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WILL EXERCISE AFFECT MY BREASTFEED BABY? - WHAT DOES THE RESEARCH SAY…

There has been a ton of myths regarding exercise and breastfeeding. So, many moms are now questioning themselves whether is it OK, to jump-start with training. I've dug deep to help you find the answers…


You might already notice that the guidelines for postnatal exercise are nowhere near as extensive as those given for pregnancy. You’ve probably came across a statement like: “Start gradually and do things that you’ve been doing pre-pregnancy.” Or “You should listen to your body.”


I bet you find these statements pretty unhelpful…


The fact is that there is far more research for exercise in pregnancy than in the postnatal period. Most of the postpartum research today is related to the effect on mental health. Not much on the other aspects of physical health.



However, here are a few benefits of exercise during this period:[1][2][3][4][5]

  • Improved mood and body image

  • Reduced rates of postnatal anxiety and depression

  • Better cardiovascular health through improvements in glucose intolerance, lipid profiles and vascular function

  • Improved aerobic function

  • May reduce body fat and improve basal metabolic rate, especially in non-lactating women

  • May improve bone mineral density or prevent lactation-associated bone loss in breastfeeding mothers

  • May improve the rate and severity of postpartum depression


I know you probably can wait to jump-start and get your body back. However, my advice to you is: “Don’t rush!” You have plenty of time to become the best version of yourself. Let the baby, your sleep and nutrition be your priority for now.

Setting up the base is essential for building up an empire!

I know, the first two weeks might be a nightmare, especially if the workout has been on your schedule “every day all day” for as long as you remember. However, there are some great exercises you can do at home to feel better.


POSTPARTUM PERIOD


Many people believe that postpartum period lasts for just six weeks. WRONG! We both pre&postnatal coaches and so do pelvic health physiotherapists stand by the saying: “once postpartum, always postpartum.”


Why is that?

Because several changes occur during pregnancy and postpartum period that often have lasting or lifelong effects on the health and quality of life of a woman.


Don’t be scared. This doesn’t mean you should perform a “rehab” type of workouts forever. No. It just means that the likelihood of pelvic floor dysfunction and other "birth-related" problems in women after delivery is higher than in women who have never been pregnant.


Want I want to address here is:

Every woman is unique!

Every one of us had different pregnancy, every one of us was active in her own way before, and during pregnancy, every one of us had a unique birth (some gave birth in just 1h and some after long 48h…), the method of delivery…so on and so forth…


It’s not just “uniqueness”…it is the way you perform exercises, the exercise selection, effectiveness of exercise,…


What I find is that people don’t do exercises correctly even if the trainer gives them a cue and stands BESIDE them! Therefore, if you have a chance, I highly recommend you to find yourself a pre&postnatal coach.


So, it is essential to set the good base and make sure that your core and pelvic floor is functioning well before you start with more intense exercise.



STARTING WITH EXERCISE


The first question that pops out when a woman decides to start with exercise is:


“Will exercise affect my breast milk and safety of my newborn?”

The researches have done a pretty good job when defining this question. So, let’s take a look at what are the myths and facts regarding exercise and breastfeeding.


The first myth that pops out when a woman decides to start with exercise is:



EXERCISE INCREASES LACTIC ACID (LA) IN BREASTMILK


Research has not shown any significant increase in lactic acid buildup after moderate exercise (50%-75% intensity). Although there is an increase in lactic acid after exhaustive exercise (100% intensity), it is important to address that most breastfeeding mothers do not exercise to exhaustion. LA may be elevated up to 90 minutes postexercise, but there are no known harmful effects to the baby..[6]


EXERCISE AFFECT IMMUNOLOGIC FACTORS IN MILK


Studies have shown that moderate exercise during lactation does not affect immunologic factors in milk. Although there has been a short-term decrease in IgA after exhaustive exercise, a decrease in IgA levels in one feeding per day is unlikely to be significant.[7]


EXERCISE AFFECT MILK SUPPLY AND NUTRIENT CONTENT


Studies have shown, that moderate exercise doesn’t affect milk supply, milk composition, or baby’s growth. One small study has revealed a slight increase in milk supply for the women who exercised regularly.[8]


WILL MY BABY REFUSE THE BREAST AFTER EXERCISE?


