Balancing Fitness and Motherhood: The Power of Breastfeeding While Training
The journey of motherhood is both challenging and rewarding, intertwining the intricate roles of being a parent with the daily demands of personal well-being. As the world celebrates Breatfeeding Awareness Month, it's important to remember that many mothers are also athletes, fitness enthusiasts, or simply women striving for active, healthy lifestyles. Exercising and breastfeeding are not mutually exclusive; in fact, they often coexist harmoniously, each amplifying the benefits of the other.
Exercise, for many, is a haven of mental clarity, physical strength, and emotional release. It's a testament to resilience, discipline, and personal growth. On the other hand, breastfeeding is a profound connection between mother and child, providing optimal nutrition, immune support, and unparalleled bonding opportunities. When these two worlds converge, they pave the way for a healthier postpartum recovery, a robust milk supply, and a unique sense of empowerment.
Let’s explore the harmonious relationship between physical activity and breastfeeding, shedding light on how active mothers can nourish their babies while still prioritizing their fitness goals. For all the mothers out there juggling squats, sprints, stretches, and nursing sessions, this one's for you (and your baby)!
7 Facts you’ll love
- Physical Activity and Milk Production: Regular exercise does not affect the quantity of breast milk produced. However, high-intensity workouts may cause a temporary change in the taste of breast milk due to the accumulation of lactic acid, but this does not generally deter infants from nursing.
- Breast Comfort: Active women, especially those participating in high-impact sports, may find that a well-fitted sports bra is essential to ensure breast comfort. It's important to make sure the bra doesn't constrict the breast tissue, which could potentially cause plugged milk ducts or mastitis. Check out NatalActive or KindredBravely.
- Hydration is Key: Breastfeeding mothers produce an additional 500-700 mL of milk per day, so adequate hydration is crucial. For athlete mothers, this need is even more accentuated as exercise increases fluid loss. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after workouts to stay hydrated and maintain milk production.
- Caloric Needs: Breastfeeding can burn an additional 300-500 calories a day. Athletes or active mothers need to consume extra calories to maintain energy levels and milk supply. It's essential to focus on nutrient-dense foods to fuel both exercise and lactation.
- Scheduling Feeds: Ideally, mothers may choose to breastfeed or pump just before exercising. This makes workouts more comfortable, reduces the risk of engorgement, and ensures the baby gets milk before any temporary post-exercise changes in milk flavor.
- Hormonal Considerations: The hormone relaxin, which increases during pregnancy and breastfeeding, can make ligaments more flexible. This can affect athletic performance and injury risk, so mothers should be aware and may need to adjust their exercise routines or intensity accordingly.
- Health and Recovery: Exercise boosts endorphins, which can help combat postpartum depression and improve overall mood. However, it's essential for breastfeeding athletes to prioritize rest and recovery, as the body is managing the dual demands of milk production and physical exertion. Overtraining can potentially decrease milk supply and compromise the immune system.
Remember, every woman's body responds differently to exercise and breastfeeding, so it's crucial to listen to your body, adapt as necessary, and consult with a healthcare professional about any concerns.
Throughout history, Historically, women have often been discouraged from rigorous physical activity, especially during periods like pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, as our understanding of women's health and physiology evolved, so did the recognition of the benefits of staying active, even while nursing. Women have shown for breastfeeding to be an empowering experience, demonstrating inner strength whilst keeping their performance steady. Want some examples? Let’s go!
- Alysia Montaño: Renowned for racing while pregnant, this American middle-distance runner didn't let motherhood slow her down. After giving birth, she continued training and competing, balancing her athletic career with breastfeeding her child.
- Kara Goucher: A two-time Olympian long-distance runner, Kara Goucher trained extensively while nursing her son, showcasing the power and resilience of athlete mothers.
- Serena Williams: One of the greatest tennis players of all time, Serena Williams gave birth to her daughter in September 2017. Not long after, she was back on the tennis court, competing in Grand Slam tournaments while also breastfeeding.
The modern shift
As more female athletes began to speak out about their experiences with training and breastfeeding, the sports world saw a gradual shift in perceptions. This evolution has helped pave the way for better support and understanding for breastfeeding athletes.
We all know how important support is! Both from the sports community and personal circles, physically, mentally and emotionally. It plays a vital role in enabling breastfeeding mothers to pursue their athletic ambitions. This support is now more evident than ever, with many sports brands launching maternity and postpartum athletic wear, aiding in the comfort and functionality for active mothers.
Empowering the Journey Ahead
The dance between athleticism and motherhood is a testament to the boundless capabilities of women. From the tennis courts to the running tracks, the legacy left by breastfeeding athlete mothers is not just about their medals or records, but about shattering misconceptions and setting new norms. It's evident that with the right support, understanding, and perseverance, mothers can excel in every domain they choose.
For every mother reading this, whether you're chasing after personal records or simply chasing after your toddler post-workout, remember that your strength is unparalleled. Your journey is an inspiration, not just to fellow athletes or mothers, but to everyone who witnesses the sheer determination that drives you.
In the intersection of sports and motherhood, every stride, every serve, and every feeding session is a story of love, passion, and resilience. Here's to celebrating and uplifting these stories today, tomorrow, and always.
Have some experiences to share? Leave us a line in the comments! 👇🏼