This post probably contains affiliate links, to items I am in love with, and I am confident you will too! For any health advice I give on nutrition and weight loss, make sure you check with your doctor, as I am not a health professional. I am just a mama with lots of health and fitness knowledge and experience.
Exercise can affect your milk supply as a breastfeeding mama, but not with the gravity you might expect. Many breastfeeding mamas worry that exercising postpartum will negatively affect milk supply, and cause a drop that will affect their babies. This isn’t entirely true, and it is definitely not a main cause for milk supply to drop.
The truth is, many mamas start dieting while they are exercising, so there is a nutrition factor going on at the same time as the exercise. Your milk supply could appear to be dropping, but exercising isn’t the cause. If a mama reduces calories, but does not maintain a highly nutritious diet, then we have a recipe for your body to struggle making enough milk.
In reality, most postpartum mamas entering into a fitness plan aren’t burning as many calories as they think, and it does take quite a bit of calorie reduction to signal to your body not to produce milk. It is a nutrient-deficiency that is going to play a major role in signalling your body to slow down on milk, and STORE FAT! That is why I teach such a nutrient-dense diet in my program. That way you can lose all the weight you need to, with out any affect on milk supply. Your workouts however, will not burn enough calories to cause you to lose your milk, unless you start running over 6 miles. 20-30 minute Pilates, or HIIT workouts don’t burn that many calories, especially if you are taking breaks between sets and ultimately feeling more burn in your muscles, rather than breathing hard. Cardio is really what is going to burn the most calories, so if you are running or jogging miles, then you may be burning too many calories, but that is highly unlikely due to the fact that extreme hunger can really set in, to combat any reduction in calories.
If you stick to Pilates, low-impact, strength and HIIT workouts postpartum, it is very likely your nutrition in conjunction with the workouts that is causing your milk supply to drop. Another factor that comes into play is that you start paying attention to your milk supply too closely, and think your supply is dropping, when really it is just where it needs to be.
Milk supply needs change as baby develops. There are naturally times when your supply is a bit low, and the extra feedings are pumping it back up. These times may coincide with a workout program, so it could seem that they are related, rather than just parallel events.
What do do if you are positive exercise is affecting your milk supply:
If you are completely convinced exercise is reducing your supply, here is what I want you to do:
Add in protein shakes: I recommend this protein powder blended with frozen fruit and spinach to infuse your body with lots of protein and nutrients. This will help your body all around, and encourage muscle recovery, as well as milk production.
Nurse your baby through the night: Offering more feedings are going to increase production. There are lots of tips in this little gem of a resource, and one of the best ways to increase your milk supply are to breastfeed all your baby wants and more. This actually helps tons.
Start going on long walks: I don’t want you to stop all physical activity. That isn’t going to solve the problem. I want you to walk at least 40 minutes 5 days a week. Get your body used to moving ,and walking is healing, therapeutic and wonderful. It also doesn’t increase your heart rate too much, while still burning some calories and maintaining some activity.
Clean up your diet: make sure your body is getting all the nutrients it needs! I have a complete meal plan and program that fills your body with healthy foods that promote milk supply and losing the weight. The key is to make sure your body as the nutrients it needs, so it can use stored fat to make breast milk. This is so important!
You may be tempted to halt your workouts and up your calories, when what your body really needs is more nutrients all around. This can be difficult to change habits, and it may feel more immediate to just stop workouts, but I highly recommend looking for more of the root of the issue, which can cause a more abundant milk supply going forward. Promoting a rich and healthy supply through nutrition is beneficial for baby too!
If you struggle with milk supply as you start your postpartum weight loss journey, make sure you are taking a hard look at your nutrition first, not your workout. See what kind of foods you are eating, and where you might be able to make adjustments to eat high quality foods. My free 5-day jump start is a great place to start for postpartum mamas, to help take you through making some changes with baby steps!