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Is It Safe for Breastfeeding Moms to Work Out?

Exercise helps women lose the extra pounds they gained during pregnancy. It’s also an excellent stress reliever at a time when most women need it. That’s why you might be eager to work out again soon after giving birth. Still, some women worry that exercising while breastfeeding will reduce the quality of the breast milk or cause problems for the new baby. There’s good news for new moms who want to exercise after giving birth. Exercising while breastfeeding is safe for mom and baby, and it offers a variety of health benefits.

Exercising While Breastfeeding Doesn’t Affect Milk Quality 

Should you worry about milk quality if you work out? Several well-conducted studies have looked at the effects of exercise on breast milk composition. The results are reassuring. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that moderate-intensity aerobic exercise didn’t affect the volume of breast milk a woman produced or the composition of that milk. It did have health and fitness benefits, though. Exercising moms boosted their aerobic capacity by almost 25%, meaning their body was better able to take up and use oxygen more efficiently. That means more energy and stamina. The women in the study worked out 45 minutes a day 5 days a week for 3 months at a moderate intensity equivalent to a brisk walk or jog.

Other research reached similar conclusions. Exercising during breastfeeding doesn’t reduce the amount of breast milk a breastfeeding mom makes or it’s quality.  In fact, one study showed that exercise slightly boosted milk production. It also doesn’t affect a breastfeeding baby’s weight. That’s good news if you’re ready for the stress relief and weight loss benefits that exercise offers.

Some exercising moms are concerned that lactic acid formed during exercise may enter their breast milk, causing the breast milk to have an unpleasant taste. This usually isn’t a problem. Lactic acid only forms in significant quantities during high-intensity exercise like sprinting or exercise that requires near-maximal effort. Lactic acid build-up isn’t a concern for moms who do moderate-intensity exercise such as walking or jogging.

The Benefits of Exercising While Breastfeeding 

Exercise improves aerobic capacity and helps breastfeeding moms improve their endurance and stamina. Such benefits will come in handy later when you have to chase an energetic toddler around! It also burns calories, which helps new moms shed the extra pounds they put on during pregnancy. In addition, most nursing moms feel better when they move their bodies and boost their heart rate. Once you have a baby, it’s even more important to stay healthy to care for the new life you’ve created.

The Bottom Line? 

Exercising while breastfeeding is safe, and it doesn’t reduce milk volume or quality. Still, it’s a good idea to get the okay from your obstetrician before starting or restarting an exercise program after giving birth. Start slowly and gradually increase the length of your workouts. Avoid strenuous exercise or lifting heavy weights without your doctor’s permission. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after exercise, and do a warm-up before and a cool-down afterward. Ready to get started? Exercising is one of the healthiest lifestyle choices you can make, and it can help you get back your pre-pregnancy shape.

References: 

N. Engl. J. Med 1994 Feb 17: 330(7): 449-453. 

Am. J. Clin. Nutr 1990 Jul; 52(1): 103-9.

J. Hum. Lact. 1997 Jun; 13(2): 115-120.

About the Author :

It's flu season and time to get your children vaccinated against the flu virus. Dr. Adetona has a flu vaccine study that you might be interested in for your child.
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