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4 Big Things You Need to Know About Exercising While Breastfeeding

You've heard the old wives' tales—now get the facts.
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By Micky Marie Morrison, PT, ICPFE, Contributing Writer
Updated February 26, 2017
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Image: Shutterstock / The Bump

Many women have questions, concerns and doubts regarding exercise while breastfeeding. Is it okay? Will it affect my milk supply? Will it change the taste of my milk? Will it affect the baby? And the list goes on.

Here are four important facts to know that’ll put your mind at ease:

1. Exercise won’t hurt your milk supply. As long as you maintain a healthy diet, your milk supply should not be affected by exercise. Your body burns about 500 calories per day to produce the milk your baby needs. If you are exercising a lot, you have to make up for the extra calories expended.

2. It won’t change the taste, either. Some old wives tales caution against too much exercise because it makes your milk sour so that babies won’t want to feed. It turns out there may be some truth to that belief. Studies have shown that lactic acid levels in breast milk are significantly elevated for up to 90 minutes after maximal exercise, which may adversely alter the flavor of the milk. The good news is that there is no such elevation in lactic acid levels after moderate activity.  So as long as you keep your aerobic exercise in the 80% of maximal heart rate range, your baby won’t notice a difference. Since you may sweat while working out, be sure to shower or at least wipe off your nipples or they may taste salty!

3. Your breast milk is still as nutritional as ever—even after a workout. Studies show that exclusively breastfed babies of moms who exercise regularly grow just as robustly as those whose moms are sedentary. Those bonus immune-boosters in breast milk don’t seem to be altered with moderate exercise either. Another study showed that women who performed moderate aerobic exercise for 30 minutes three times per week had the same levels of the immune-boosting compounds in breast milk as those who didn’t exercise, and, not surprisingly, those women exhibited higher levels of cardiovascular fitness.

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4. Low impact activities are great Since your ligaments are lax for up to four months postpartum and your body has to recover after baby, you should start any activity slowly. Beginning with 10-15 minutes of low-impact cardio activities such as swimming, walking or the elliptical machine, and increasing by five minutes at a time is a good plan. Keep your heart rate at 80 percent or less of maximum (220 minus your age). Incorporate at least 10 minutes of core strengthening as well to help regain strength and muscle tone in the muscles most affected by pregnancy. There are even some core exercises you can do while breastfeeding, helping busy moms to multitask and get fit while feeding baby!

Updated December 2016

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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