Can I exercise while breastfeeding?
A: The short answer is yes! The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends holding off on strenuous exercise until six weeks postpartum, but you’ll want to follow your health care provider’s instructions after delivery, too. Once you have the green light from your provider, start slowly and build up to more increased activity. Listen to your body, and remember that you know your body best.
Many moms ask how many calories are necessary to maintain a good milk supply. Breastfeeding burns on average 300 to 500 calories per day. You can add that to the recommended daily caloric intake for your body type and activity level. (Ask your provider for guidance.) Just keep in mind that one peanut butter sandwich equals about 300 calories, so don’t overestimate how many “extra” calories you’re allotted.
Staying hydrated will be key as well, but simply drink to thirst. There’s no need to drown yourself in water to maintain your milk supply.
Some women report they notice a decrease in milk supply when they return to exercising. However, this observation may not actually be a decrease in supply but rather an increase in infant needs. You see, many women return to exercise at six weeks postpartum, and 6 weeks of age is a classi- cally reported time for baby to hit a growth spurt. Growth spurts cause a baby’s needs to increase, and she’ll want to feed more frequently. That’s normal and OK! Knowing when to expect growth spurts can make them more manageable. Rest assured they don’t last forever, and your body is well- equipped to kick up milk production to meet baby’s evolving needs.
Research shows that women who exclusively breastfed shed more pounds overall in the first year postpartum, but everyone’s body is different. One person may drop postpartum weight quickly while nursing, while other mothers report they don’t feel like breastfeeding helped them lose weight, and each pound was a struggle. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, and take small steps each day toward physical, emotional and mental wellness in the postpartum days.
—Lindsey Shipley, RN, IBCLC, founder of Lactation Link, a private lactation consulting company