In a final tribute to mothers’ month, we’re starting at the beginning of motherhood: breastfeeding. Specifically, is it safe to exercise while breastfeeding? And are there certain exercises to avoid? Here’s the science of it:
It won’t harm supply.
Studies have shown that exercise doesn’t affect your milk supply… unless:
1. Your body isn’t accustomed to the exercise you’re doing, or;
2. You exercise to the extreme.
In other words: If you exercised regularly before you started breastfeeding, it shouldn’t be a problem to continue. But don’t overdo it. If you didn’t exercise much before, ease into it.
What to look out for
Studies have found that exhaustive exercise can affect the IgA levels in your milk (the antibodies that protect your baby from infections) for about an hour. This is a concern if you’re doing this kind of exercise often, but shouldn’t be a problem a few times a week.
Other studies have also shown that strenuous exercise increases the lactic acid levels in your milk for an hour or two – making your milk taste sour. The nutritional value will still be fine, but your baby may not like the taste. Moderate training, on the other hand, is fine.
Beyond this, demanding upper-body training also increases your chances of plugged milk ducts; a painful experience that could lead to mastitis.
Our exercise tips
During pregnancy and for a few weeks after childbirth, your body produces a hormone called relaxin. This relaxes your joints and ligaments and softens and widens your cervix. But it may also increase your chances of injury during exercise.
This, and the research mentioned above, speaks to the value of starting slowly and sticking to moderate exercise when breastfeeding. Pilates is ideal, because it’s low-impact and it’s the perfect exercise for getting your muscles back into shape after having moved around (and possibly cut, if you had a C-section) in childbirth and pregnancy.
Bottom line? Pilates is a winning exercise while breastfeeding. It’s science.