Breastfeeding, exercise and postnatal nutrition.

Many mothers have questions and concerns regarding exercise, postnatal nutrition and breastfeeding. Here are some of the most frequent questions I get asked.

 

If I’m training, will it affect my milk supply and do I need extra calories? As long as you maintain a healthy diet and eat the required amount of calories you need to maintain your daily activity then your milk supply won’t be affected by exercising. On average a woman requires anything from 1800 to 2000 calories per day BUT it depends on each woman’s body composition and energy output as to whether she needs more or less calorie intake – if you’re carrying extra fat then your body will utilise this rather than you needing to take in extra calories. If you are exercising, just like you would if you weren’t breastfeeding, you would take in calories to replace calories burnt and you would make sensible food choices (the idea that you can eat as much as and whatever you want when breastfeeding isn’t a good mindset to get in too as eventually your body will reach a state of equilibrium and is very efficient at providing milk for your baby with little effort ) So put simply, eat as you would pre- nursing and if you are exercising frequently then ensure you drink plenty of water, eat regularly and have an extra post training meal which contains protein, carbs and fat.

 

 Can I lose fat while breastfeeding? It can take a little longer and you may find the last few pounds linger until you stop nursing but if you have come out of pregnancy with an excess then losing fat and nursing is perfectly safe as long as you do it sensibly – if you restrict your calorie intake too much then this is where you will run into trouble as a) it can affect your milk supply and b) you’ll start to break down muscle rather than fat as well as causing problems with your metabolism and hormonal responses – crash dieting is never a good idea and will cause more problems in the long run. If you have fat to lose then approaching it with a sensible nutrition plan ( creating the appropriate calorie deficit) drinking at least 2 litres of water per day in conjunction with the right type training is the most effective to lose fat and keep it off.

 

 

As long as you maintain a healthy diet and eat the required amount of calories you need then your milk supply won't be affected by exercising.

Are there exercises I should avoid while breastfeeding? There are no specific exercises I would say to avoid but it’s all about personal comfort. Some women are fine to lay on their front while others find this uncomfortable. If you’re going to get back into high impact exercise then please make sure you have a correctly fitted and supportive sports bra – whether you’re an A cup or a G – and this goes for ALL women. I would hugely advise strengthening ( in fact strength training is even more crucial if you’re a nursing mother due to increased bone loss ) your chest and back in order to support the extra weight placed on your front plus it will help to lift your chest (post breast feeding our lovely breasts can look a little less perky). You also need to be aware that the hormone relaxin (at lower levels than in pregnancy) stays in your system for up to 4 months after you finish breast feeding so your ligaments will continue to be lax, bare this in mind when doing any high impact/ dynamic movement so as not to overextend. If you did suffer from pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy you need to focus on glute strength and your posterior chain to help stabilise your pelvis. When you are feeding (or exercising and need to stop to feed) there are some great exercises you can do (pelvic floor exercises, squats, holding the chair pose,seated stretches and deep breathing which is so important for your core recovery) whilst nursing your baby.

What types of food should I be eating when breastfeeding? (this goes for all mothers). It is so important for your body after baby arrives that you eat foods that support your role as a mother. As a new mum eating nutritious foods that will help to maximise your energy levels (as mothers to young children energy can remain at an all time low). The quality of your breast milk stays pretty much the same regardless of what you eat but the catch is your body will take any nutrients you aren’t getting from your own stores in order to provide for your baby. Have a look at my top 5 nutrition tips and see where you can boost your nutritional intake.

 

The Top 5.

 

#1. Water. Water. Water. Breastfeeding mums are especially at risk for energy draining dehydration. Always have a full 2 litre bottle of water next to you (I will always have a big drink of water while feeding). Be careful when it comes to caffeinated drinks as these are a diuretic so can add to dehydration  plus caffeine enters your breast milk so can cause your baby to become irritable and sleep poorly. Generally as a rule no caffeine after 2pm so that your sleep (when you get some) is the best quality it can be.

 

#2. Wild Salmon. There is no such thing as a perfect food but salmon is a fantastic source of DHA which is crucial to the development of your babies nervous system. All breast milk contains DHA but levels are higher for those mothers taking in adequate amounts through their diets. It can also have a positive impact on your mood as some studies suggest it can play a role in preventing postpartum depression. *The only caution is that its recommend that women who are pregnant and breastfeeding have no more than two main servings per week in order to limit the amount of mercury your child is exposed to. Try having your salmon with some brown rice (carbohydrates are needed – especially if you’re training ) and plenty of leafy greens (filled with vitamin A, C, calcium and iron) the fat from the salmon means you will absorb all the nutrients and salmon is rich in protein. A perfectly balanced meal!

 

#3. Blueberries. High in antioxidants these little berries pack a punch. If your body is healing a wound postpartum then it’s essential you get plenty of vitamins and minerals in your diet – dark berries are perfect for this.

 

#4. Always have chopped veg in the fridge for snacking. Easy to grab when you’re on the go or need to eat while feeding. One tip I had when I had my first child was to always get your partner to leave a meal prepared – I’d have a large salad bowl filled with veg, nuts with some cold chicken ready in the fridge so at least I knew I’d get lunch.

 

#5. Eat. You are no good to anyone if you don’t put yourself first and eat. Housework, Facebook, emails and anything else non essential can come last, as soon as baby/toddler is happy, asleep or occupied for 10 minutes that is your cue to feed yourself.

A happy, healthy you means a happy, healthy family.