Looking to start working out again after having a baby? Wondering what you need to do differently now that you’re breastfeeding? Look no further! This guide to postpartum fitness for breastfeeding moms will help you get back into a fitness routine while keeping up your milk supply!
Exercise is so important for everyone, but you do have to tackle it a little differently while breastfeeding. ACOG recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise while breastfeeding. Starting with low impact workouts like walking in the early postpartum days and working up the duration and difficulty as your body heals and stamina increases.
I want to share with you my tips and tricks to getting back to fitness postpartum while breastfeeding! I’ve done it twice now and will do it again in early 2021. Both times have been different and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Having a mother as a lactation consultant helps a lot and I’ll be sure to share some of her advice with you!
Postpartum Fitness for Breastfeeding Moms
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Talk to your doctor before you begin.
The first piece of postpartum fitness advice for breastfeeding moms I can give you is to always wait to be cleared by your doctor postpartum before starting a fitness routine. Even as much as walking should be run by your doctor. Every woman is different and birth is traumatising on the body no matter what type of birth you have. It’s important to give your body that time to rest and heal before beginning.
The Start to my Postpartum Fitness Journeys
With my first child, I went back to work at a gym as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor at 8 weeks postpartum. I started trying to do small workouts at 6 weeks postpartum when I was cleared by my doctor. For some reason, I felt this pressure to get back to myself quickly though I believe I was putting the pressure on myself. Looking back, I wish I would have waited a few more weeks! It was a lot on my body.
Fast forward a few years to the postpartum period with my first son. I was blessed with 8 weeks of paternity leave for my husband and I chose to become a full time stay at home mom. I soaked up those 8 weeks he was with me to rest as much as possible to let my body heal. We went on some casual walks after I was cleared by my doctor, but I didn’t start trying to do more until closer to 9-10 weeks postpartum. I feel like my body healed so much better that time even though I was older and it was my second baby!
With my 3rd baby, I knew that I was older and my body had been through a lot. I had 2 postpartum hemorrhages with the second being a 1.2 lb blood clot the size of a canteloupe. I took this postpartum period even slower and took a Postpartum Recover Series through the 4th Trimester Fitness Method which I will elaborate on next. But let me tell you, it was AMAZING!
Consider Starting a Postpartum Recovery Class
Postpartum is a special time that we don’t cherish as often as we should. A great way to ease your body back into fitness and movement is to take a postpartum-specific recovery fitness class. After my 3rd baby, I chose to take a 6 week series with 4th Trimester Fitness Method. Not only did this class teach me what exercises to do postpartum, but how to modify and progress as my body was ready. This class is also educational and teaches about important postpartum topics like:
- Diastasis recti
- pelvic floor strength
- deep core activation
- Mommy’s thumb
- and more!
If you’re interested in joining a Postpartum recovery series in person or online via Zoom, take a look at the 4TFM website! You won’t regret it! (Here’s a direct link to the classes that I now teach because I enjoyed the class so much!)
Start slow & listen to your body.
Don’t rush into things and listen to how your body feels. You don’t need to pressure yourself to “get your body back” because you are feeding your baby! Plus your old body will never be back. Cherish your new one for all it’s done for you and your baby.
Find a program or workouts that allow you to start easy and work your way up. If you’re looking for some great workouts to start with, here are 5 prenatal workouts that are also perfect for postpartum and breastfeeding moms as well. They’re low impact, so less jumping and easy on the core! There are even videos included!
Related Post: Getting Back to Running Postpartum
Set reasonable goals.
Just like I said above, don’t set your goal to get your body back. Because you’re breastfeeding, your body isn’t in a normal state. You’re creating milk for your baby which will require some extra fat stores on you.
Instead of creating weight loss goals, ditch the scale and create strength and feel-good goals! Start out with modifications of traditional exercises, especially in the core and cardio departments. You’ll need to rebuild your core strength and stamina after giving birth.
Make your goals to be able to do the next level. Most exercise programs will give you various intensity options, so start small and work your way up.
Drink tons of water.
I cannot emphasize this more. You need to drink so much water while breastfeeding and even more if you’re working out to keep up your milk production. So if you think you’ve had enough water, think again and drink more.
