loss. You also want to be sure you are eating a variety of nutritious whole foods. Without getting into the nitty gritty like macros, fasting, timing, or things like, that check out my post on clean eating for some more info on eating healthy. That’s because I don’t want you to feel like you need to count calories.
Remember that, breastfeeding burns extra calories. If you are eating the amount you did before pregnancy, the added factor of nursing will probably push you into that deficit. However, your activity level and weight could be different now than before pregnancy. And both of those determine how many calories you need each day.
Try not to overwhelm yourself with taking on a bunch of new habits. Start off with clean eating and building a regular exercise routine.
Why am I not losing weight while breastfeeding?
It seems like all you hear is that if you are breastfeeding then the weight will just melt right off. And for some women, it almost does. But I was one of the women that it…didn’t. The weight just stayed. And I was so upset! I felt like what is wrong with my body? My mom told me stories of how she was eating fast food meals while breastfeeding and got the skinniest she ever was. I definitely was not, and I still was not losing weight. So what was it?
It could be a number of things! For me, the lack of sleep was probably the most devastating factor. We know the newborn phase comes with little to no sleep, there is no way around that. But I also worked nights, so three times a week I was up for 36 hours straight because I worked 12’s and was a SAHM in the day. I like to think that, had my body not been under extreme fatigue and stress, I could’ve lost more weight.
The other problem was that I was being dishonest with myself. I wasn’t eating very healthy and I was barely working out. I figured because I would walk anywhere form 5,000 to 20,000 steps per shift that I was getting a lot of exercise to make up for my lack of workouts. But then I would eat junk food at work because I was tired and fighting cravings. Not very successfully may I add. Then, I would come home and eat whatever was quick and easy because I just wanted boosts of energy. I doubt I was in a calorie deficit even while breastfeeding exclusively with those habits.
So learn from me. If you feel stumped on your lack of progress, take some time to keep a food journal for a week. It will help you be honest and aware of everything you consume.
If your eating is on point, and you aren’t seeing progress then you may need to adjust your workouts. Our bodies want to be as efficient as possible at exercise. So the more we repeat workouts, the better our bodies get at that exercise. Therefore requiring less energy and burning fewer calories to do that workout. Switch it up! Try a different method, adjust your intensity and/or duration, or use a heavier weight. Anyway that you can shock your body (within reason) will pull you out of a weight loss plateau.
How can a nursing mother lose belly fat?
If you haven’t heard it yet, no you cannot choose where you lose fat. Also known as spot reduce. But if belly fat seems to be lingering after you had your baby, remember that fat loss does take time. And while you are breastfeeding, you may hang on to a little extra. What you CAN do to eliminate body fat and hopefully reduce your tummy size is continue your healthy eating habits and try to incorporate a mix of strength training and low intensity cardio into your regimen. Both are great for fat loss.
Strength training builds muscle, and muscle burns more calories (i.e. stored energy) at rest. While low intensity cardio actually burns fats as its source of energy for the workout through the oxidative energy system.
What cardio is best for breastfeeding?
An example of this type of cardio is walking. Super simple and easy on your postpartum body! I know it can be hard though to get outside for a walk with a baby so I made a walking workout specifically for new moms!
Walking is not the only way, but it is what you want to think of when determining low intensity cardio. A pace that you can easily maintain a conversation and do for at least 25 to 30 minutes or longer. If you can’t go that long due to lack of conditioning (you did just have a baby!) that doesn’t mean it is too intense. You just may need to build up to that duration as you continue to heal.
Get out there mama! You can safely exercise and still nourish your baby without sacrificing your own health or sanity. Just take it one day at a time and enjoy the amazing things your body can do. Remember to appreciate yourself.