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10 Myths About Breastfeeding, Exercise, & Diet

April 05, 2014 5 min read

Near the end of my pregnancy, I dreamed of jumping rope. I couldn't WAIT until I could work on losing my baby weight.  After a few weeks and medical clearance, I resumed HIIT workouts and lost most of my weight without much effort.  Like many new moms, I worried about how exercise and diet would effect my newly-built milk supply.  Armed with an iPad and time to kill while my newborn ate, I read up on the subject.  Here is what I found: MYTH 1: If you are breastfeeding a baby, exercising will kill your milk supply. NO!  As long as you consume enough calories and water, and feed your baby at regular intervals, your milk supply should not drop.  Try drinking a glass of water before and after you exercise to stay hydrated.  How many calories should you eat?  "Eat to hunger" is the best advise I've seen.  Believe me, you will be hungry if you need to eat!  Opt for healthy, nutrient dense food instead of cookies, pizza, soda, etc. MYTH 2: If you exercise while breastfeeding, you will get mastitis. NO!  If you wear a good bra that isn't too constrictive and feed your baby at regular intervals, exercise should not lead to mastitis.  If you do exercises with repetitive arm motions & end up with plugged ducts, you might need to back off from the arm moves.  I personally LOVE the Anita Extreme Control Sport Bra.  It is under-wire free, lightweight, and doesn't have seams over the nipples. MYTH 3: Exercise will alter the nutritional quality of the milk. NO!  Studies have shown no difference in milk quality or quantity between women who do exercise versus those who do not. MYTH 4: If you workout, lactic acid will build up in your milk, and that's harmful for baby. YES & NO.  At moderate-levels of exercise, studies have not shown a noticeable increase of lactic acid in breast milk.  For high intensity workouts (where you workout to complete exhaustion), studies show a slight increase in lactic acid in breast milk.  However, lactic acid in milk is not known to have harmful effects for babies. MYTH 5: Baby will refuse to breastfeed after Mom exercises because of changes to milk. NO!  If a baby refuses to breastfeed after a workout session, it might be that baby doesn't like the salty taste of sweat (if mom hasn't showered), or a number of unrelated things.  Many studies have shown that even if Mom does a high intensity workout, her baby will still breastfeed.  If your baby tends to refuse to breastfeed post workout, try expressing a little milk first, showering before feeding baby, or wait 30 min to feed baby to let milk lactic acid levels reduce.  You might also consider scaling back your workout intensity if you notice baby always refuses to breastfeed after you workout. MYTH 6: You can eat whatever you want while breastfeeding & still lose weight. NO! I wish I could tell you that you could eat all the ice cream you want while breastfeeding and lose weight, but that is not true. Breastfeeding does help new moms shed pounds, but if you consume more calories than you burn (including calories converted to milk), you will gain weight.  Some moms are lucky and lose all of their baby weight from breastfeeding.  Some, like me, have a few stubborn pounds that stick around despite a healthy diet and exercise routine.  Everyone is different!  Over time, breastfeeding coupled with a healthy diet can help you lose your baby weight, but it may not happen as quickly as you would like. MYTH 7: It's okay to start dieting as soon as baby is born. NO!  It takes 2 months for milk supply to regulate, so dieting before 2 months is NOT recommended.  Once you do start dieting, it is important to consume enough calories to maintain your milk supply.  Aim to consume 1500-1800 calories a day.  If you have less than that, your milk supply may drop.  Keep in mind that breastfeeding requires an additional 200-500 calories a day.  If your baby guzzles milk like mine, it's helpful to know that your body burns about 20 calories to yield 1 ounce of breast milk. MYTH 8: Once it's okay to diet, you can drastically cut calories. NO!  Even if you stay within the recommended calorie range for nursing mothers, a drastic change in calories can lead to a drastic drop in your milk supply.  It's best to aim for slow, steady weight loss (1.5lb/week).  Studies have shown that rapid weight loss in nursing mothers with very calorie-restricted diets can cause milk to have an increase of fat-soluble toxins. MYTH 9: Once it's okay to diet, you can finally go back to your favorite fad diet (Atkins, Paleo, Grapefruit, etc.) NO!  Does anyone actually do the grapefruit diet anymore??  While those diets may have worked well for you in the past, it is important to continue eating from all food groups to ensure that you are receiving adequate nutrition to stay healthy and energized.  The quality of your milk will be okay even if your diet sucks.  YOU will be the one who suffers if you aren't getting all the vitamins and nutrients you need.  Also, those diets may lead to a higher rate of weight loss than is recommended.  Per kellymom.com: "Liquid diets, low-carb diets, fad diets, weight loss medication, etc. are not recommended while breastfeeding." MYTH 10: There isn't enough time to workout if I'm breastfeeding. NO!  Okay, time really is OBSTACLE #1 for moms trying to get their pre-baby body back. The good news is that with some planning and prioritizing, it can be done.  Take baby for a walk in a carrier or stroller, do a hiit workout while baby naps, workout on your lunch break if you work outside of the home, go to the gym while your partner stays with baby, or incorporate baby into your workout (safely) if you can!  If you can, nurse the baby or pump right before working out.  That may give you enough time to workout, rehydrate, AND shower before the next eat/play/sleep cycle starts.  Here are a few more ideas on how to sneak in more activity to your day. Have you successfully breastfed your baby while maintaining a healthy diet & exercise routine? What has worked for you? Has anything noticeably reduced your supply? Jessica This article was originally shared on the pregnancy & motherhood section of my blog, moveeatlivewell.com.
I'm NOT an expert on this subject, which is why I have my sources listed for you, who ARE experts:

 http://kellymom.com/nutrition/mothers-diet/mom-weightloss/

 http://kellymom.com/nutrition/mothers-diet/mom-weightloss/

 http://kellymom.com/nutrition/milk/milkcalories/

 http://www.breastfeedingbasics.com/articles/nutrition-exercise-and-weight-loss/3

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