I recommend getting a large water bottle and keeping track of how many times you refill it throughout the day. It’s recommended that breastfeeding women drink 128 ounces of water a day! If that number seems daunting and unreachable, start by attempting to drink 1/2 your body weight in ounces of water. For example, if you’re 160 lbs, try to drink 80oz of water! Once that number feels normal, continue to up your water intake.
Related Post: Mom’s Fitness Must Haves to Get in the Zone
Don’t expect to jump back into your pre-pregnancy routine.
This ties into setting reasonable goals above! Don’t be discouraged when you can’t run at the same pace you could before having a baby or you’re exhausted halfway through a workout that did pre-pregnancy.
Your body has gone through a lot and it needs time to rest, recover and slowly work its way back. Be proud of where you are and that you’ve started on a healthy journey!
Fuel your body. Don’t starve yourself.
You’re making milk momma! Breastfeeding mothers need an extra 300-500 calories while breastfeeding to keep up milk supply. Consuming less than 1500-1800 calories a day is not recommended. In fact, roughly 1800-2200 calories should be the lower end of your caloric intake. Obviously, every mom is different based on body weight, activity level, and milk production.
This isn’t the time to diet, but it isn’t the time to overindulge either. You have the chance to consume more, so make sure you’re fueling your body with healthy options. Be sure to eat a good balance of fats, carbs, and proteins.
If you’re concerned about how much you should be eating, talk to your doctor, dietician or lactation consultant to have a better understanding of your personal circumstance.
Related Post: Must Haves for a Successful Breastfeeding Journey
Fit your workouts in around nursing and napping.
You’ll want to do your workout when your breasts are empty, so you’ll need to plan out when you’re going to workout.
This gets a bit easier once you have a solid schedule. Before starting pay attention and see when might be the most convenient to squeeze in a workout.
After I had my son, I would workout after his morning nursing session when he went back to sleep. My breasts weren’t quite as full making it so much easier. Plus I could be productive while he was napping.
Find the right pump.
You’ll likely need to empty without baby at some point!
While training for my half marathon while breastfeeding, I had to take a different approach. My runs had to happen very early in the morning before little man woke up, so I set my alarm 20 minutes earlier to pump before I set out. I would usually pump to comfort instead of fully emptying my breasts. Then I put the milk in the fridge for my husband to feed him if he woke up!
Here are my two favorite pumps for quick pumping on the go. If you want a manual one, the Medela Harmony Manual Pump is my go-to. Better yet is that it’s under $30 and can go with you anywhere!
My other favorite is the Motif Duo which is a portable double electric pump. It uses a rechargeable battery, so you don’t have to be plugging into the wall while using it. If I was driving somewhere else to run, I could hook it up and pump while driving! It’s a little more expensive, but still only $159 on Amazon. You can also see if you can get it free through insurance!
Get a good, supportive sports bra!
Momma, I have no other way to put it, you’re boobs are bigger. If you were smaller chested before, you’re in for a rude awakening. This was my circumstance going from a barely B to a DD cup size. I wasn’t used to working out or running with that type of weight on my chest. I invested in several great sports bras that I highly recommend. These are my favorites and better yet, they are reasonably priced.
This is my go to and I have it in two different colors! The support is amazing and you can adjust how tight the cups are based on how full your breasts are using the velcro tab shown above!
I got this one later in my breastfeeding journey but loved the support it gave me. It’s also so easy to get on and off with that zip front!
If you’re looking for a lower-impact option that you can also wear around all day, this is the one for you! I highly recommend looking at other Kindred Bravely items as they are a maternity and breastfeeding company!
Related Post: 5 Total Body Prenatal and Postpartum Workouts
Overall, be kind to your body.
Remember that this breastfeeding and postpartum journey is just that, a journey. You put weight on slowly over 9 months and it will take time to start feeling more normal again. Likely even longer because you’re breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding mothers tend to lose weight faster, but your body isn’t yours again until baby is done weaning. For me, that took 18 months. I may have been back at my pre-pregnancy weight by 9 months postpartum, but it was another 9 months before my body was my own. No matter what, I would do it over and over again to feed my babies and feel that amazing bond.
I hope this postpartum fitness for breastfeeding moms guide has answered some of your questions! Feel free to reach out by dropping a comment or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If I don’t know the answer to your question, I’ll happily ask my mom who’s a lactation consultant!