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Jess asks, “Is it safe to exercise while breastfeeding? My mother insists that it will cause my milk to sour, make the baby sick and hurt my production. My son is three months old and I really want to get back to the gym and shed these extra pounds.”
Moderate exercise is excellent for a new mother and has only has positive effects on her health and does not impact breastmilk in a negative way. Aside from burning extra calories and helping with weight loss, mothers who exercise have better heart health, better insulin regulation, lower levels of stress hormones, higher energy, and less depression. Research is clear that moderate exercise does not change milk composition, baby’s growth or milk supply. There has also has been some research suggesting moderate exercise might actually increase milk production, possibly due to the release of stress and the increased sense of wellbeing produced from the activity. Studies looking at female athletes have shown that these women tend to have higher milk volumes and greater fat content in their breastmilk. If you were to exercise to exhaustion the lactic acid in your milk would increase for a short while, but this has no negative effect on the milk and is not harmful for the baby at all. Even with this intense activity, the infants studied showed no objection to the mother’s milk. So the idea that milk would sour or somehow become harmful for the baby is a myth. The worst thing that might occur is that the mother’s skin might be salty from sweating and the baby may not be happy about the salty taste. I would then suggest showering after working out if this becomes an issue for your little one. Some suggestions for you as you begin to exercise would be to get a good supportive nursing bra that fits properly and will not constrict you and potentially cause a plugged duct.
Also, keep yourself hydrated and make sure you are drinking plenty of water. Being hydrated is key to any exercise program and very important if you are nursing. Many moms also feel that exercising with emptier breasts that have recently been nursed on is more comfortable and can help you avoid plugged ducts.