This article is written by Sarah Crosby, a Women’s Health Physiotherapist based at Crystal Palace Physio Group in London. She has recently returned to running after the birth of her baby daughter 8 months ago. Sarah is a keen runner and triathlete.
Running after having a baby can be difficult enough with finding a good time to go out for a run and mustering the energy to exercise, but if you also need to consider how you will breastfeed your baby around your run then it might put you off altogether!
In this blog we will be discussing questions commonly asked about breastfeeding and running and offer you some top tips on how you can do both successfully!
Please do bear in mind that every women will have a different experience running and you should always listen to your body and the demands of your baby. This way you can make a decision whether it is right for you to breastfeed and return to running.
If you are experiencing problems with breastfeeding and running, please consult your GP or lactation specialist for further advice.
Question 1: Will running reduce my milk supply?
The research available has shown this not to be the case.
To ensure your milk supply is maintained it is very important to keep yourself well hydrated and well nourished. As a breastfeeding runner, your body will require more water and fuel. Try and take water on your run and keep a bottle close by when breastfeeding. You will also need to consume more calories with the added demands that running entails. In particular, as a runner it is important to make sure you are consuming plenty of protein.
To make sure your milk supply does not diminish you should also breastfeed your baby the same number of times that you usually would on the days that you run.
Question 2: Will running make my milk taste sour?
When you exercise, lactic acid production increases, research has shown that at high intensity the lactic acid in your breast milk increases, which can alter the taste. However, moderate exercise (where your heart rate does not exceed 80% of maximum) has not shown these lactic acid changes. When you are getting back to running post baby it would be sensible to stay in this moderate zone, you can check this with a heart rate monitor.
Some babies may refuse the breast after a run; this may be due to sweat on your breast so it is a good idea to give them a wipe before feeding your baby.
Question 3: Will my breasts get engorged?
To avoid breast engorgement, it is a good idea to time your run soon after you have fed your baby. This way you are much less likely to suffer with any engorgement or discomfort in your breasts whilst running. If you are planning a long run and you have a hungry baby then you might need to be prepared to have a break to feed your baby mid run. Your baby’s hunger/nutritional requirements are likely to control how long you can run for!
Question 4: Is it safe to run whilst breastfeeding?
If you are breastfeeding, then you will still be producing the relaxin hormone. This hormone is initially produced in pregnancy to prepare your body for labour. It causes the ligaments in your body to become more lax this can make you more prone to injury. Therefore, it is really important that your body is strong enough to return to running after having a baby. Make sure your GP has signed you off to do exercise after you 6 week check. You may also want to see a Women’s Health physiotherapist for a thorough assessment of your abdominal strength, pelvic floor strength and general post natal check.
For more information on whether your body is ready to return to running please refer to this previous blog https://www.runningbuggies.com/new-blog/2017/10/16/when-can-i-return-to-running
Top tips breastfeeding runners:
1. Get a good sports bra: Wearing a supportive sports bra is not only going to help keep your breasts as perky as possible but will also make running one hell of a lot more comfortable.I have been hunting around for a decent nursing sports bra and I have recently discovered Cake Maternity nursing sports bras. They design one for high impact (Zest) which I found supportive and comfortable whilst running.
Alternatively, you could try wearing two sports bras to keep your breasts strapped down! The only problem is it is not as easy to breastfeed on the go. Also, make sure your rib expansion is notimpeded bywearing two bras.
Whatever sports bra you decide to run in, then do a few jumping jacks on the spot and make sure that you are getting enough support.
2. Plan your runs to suit your baby. Try and time your runs around when your baby usually feeds and that way your run may not be too disrupted!
3. Be flexible.You may have to adapt your run plan to work around your baby’s needs. If you are out with the buggy, you may need to stop every so often to deal with adisgruntled baby. Therefore you could use this session as an interval training session. Or if you are planning a long run, you might have to break it up to feed your baby mid run!
4. Set realistic goals.It’s probably not a good idea to sign up for a marathon just after giving birth! Steadily build up the running and see how your body is responding before signing up to your first race. Pick a race where you will have enough time to train for it without breaking down and getting injured! You’re likely to be slower for a while after having a baby so aiming for a PB on the first race back might not be very realistic!
It is a good idea to set short term and longer term running goals to make them more achievable.
5. Don’t overdo it! As mentioned earlier, breastfeeding your baby depletes your body of calories and water. You must ensure you are replenishing this through taking on enough food and water. If you don’t you’re going to get ill, injured or just completely exhaust yourself. Breastfeeding alone is tiring so always listen to your body and try not to punish yourself if you don’t have the energy to go for a run!