Okay…so that title is a little misleading. This post isn’t about running while breastfeeding – that could be dangerous & lead to all sorts of weird overuse injuries. I want to talk about running as a breastfeeding mom, breastfeeding as a runner. Every time I’ve had a baby I’ve received all sorts of questions and remarks about how the two work together. Well, I figured that since I’ve been a runner for 20 years and breastfeeding for 7 of those years, I might actually know a thing or two about it!
I’m going to start off by saying that I am very pro-breastfeeding. I am not knocking formula feeders with that statement, but for me it was the best option. And, while I do love running, breastfeeding & nourishing my child has always come before my running and training. I breastfed all three of my own children to varying lengths (while running, of course), and am currently supplying breastmilk (by pumping) for the Surrogacy Babe. I am also very pro-running, pro-activity, pro-workout. I believe that being physically fit helps to manage stress, is overall healthy, and sets an excellent example for children.
Does running affect the milk? Do you need to pump and dump after running?
No! Running, most of the time will not alter your milk in any way, so please don’t waste it by dumping it. Milk can contain lactic acid from extremely hard workouts or races, but a run around the block will not cause this. If you do hit the track hard enough for lactic acid to get into your milk, it will not harm your baby. However, your baby may not like the taste and refuse to nurse. I suggest that if you do workout at maximum intensity, wait 30-90 minutes to nurse (if possible) to avoid refusals.
Do you need to get a special running bra for nursing?
No, but they do make them if you really want one. Unless you plan to nurse during a workout or event, it’s unlikely that any special running bras will be needed. I’ve known some ultra runners who would pump or nurse in the middle of a race, and I could see how it would be really handy to have a nursing-sports bra in those situations. However, I’ve had no problems with my regular workout gear…and I usually take a shower and change before I feed/pump anyway. I have had to replace sports bras frequently while nursing due to breasts drastically changing size and stretching them out. In my last marathon I started the race as a moderate A cup, but finished four hours later as a rather engorged C cup! Because of size changes, I’ve had to make sure I had a very sturdy bra to hold me down, and I’ve even resorted to doubling up on bras. Get a good quality bra and be prepared to get another one in 3 months.
But you have to eat so many calories! Is it even worth it?
Umm…YES! I know a handful of other surrogates who also pump for their surrogacy babies and/or preemie milk banks. They believe that working out uses up too many calories that could be used for making breastmilk, meaning they would have to eat that much more, making the workout pointless. Personally, I don’t follow their logic and think it’s a cop-out. Yes, running burns calories (how much depends on the individual and her workout), and yes, breastfeeding/pumping burns calories (anywhere from 300 to 1000+ per day), but counting calories isn’t really the answer. 1. Stay hydrated. Drink, drink, and drink some more water and you’ll be fine. 2. Eat when you are hungry! I eat approximately 2500 calories per day, but my food is spread out in tiny meals throughout the whole day. When I’m hungry I don’t worry about how many calories are in the snack, I just eat it! Obviously, like when you were pregnant, eat the healthy stuff; whole grains, lean meats, a daily dose of dairy, and lots of fruits and veggies.
Doesn’t running decrease your supply? Do you slow down because of breastfeeding?
Along with the calorie-intake mentality is the notion that working out will decrease your supply. Honestly, I don’t know about this one. Unless you are being paid by the ounce and every ounce really matters, I would say no, it doesn’t decrease your supply. Running doesn’t make you produce less (unless of course you are dehydrated or underfed), and breastfeeding/pumping doesn’t slow you down as a runner! At six months postpartum and 40 miles per week, I am producing roughly the same daily ounces I was at 3 weeks postpartum. My performance is slightly slower than what I was able to pull off in college (and that was ten years and four babies ago!)
Working out and especially running is great during the postpartum months. Feeling your body get stronger while nourishing a small person is amazing! Running is a great opportunity to clear your mind, get some alone time (or meet up with other moms/adults), as well as losing some lingering pregnancy pounds. You don’t have to wait to ween your child to start a working out. Know that there are LOTS of breastfeeding and pumping moms out there doing what’s best for themselves and their babies. Get out there, RUN, and enjoy yourself!