Breastfeeding Considerations for the Fit Mom
If it's not enough you have to rehab your pelvic floor, close your diastasis, keep a tiny human alive and manage a shower, there is also breastfeeding. And man oh man, it should be so simple and natural, right??? That couldn’t be further from the truth for some new mommas.
Even more, for mommas into fitness, you just want to work out! Being able to see your friends at the gym or working out at home is important to you. Fitness provides some resemblance of your former awesome self during a time when you may be getting to know the new awesome person you have become.
Navigating all the newness of motherhood can be overwhelming and finding the right support can be hard.
I asked my IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) Ashley Benz to provide her suggestions for commonly asked questions that mom-athletes have.
How do I lose weight and maintain my milk supply?
“Breastfeeding parents need around 500 additional calories per day above their typical caloric intake. For athletes who have intense calorie needs, this may translate to a lot of food and a lot of snacks! We know that it is safe (and common) for nursing mothers to lose weight in the postpartum period. Weight loss should stay around 1 pound a week. If you're losing faster than that, you likely need to up your calories.
According to Breastfeeding and Human Lactation (Wambach & Spencer, 2021), carbohydrates should make up 55% of the total caloric intake, protein 15% and fat less than 30%. This may be different than a mother's previous macronutrient intake. There is little research about macronutrient needs of breastfeeding athletes and diet may need to be adjusted as a mother finds what works well for them.”
Does high-intensity exercise affect your milk supply?
"High-intensity exercise in and of itself does not cause damage to your milk supply or milk composition. Dehydration and insufficient calorie intake may decrease supply for some women."
Can I take workout supplements, creatine, caffeine while breastfeeding?
"There are lots of specific answers to what you can and cannot take while you're breastfeeding. As a general rule, breastfeeding is not the best time to start a bunch of new supplements. For example: caffeine, in small to moderate amounts, is perfectly safe to take when you're breastfeeding. However, creatine would not be safe to take when nursing. Several of the protein powders and shakes available on the market have excessive vitamin levels, which can cause problems in the nursing infant. When families have questions about what is and is not safe to take during lactation, I refer them either to their International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) or to the Infant Risk Center. The Infant Risk Center is always happy to answer questions. www.infantrisk.com"
What are some other things a breastfeeding athlete should consider?
"There are lots of things to consider when you're setting up your fitness routine! Wearing a tight bra for long times can cause a slight decrease in supply, but more importantly, can cause recurrent plugged ducts which can lead to mastitis. Nursing your baby right before you put on your nursing bra and removing your bra right after you finish exercising can help.
Also, while showers can be hard to come by as new moms, making sure that the area under and around your breasts stay clean and dry can help avoid skin irritations or yeast infections (true even when you aren't nursing!) There are several really wonderful nursing sports bras on the market, so be sure to be open to the possibility that you will need to take a break to feed your baby in the middle of a workout. Flexibility with your routine can go a long way for new parents.
Many families find it helpful to establish a relationship with a lactation consultant (IBCLC.) This person can help guide them along the way, knows their specific medical history and can answer questions that they have as they progress through their breastfeeding journey. Having an IBCLC who you know and trust can relieve a lot of anxiety if you experience a breastfeeding challenge."
Ashley Benz is a mom of four and IBCLC who serves the Kentuckiana area. For more information about her services, please visit www.ashleybenz.com.