Returning to exercise postpartum can be challenging, and doing so while breastfeeding or pumping only adds further complexity to the process. The ACOG suggests postpartum women stay active for 20-30 minutes a day and focus on "exercises that help strengthen major muscle groups, including abdominal and back muscles." But will working out impact milk production? Is it safe to do?
Research has shown that exercise is an important part of maintaining and promoting health and does not negatively affect breastfeeding outcomes [NIH]. In fact, it can be a vital part of your feeding and healing journey! Here are expert exercise tips for breastfeeding mothers from EM founder, Leah Keller.
“Exercise can be a vital part of the renewal process, but it’s important to keep it as an invigorating and uplifting act of self-love.”
Safe and Unsafe Exercises While Breastfeeding
Neck pain, back pain, and general discomfort - posture plays an important role in newborn feeding and postpartum recovery and is often the source of these common complaints. Any movement or exercise that requires you to round the shoulders (such as chest flies) or puts undue pressure on your core and pelvic floor (such as crunches and sit-ups) can result in postural imbalances that cause pain. This is especially true if you suffer from some degree of abdominal separation, which can be exacerbated in the process. Posture and exercise go hand in hand, so when it comes to exercising it’s important to choose movements that strengthen the upper back, combat forward, rounded postures, and restore core strength and function.
Learn more about core-safe workouts and exercise to avoid postpartum here.
4 Tips for Exercising While Breastfeeding
- When possible, time your workouts for after feeding or pumping. That way, baby is more calm and satisfied (maybe even sleeping), and you are less likely to feel engorged or uncomfortably full of milk.
- Wear a good, supportive sports bra, especially if you're performing a more vigorous workout such as running.
For tips on how to safely return to running postpartum, click here.
- Boost hydration with extra water and salt food to taste. We need the right balance of water and electrolytes to maintain healthy hydration. Drink plenty of water, more when exercising and especially on a hot day. Eating fresh fruits, yogurt, soups, and stews are also great ways to incorporate more water, minerals, and nutrients to replenish and support milk supply.
Learn more tricks to stay hydrated here.
- Be gracious with yourself: Now is a time to rebuild, replenish, nourish and nurture both yourself and your baby. Exercise can be a vital part of the renewal process, but it's important to keep it as an invigorating and uplifting act of self-love. Keep the intensity light, avoid overly depleting workouts that leave you feeling spent or exhausted, and move in ways that support recovery and help you feel good, alive, happy.
- Exercise During Pregnancy. (2019, July). The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/exercise-during-pregnancy
- Su, D., Zhao, Y., Binns, C., Scott, J., & Oddy, W. (2007). Breast-feeding mothers can exercise: results of a cohort study. Public Health Nutrition, 10(10), 1089–1093. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17517152/
Every Mother unlocks a scientifically proven method to strengthen the body during pregnancy and rebuild it after birth, regardless of how long it has been since you became a mother. We’re a knowledge circle, a community, and a celebration—of the mother you’ve become, and the woman you’ve been all along. Learn more about our clinically proven EMbody program here.