Training and Breastfeeding for Active MomsJul 18, 2022
There’s no “right timeline” for every new mom. These guidelines will help breastfeeding moms get back in the game when their bodies (and minds) are ready.
As a new mom, your world can feel turned upside down. Your days and nights blur into one long cycle of feed-change-nap-repeat. You’ve got bigger breasts, a foggy brain, and maybe stitches where you never imagined a needle and thread going near. And like many active, performance-minded women, you still have goals to toe the line at future events or to just get back to being your same active self. In your current state that can feel impossible. But don’t fret; it’s not. It just takes some patience and planning, especially if you’re also breastfeeding.
First and foremost, work with your doctor, of course. Coming back from a C-section or birth with complications will take longer than returning to training from birth with none. Prioritize your health, sleep, and mental well-being first and foremost. Then ease back into it. We recently chatted with dietitians Kendra Miller and Tiffany Ricci on the Feisty Women’s Performance Podcast and learned four key takeaways for active, nursing moms who are getting back to exercise. Here’s what they told us.
You Need to Increase Your Water Intake
As athletes, many of us already struggle to stay hydrated. Hitting that sweet spot of 90 ounces per day, or 2.5 liters, can sometimes feel impossible. And if you are sweating, you likely need much more.
You probably guessed it, but breastfeeding moms need even more. Like 38 ounces more! About 128 ounces, the equivalent of 3.8 liters, seems to be that sweet spot for breastfeeding women. Breastmilk is made up of 90% water and although increasing your hydration will not necessarily help you to produce more breastmilk, it will help you not become dehydrated – which can have a significant negative impact on your health.
As athletes, and breastfeeding mothers, hydration is paramount. Make sure you stay on top of your hydration throughout the day.
You Need More Calories When Breastfeeding than You Did During Pregnancy
If you have ever been pregnant, you have likely heard – often from a random family member, “you are eating for two!”. What rarely gets discussed, is how many calories breastfeeding women need to perform their best. A nursing mother actually needs more calories than they did when they were pregnant.
While sources do vary, research has shown that women in their third trimester often need 300 - 500 extra calories every day. Breastfeeding women need between 400 - 600 extra calories per day. Your body will also use the extra fat stores that you put on during pregnancy when breastfeeding.
Milk production increases a woman’s energy expenditure by 15-25%. When women drastically reduce their calories and add exercise to their post-pregnancy routine, they may struggle to maintain their breast milk supplies or become a candidate for low energy availability.
You Need More Fiber to Combat Constipation
Constipation can ruin a workout and it's actually quite common for postpartum women. A combination of dehydration, increased progesterone when breastfeeding, and other factors (like the lack of sleep that often comes with a newborn baby) are usually the cause of this. To combat this, eat more fiber. Non-gassy foods, like whole grains, can be very beneficial to your diet at this time.
You Need to Let Go of the Narrative that You Should 'Get Your Body Back'
Everyone encourages you to eat, eat, eat while you’re pregnant, but the moment the baby’s in your arms, you can feel the pressure to get your “pre-pregnancy” body back as soon as possible. This cultural narrative, fueled by celebrities and Instagram influencers who have “bounced back” within weeks, not only piles unneeded pressure on a new mom but also paves the way for unhealthy eating and can set you up for low energy availability and make it harder to get back to the activities you love.
The bottom line is – every woman’s body is different. Some women’s bodies will return to their prepartum form quickly and easily, while others won’t. At the end of the day, our lives change after pregnancy, it’s okay for our bodies to change too.
As a breastfeeding mom, your goal is to nourish your body and in turn, the body of your baby.
To learn more, listen to our Women’s Performance Podcast with Kendra Miller and Tiffany Ricci
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