I am a runner. It's one of my favorite things to do and a huge part of my life. I've done every race from a quick 5K to marathons and beyond. I started running when my son was a baby — I was 25, overwhelmed, and I really needed an outlet for my brain and something to break up the monotony. I've now run through periods of breastfeeding and pregnancy, and have learned a lot about they interact, which means a lot of new moms ask me, "How does running affect breastfeeding?" Honestly, it can be tricky, but in my opinion, it's worth it.
Any exercise plan should be approved by your provider, and running is no exception. Because running is so taxing on the body, you have to make sure you plan ahead, stay on top of your game, and monitor your supply and your child's wellbeing, as well as your own comfort. Breastfeeding and running can be a bit of a gamble if you have low supply or if your child is breast milk averse, as it can impact your output. It can also be very uncomfortable for you. Nipple blisters, engorgement, chafing, and mastitis are all risks if you're a running mom who breastfeeds, but it can be done, and done to great success. You just need to do the prep work, including learning how running can impact breastfeeding.
1. Nipple Burn
Your nipples are simultaneously more and less sensitive while you're breastfeeding. On one hand, they're kind of like steel rods that get twisted, suctioned, and bit pretty regularly. On the other hand, those nozzles leak, and that leaking leads to rubbing, which can lead to a world of pain. Blistered nipples, nipple cripple, chafed nipples, and nipples that feel like they've been run back and forth with a scouring pad are all common complaints. The trick is to get a really good, really supportive, and really well-fitting bra. Wear bandaids over each nipple, and a pad after that. Band-aid nipples are pretty standard for distance runners, but even casual running while breastfeeding requires their assistance.
2. Jarring Jumping Breasts
When I'm not breastfeeding, I'm a 34 barely-B cup; I was not blessed with large boobs. Therefore, I do not really know what to do with them, and when I suddenly jumped to a 34 DDD after having my son (not an exaggeration), I had to rethink my normal bra routine. My breasts were heavy and moved a lot. I suddenly was less concerned with padding to hide my nipples and more concerned with not being bodily injured by my own body. I went to a running store and was fitted for a running bra that worked for my new lady lumps. I also made sure I fed my baby or pumped just minutes before I left for my run, which is something the website Sarah Fit has also recommended. I made sure to feed or pump until my breasts felt deflated and, honestly, like a shell of their former, full-of-milk selves.
3. The Thirst Is Real
Breastfeeding makes you thirsty. That's just a simple fact, according to European Journal of Nutrition. However, running moms who breastfeed? Well, you might as well forget any idea you have about thirst now, buy yourself a hydration pack, and prepare for a thirst the likes of which you've never felt before. Oh, so you thought you were thirsty after that 15K in Los Feliz last year? Just wait until you forget your water on a 10K now. I understand the thirst is even more profound for new runners. I spoke with International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and runner Jan Stringer of Deer Park, Illinois, and she tells Romper that if you're running in excess of 30 minutes, you should consider a water belt and small sugar snack-like jellybeans or the like in the event you accidentally overdo it or get lightheaded.
4. Your Supply May Suffer
"If you aren't vigilant with your calorie intake and your hydration, your supply can dwindle," says Stringer. Eat high quality foods, drink plenty of water, rest when you can, and feed on demand. All of these things can help boost or maintain your supply when breastfeeding and running.
5. Don't Worry, Your Milk Will Stay The Same
There are a lot of theories out there that running can change your actual milk but don't worry, they aren't true. Running while breastfeeding will not impact the quality of your milk. "Most moms aren't working out to the point where they've completely exhausted their resources, so it's not an issue. If you do, there might be a temporary spike in lactic acid in the milk, but it's really no big deal," says Stringer.
6. It Can Help Your Brain
Research would suggest that exercise can help combat the effects of postpartum depression and anxiety, according to Kelly Mom, and I did note this to be true. I suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder and ADHD, and my postpartum anxiety was off the charts. While I still needed many other coping mechanisms, running really did help settle my brain.
7. Your Running Posture Might Need Help
Stringer tells Romper that your new, larger breasts may change the way you run. If you find your back hurting more than normal after a run, or if your shoulders ache while you run, you need to readjust your posture. Start from scratch. Until those core muscles are used to the weight, it might be more difficult than you're accustomed to.
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