Do what makes you feed good.
Dang did I feel like a couch troll after giving birth.
No seriously, I did. Couch. Troll. I went from running every single morning in cute workout clothes to becoming one with my couch and not showering for 4 days. Not only had I been swollen and uncomfortable during pregnancy, and therefore not able to do all those cute prenatal workout videos I bookmarked on YouTube, but both of my babies blasted out of my tiny frame leaving me in need of stitches and therefore much more couch time. Gone were my carefree running at sunrise days. Gone was my gym membership. Gone were my abs. Sigh. Why did I even buy that new pair of running shoes? How could I even begin running again when my leaky boobs hurt and I failed my “free to resume normal activities” 6 week check-up? Well, I couldn’t. Not yet.
I had to find new ways to move. I couldn’t just give it up. Moving my body feels good. If you’re a runner, you know that high you get after a good run. That therapeutic release of energy. That cadence of your feet on the pavement or the path you run on daily.
When you’re breastfeeding, though… running doesn’t feel good. Not when your breasts have tripled in size and your nipples are sore… nope. So I had to find something that felt good. Walking, and then eventually lightly jogging with my stroller would have to do. Hey, at least getting out there again made me feel like me. I began doing yoga, too… and eventually that felt good, too. I even got back into cute workout clothes, (but this time they were breastfeeding friendly!) See, you have to do (and wear) what makes you feel like YOU. You were someone before baby, and that someone matters.
Diet vs. Diet
So why is there this notion you can’t work out while breastfeeding?
Well, one reason is that breastfeeding is not the time to diet. Many women have this notion that they need to immediately return tot he size they were pre-baby and consider dieting and exercise to get that body back. I’m not here to tell you you can’t work for the body you want. I want you to WANT the body you have… but listen, I get being uncomfortable in a size (or multiple sizes) larger than you’re used to being. It’s okay to want to work for that body… but now might not be the time to “work” for it the way you are used to.
You see, weight loss through exercise and diet is usually about caloric deficit- burning more calories than you’re consuming, and therefore “burning” off your fat. The thing is, breastfeeding mommas need MORE calories, not less, to produce a healthy milk supply. Up to 500 more a day! (Yes, being in caloric deficit can decrease your milk supply. womp womp.)
Does that mean you should go binge on cheeseburgers and milkshakes every day? No. (I mean, you CAN… you do you…) You can still watch what you eat without purposefully losing weight. Eating a healthy diet doesn’t mean you have to “Diet” with a capital D. Instead, make sure you’re eating a diet rich in good fats and proteins. If you DO work out, grab a protein bar or add some protein powder into a smoothie (or milkshake!) in addition to your daily meals. Make up for any lost calories, the healthy way.
Low impact, high comfort
There are a few reasons I traded in my running shoes for a yoga mat.
Cardio burns calories, and we just talked about those precious calories we need to conserve (and even add!) while breastfeeding. So that’s one reason. The other reason is that running can HURT when you’re breastfeeding, as can high intensity, high impact workouts. If your doctor clears you to begin working out, ask them what kind of workouts they suggest, not only to care for your postpartum body, but also taking breastfeeding into consideration.
Try something new! I never imagined I’d like yoga. I thought it’s what hippies and suburban moms did. (Oh wait, I am a suburban mom. *Eye roll*) You might find a new way to move your body that is low impact, high comfort. Your workout routine might not look like it did before. And that’s OKAY! Yoga also brought some quiet into my life. Some time to put down my phone and get centered. It was good for my mental AND physical health!
SUPPORT THE LADIES! Select a breastfeeding-friendly sports bra that provides support without being uncomfortably tight and restricting. My favorites are listed in each of these images. Pump or nurse BEFORE working out, for maximum comfort. If you feel any pain while working out (like I did while running), select a lower-impact activity.
Hydrate to lactate!
Drinking like a camel will not help you produce milk like a cow.
Weird analogy? Sorry bout that… was trying to go with the animal theme. It’s true…. drinking an EXCESS of water will not instantly give you more milk. BUT… most of us go around dehydrated and you’d be surprised what being dehydrated can do to your milk supply! (If you know, you know!)
If you’re breastfeeding and working out, PLEASE make an effort to stay hydrated! Take a water bottle with you everywhere! Use a water enhancer or drink an electrolyte drink to recover! This will not only keep headaches and fatigue at bay, it’ll support your milk supply.
Knowing what you need is Self-Care
Breastfeeding mothers give SO MUCH of themselves to their families. It’s important to take care of your OWN needs as well, momma! Knowing what you need is part of self-care. Not everyone likes bubble baths or quiet reading or shopping for new shoes! Really tuning in to what makes you happy, what calms you or invigorates you, what feeds your soul… That’s the idea here! For example, I NEED sunshine, especially in the winter!
There’s a sunny spot in the corner of my gym and I make it a point to go workout in that exact spot so not only am I filling my need for fitness/physical exertion, but also soaking in the rays while doing so!
Knowing what you need can take time. Tune in to your body and your mind. Notice the small changes you can make throughout your day to make yourself happier.