Post-partum fitness for breastfeeding mothers

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bottle of baby milk on dark grey table

By Puja Gupta

New Delhi– Exercise, along with a balanced diet, is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Light to moderate physical activity is safe and beneficial for breastfeeding moms, as it does not affect the amount, taste, or composition of your breast milk.

Common issues faced by post-natal moms is back pain, bulging stomach, postural changes, weight gain etc. If you’re just starting an exercise program, be sure to start slow.

If you are unsure if an exercise is safe, call your doctor’s office. If the delivery was not complicated and as a new mom, you were exercising till the end of your pregnancy, then soon after delivery you can begin light exercises as well as stretches, Ruth Patterson, Chief Lactation Consultant – Cloudnine Group of Hospitals tells IANSlife on the occasion of World Breastfeeding Week, marked from August 1-7 every year.

Basic core exercises within the first three days post birth like isometric abdominals, pelvic floor exercises, gradual back exercises along with breathing exercises, ankle movements ease swollen feet and aid in circulation, the expert says.

“Start working out for short periods of time a few days a week, then gradually increase your activity level. Stop exercising if you feel pain or experience palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath, or an increase in vaginal bleeding. Breastfeed or pump your breast milk before you begin your work out. Full breasts can make exercising uncomfortable and wear breast pads if you’re concerned about leaking.”

What you should know about workout and breastfeeding

As you begin your work out journey, there are a few things to keep in mind, Patterson points out:

Always check with your doctor first before you begin an exercise program.

Start working out for short periods of time a few days a week, then gradually increase your activity level.

Stop exercising if you feel pain or experience palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath, or an increase in vaginal bleeding.

To prevent injury, spend a few minutes warming up before beginning your routine, and take a few moments afterward to cool down.

You should drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration, so have a glass of water before and after your workout. You can even keep a water bottle with you during your workout and have a drink when you take breaks.

Breastfeed or pump your breast milk before you begin your work out. Full breasts can make exercising uncomfortable.

Wear breast pads if you’re concerned about leaking breast milk while you’re working out.

Wear a supportive bra that fits you properly. A very tight bra or one that does not provide enough support can be uncomfortable and put you at risk for mastitis.

If you tend to develop mastitis, you should limit upper-body exercises, especially lifting weights.

Some babies don’t like nursing when mom has been sweating (due to the salt on mom’s skin) so you may wish to rinse your breasts or take a shower before nursing.

If you regularly lift weights or do other exercises involving repetitive arm movement and you develop plugged ducts.

Avoid losing weight rapidly

Consume at least 1,800 calories per day

How does strenuous exercise affect breastfeeding?

Although light to a moderate fitness program is safe and healthy, vigorous exercise can lead to a breast infection and cause a decrease in your breast milk supply. It can also change the taste of your breast milk. Strenuous exercise can cause lactic acid to build up in your body and enter your breast milk, giving your usually sweet milk a bitter taste. Sweat can also change the taste of breast milk making the breasts taste salty. Some babies are not bothered by these changes, but others may refuse to breastfeed.

There are many benefits to exercise. It’s good for your circulation, muscles, strength, and even your mood. Some ways working out benefits breastfeeding moms:

It improves overall health and well-being

It stimulates the release of endorphins, those feel-good hormones that help chase away the baby blues, boost your mood, and make you feel happy

It raises your body’s level of prolactin, the hormone responsible for the production of breast production

It gives you energy

It helps relieve stress

It increases lean muscle and keeps you fit

It can help prevent heart disease

It may lead to a better night’s sleep.

Along with a healthy diet and breastfeeding, regular exercise can help you lose your pregnancy weight.

Here are a few safe and easy ways to get started.

Go for a walk: Carrying your baby in a baby carrier or pushing a stroller is an excellent way to get moving and enjoy the fresh air.

Join a Mommy and me exercise program: Find a yoga class or other exercise class that incorporates the baby into the workout routine. Mommy and Me classes are also an excellent way for new moms to meet and socialize.

Go for a swim. Swimming is a fantastic low-impact, whole-body exercise.

Work out at home. Use a workout or dance DVD or hop on the treadmill.

Always remember that exercises release endorphins which are great mood elevators, sleep enhancers, weight loss solution and improve fitness levels giving you more energy to handle the new responsibilities and relieve stress. This also reduces the baby blues, boost your mood, and makes you feel happy. Along with a healthy diet and breastfeeding, regular exercise can help you lose your pregnancy weight. (IANS)

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