Most of the studies have shown no difference in acceptance of the breast. Not even after vigorous exercise.[9] There has been one study indicating that baby might refuse expressed milk from a mother after exhaustive exercise, but the findings are questionable because the babies were fed the milk with a dropper (which is "unnatural" for them - they are not used to drink milk that way).[10]


Although there has been shown that intense exercise was related to an increase in lactic acid concentration in milk, we don't have consistent evidence that LA affects infant acceptance of the milk. There has been one major factor that might profoundly affect the results: they all required the mothers to offer expressed milk to their babies rather than feeding them directly from the breast.[11]


MOM TO MOM ADVICE

Pump or breastfeed your baby before your workout (both breasts)


First, it’ll give you relief for the time of the workout. Second, latching baby directly on the breast is the best thing you can do. If you are away for the time of your baby’s next feeding, prepare expressed milk before you head out the door. While this might be hard to do at the beginning when your baby is constantly latching on…try to find the gap when you could express that extra milk. I’ve done this at night when my baby didn’t completely empty both breasts. I know, it might be exhausting at times, but it’s just a matter of priorities. (Keep in mind that supplementing with formula or using a pacifier too much might reduce your milk supply.)


Wear a good, supportive sports bra


Although any running or jumping might not be a good idea at the moment, you probably want to have “things in place”.


Don’t forget to put nursing pads in your bra to soak up the milk


Nobody knows, but it might become awkward if you forget them :)


Shower before you breastfeed your baby


Changes in your smell due to sweat, new sope, perfume, lotion, deodorant might cause your baby to lose interest.


Stay hydrated!


Before, during and after the workout


BOTTOM LINE


It’s believed, that when a woman starts to exercise, the “build up” of LA in breastmilk will turn off baby from latching. It might be because of a slightly altered taste of milk, which won't last long ( LA may be elevated only up to 90 minutes ) or your sweat and smell after exercise- so make sure you shower before you breastfeed :).


To sum up, research is showing that your workout won't affect your breastmilk neither will harm your baby. I’ve worked out regularly through the breastfeeding period (15.months to be exact), and my baby is fine :).


So, when you decide to start a workout and if you can...find yourself a good pre&postnatal coach.




REFERENCES:


[1] Davenport, M. H., Giroux, I., Sopper, M. M., & Mottola, M. F. (2011, June). Postpartum exercise regardless of intensity improves chronic disease risk factors. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21085038

[2] Norman, E., Sherburn, M., Osborne, R. H., & Galea, M. P. (2010, March). An exercise and education program improves well-being of new mothers: A randomized controlled trial. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20056720

[3] Larson-Meyer, D. E. (2002, August). Effect of postpartum exercise on mothers and their offspring: A review of the literature. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12181395

[4] Saligheh, M., Hackett, D., Boyce, P., & Cobley, S. (2017, October). Can exercise or physical activity help improve postnatal depression and weight loss? A systematic review. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28702773

[5] Ko, Y. L., Yang, C. L., Fang, C. L., Lee, M. Y., & Lin, P. C. (2013, August). Community-based postpartum exercise program. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23398359

[6] Breast Milk Composition After Exercise of Different Intensities. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/089033449701300211

[7] Lovelady CA, Hunter CP, Geigerman C. Effect of Exercise on Immunologic Factors in Breast Milk. Pediatrics 2003 February;111(2):e148-e152.

[8] Hatsu, I. E., McDougald, D. M., & Anderson, A. K. (2008). Effect of infant feeding on maternal body composition. International breastfeeding journal, 3, 18. doi:10.1186/1746-4358-3-18

[10] Wallace JP, Inbar G, Ernsthausen K. Infant acceptance of postexercise breast milk. Pediatrics. 1992 Jun;89(6 Pt 2):1245-7.

[11] Wright KS, Quinn TJ, Carey GB. Infant acceptance of breast milk after maternal exercise. Pediatrics. 2002 Apr;109(4):585-9.