Breastfeeding Mom Pumps During Ironman Triathlon
Doula and yoga instructor Katrina Bolduc has always been extremely active. And having a baby didn’t change that—it just meant adjusting her workouts to accommodate breastfeeding. Last year, a viral photo showed her nursing at the finish line of her first postbaby triathlon. And this year, she took things to a new level, pumping during a 140.6 mile Ironman.
“Here’s me nursing my 19-month-old son at Ironman Village this weekend,” Bolduc write on Facebook. “This was my first full Ironman: 140.6 miles! I was nervous about nursing/pumping and worried about how my pump would get to and from the two transitions without me getting disqualified from taking something from my husband.”
She says that the race staff was incredibly accommodating, making pumping during a triathlon as easy as a feat like that can be.
“I talked with IM staff and they were amazing,” she says. “Not only did they help me find a solution, but they were supportive and even took responsibility for my pump and brought it from T1 to T2 and made sure it was in my run gear bag for when I arrived!”
While this was Bolduc’s first Ironman, it wasn’t her first triathlon—or first time in the spotlight for prioritizing feeding during competition. Immediately after finishing a race last summer, she began nursing her son, Grayson.
“I saw my husband and my son right at the finish line, and I went through the finish line, got my medal, grabbed some water, and immediately came out and my husband said, ‘He’s hungry,’” Bolduc tells SELF. “I had an easy-access top on. We were right there at the finish line, and I unzipped my top. He latched right on, and he was as happy as can be. He looked up, smiling at me.”
Encouraged by the support of fellow finishers, Bolduc asked her husband to snap a picture.
“The fact that people chose to say something like, ‘Congrats, mama,’ versus just walking by made me feel really good,” Bolduc says. “I didn’t have any negative experiences at all—people knew what I was doing and everyone was happy. That was also just another confidence booster for me, because I don’t think several months ago I would have been as comfortable as I was to be like, ‘Ok, you’re hungry, I’m going to feed you right now.’”
After she submitted her photo to the Facebook group Breastfeeding Mama Talk, other active moms turned to Bolduc for tips, like maintaining your milk supply while maintaining a regular workout schedule.
“Out of curiousity, did exercise affect milk production?” one commenter asked. “Did you need to pump to empty before exercising or doing the triathlon? I would be so uncomfy having not pumped before doing either.”
Bolduc was quick to respond.
“Luckily I haven’t had any issues with milk production,” she replied. “I did feed my son right before and right after so I didn’t need to pump. When I do long runs I make sure to feed beforehand and have a really good support bra—it makes a huge difference.”
Bolduc has become a pro at planning her workouts around Grayson’s feeding schedule ( Breastercising, anyone?). She runs with a jogging stroller and switched to a stationary bike so that he’s always nearby. But she wasn’t going to sacrifice racing. Her first postbaby triathlon was the culmination of a slow and steady buildup: Bolduc tried her hand at three 10K road races after Grayson was born before making the jump back to triathlons.
“I definitely wanted to prove to myself that I can do it,” she says. “My hope is people will share the light and the love surrounding breastfeeding and motherhood and going out and being active and also focus on the positive rather than the negative. And just girl power—we can do it.”
If you’re ready to start working out again after baby, talk to your OB before hitting the gym. Remember, your pre-baby fitness levels and method of delivery both play a part in determining the intensity you can safely handle.