Running while breastfeeding might sound like a no-brainer if you’ve been training consistently for many years. However, when the time comes, most runners find themselves plagued with questions.
Many moms question whether their actions could affect their child in any way – and attempting to resume a running routine while nursing is no different. The logistics of running and breastfeeding alone are enough to make us question how in the world we can make this work.
Is it okay to run while breastfeeding?
The first question most runners find themselves asking is whether or not they actually can run while breastfeeding. Luckily, the experts agree with a resounding yes. Yes! It is perfectly safe to resume and/or continue running while breastfeeding.
Running and breastfeeding can absolutely go hand in hand. However, there are a few guidelines to consider when planning your postpartum return to running. The key to successfully maintaining your milk supply and health during this time is to ease back in gradually, and always listen to your body.
Can running and breastfeeding cause mastitis?
If there’s one thing every nursing mom never wants to have to deal with, it’s mastitis. Some might wonder if the act of running while breastfeeding could potentially cause or increase the chances of getting mastitis.
Luckily, running itself will not cause mastitis. The key to avoiding mastitis in every activity, including daily life, is to wear comfortable bras and nurse or pump consistently. Planning your running schedule in a way that allows you to breastfeed as usual, and finding an appropriately fitting sports bra will help reduce your chances of developing mastitis.
Will running decrease my milk supply?
Perhaps the most common concern among breastfeeding moms as they return to running is whether or not running will impact their milk supply.
Lucky for us, the experts agree yet again that when planned correctly, running while breastfeeding will not decrease your milk supply.
However, you’ll need to be sure that you are adequately fueling and hydrating your body to meet its needs while you are active. Maintaining a healthy milk supply while running will require an increase in your water intake throughout the day. Make sure to drink to satisfy your thirst, and add some extra ounces on the days you run.
A few studies have found that strenuous exercise might increase the lactic acid in your milk, causing some babies to fuss at the breast. Even so, there are no harmful effects from baby drinking milk immediately after exercise, and this lactic acid increase has only been found when exercise is performed at a strenuous level.
Do I need extra calories for running and breastfeeding?
Most women are surprised to discover how hungry they are in those early days of breastfeeding. Nursing alone requires about 500 extra calories each day while sedentary, and this number only increases with your activity.
If you are running while breastfeeding, you’ll need to make up for those calories lost during exercise. It is fair to estimate that approximately 100 calories are burned per mile when running, so you’ll want to adjust your intake accordingly to make up for lost calories.
Running and breastfeeding might require a bit of advance planning in order to master the logistics, but is a great way to take care of your mental and physical health during the postpartum period. Here are 9 tips to make running while breastfeeding as easy and natural as possible.
9 Tips for Running While Breastfeeding
If you’re a runner, you’re likely excited to get back to training after having a baby. Running and breastfeeding might require a bit more planning, but once you establish a routine, you’ll be able to enjoy the same mental and physical benefits as before. These 9 tips will make the transition smooth and simple.
Wait until your body is ready – at least 6 weeks
In order to safely continue running throughout postpartum period, you’ll need to make sure you give your body adequate time to recover after giving birth. While the excitement to return might be at an all-time high, waiting until your body is fully recovered is key to success and safety.
Most experts and doctors recommend waiting at least 6 full weeks to begin any exercise after having a baby. During this time, you’ll be able to establish a healthy milk supply and breastfeeding routine with your new baby.
When you are ready to begin running while breastfeeding, make sure you no longer have any pain or bleeding, have established a consistent milk supply, and are feeling mentally ready to return to an exercise routine.
Pump or nurse right before a run
If there’s one tip that you’ll need to know to stay comfortable while running and breastfeeding, it’s this. To minimize fullness and discomfort while running, be sure to pump or nurse right before starting a run.
Doing so will maximize the time you have to run before your breasts fill up again. As your baby grows and nurses less often, you’ll be able to enjoy longer runs in between feeds as well.
Find a supportive, comfortable bra
Another priority for those who are running and breastfeeding is taking the time to find a comfortable bra. Many runners prefer a sports bra that is designed for nursing, as it is easier to remove and nurse at a moment’s notice.
Regardless of your preferences, be sure to find a bra that is not constricting, but still able to provide the support you’ll need as your milk comes in throughout a run.
Prioritize your fueling and hydration
In order to maintain a healthy milk supply, you’ll need to keep up with your fueling and hydration. As you burn extra calories and lose water through sweat, you’ll need to replenish what is lost.
Be sure to refuel with the calories you have burned during a run, and increase your water on your running days. Doing so will make sure your body has everything it needs to continue producing even while you are active.
Create a freezer stash for long runs
When your baby is young, it’s likely that they may need to nurse again while you are out on a run. Breastfeeding immediately before a run will help your body continue with your schedule as closely as possible, however, you still might not be home in time for the next feed.
As your runs increase in mileage, you’ll want to build up a freezer stash for the feeds that you’ll miss. Keeping a few extra bags of milk in the freezer will help keep your mind at ease knowing that your baby can be fed when you’re out on the run.
Plan runs near home
When it comes to running and breastfeeding, you should expect to encounter a few surprises along the way. Early on as things are getting regulated, you might find yourself needing to cut a run short or stop in the middle for various reasons.
If you’re planning to run at a time of day when you normally feed, will be running for longer than usual, or your milk supply has just not fully regulated yet, it might be beneficial to run near home. Planning a route near your house will allow you to head home if something unexpected should occur, and give you peace of mind knowing you can do so at a moment’s notice.
Bring a pump for long runs
Regardless of how old your baby is, if you’re breastfeeding while running long distances, you’ll likely find yourself needing to pump or express milk at some point during training. The more mileage you run, the more time it takes up and more likely you are to wind up running through a normal feeding time.
Bringing a hand pump along during long runs will give you the option to stop and relieve some milk when needed, should you ever start to feel uncomfortable. It’ll allow you to maintain the same schedule even when you are away from your baby, and help keep your supply regular.
Create a plan for feeding and running
It doesn’t take long to discover: running while breastfeeding can be a logistical nightmare. Trying to create any sort of consistent training schedule will take quite a bit of planning.
Take the time to look at your current breastfeeding schedule and try to plan runs around it. Schedule runs immediately after a feed and during time periods when you have the longest break. Being intentional about when you run and how you’ll fit in mileage will make things much less stressful during training.
Give yourself some grace
Running and breastfeeding can go hand and hand with a healthy mom and baby. However, it’s important to remember that you did recently have a baby, and your body is working much harder than it used to in order to create food for that baby.
As you continue to run while nursing, give yourself some grace. You might find that you’re slower than you used to be, more tired after a run, or just struggling to keep up. Take breaks when you need it, and remember that running should build you up – not tear you down.
Running and breastfeeding can be a short journey or last for over a year. However long you continue, remember that it should be helping you – not hurting you. Be kind to yourself as your body navigates the many changes during a postpartum period.
Jogging while breastfeeding can be an incredibly positive thing for both mom and baby. There’s nothing better than setting a healthy example for your child from an early age or taking care of your own physical and mental health.
Try to avoid the comparison trap and listen to your body. Adjust your training accordingly, and don’t be afraid to slow things down if needed. No matter what: take pride in what you have already accomplished.