Everything you need to know about breastfeeding and running
When I was pregnant, I realized there were not many resources for breastfeeding and running mothers, so I created one! Here is everything you need to know:
What to do the first two weeks with breastfeeding and running
Nothing! No, seriously, take this time to focus on establishing a latch, letting your body heal, and bonding with your baby. Don't worry about trying to figure out breastfeeding and running quite yet. When your doctor clears you to exercise, take a look at this post on how to begin working out postpartum!
When and how to introduce the bottle
Lactation specialists suggest it's best to introduce the bottle when the baby is around two weeks old, and after the latch has been established, but not so late that they won't take it. This is especially important if you are returning to work and the baby will need to be comfortable taking a bottle. The bottle was crucial for us when I began running (it still is!). This is because if the baby wakes up while I'm out running, my husband won't have to groggily figure out how to soothe a hungry baby. In fact, we always keep a bottle on the nightstand for him to give her in the morning if she wakes up while I'm out.
What if my milk supply drops because of running?!
This is actually a myth. Running itself does not cause a reduction in milk supply, but rather other external factors such as stress and dehydration may negatively impact your supply. Some women also experience a dip in supply if they are not eating enough (I talk about that below). Kelly Mom has a fabulous post that goes more in depth with the topic of exercise and breastfeeding. The literature she references are definitely true in my case, too, as I have only noticed my supply drop during stressful times, or if I wasn't drinking enough water, but never because of exercise. I am running more intense workouts and faster than I have in my entire life, and I am still breastfeeding my daughter at 9 months old. So, it is definitely possible to be successful in both running and breastfeeding!
How to schedule running around nursing
It's difficult to know the best time of day to run, especially in the beginning when it seems like the baby eats every 2 hours. What has worked for us since I began my postpartum journey, and what I recommend to all new moms, is to become a morning runner. It's not glamorous, and of course it isn't easy getting up to run, but it makes breastfeeding/pumping very simple and straightforward. The plan is to run between ~5 am and 7 am, and pump or nurse before going out. When babies are not sleeping entirely through the night, they generally become hungry around 5am. Additionally, a woman's milk supply is most plentiful in the early morning hours, which makes it easy to pump a bottle. See the sample schedule below.
Sample AM breastfeeding and running schedule
Wake up either from the baby crying or your alarm. Grab an easy snack out of the fridge. The baby will most likely wake up around this time anyway, so rather than seeing it as a bad thing, hop out of bed knowing you're excited to go for a run! (ha ha if it was this easy, right? ;) but really! just a little perspective shift. I promise it's not that hard!) If the baby does NOT wake up, then simply grab your pump. Either way, you'll need to get the milk out because running with full breasts is no fun.
Finish up pumping or nursing, and put baby back down if she woke up. Leave a bottle by dad's nightstand in case baby wakes up while you're out. Change into running clothes, drink a glass of water, tip-toe out the door.
5:30 am-6:30 am:
Run like the wind, forgetting all your worries because you're a badass running early in the morning and you have a moment of silence to yourself :) IT'S SO WORTH IT!
Back home, grab a quick bite to eat, snuggle that babe, drink lots of coffee, get ready for the day!
How many extra calories do I need while breastfeeding and running?
Do a google trends search, and this is one of the top questions typed into google by mothers. Rightly so! I read so many different things when I was wondering this myself, and because there was a lot of conflicting information, I actually hired a nutritionist. I don't think that is entirely necessary, though. One easy way to burn fat, change your body composition to be a little more toned, as well as recover well from running is to keep track of your protein intake. I recommend using the formula below to calculate your protein needs, and simply keep up with the grams per day via MyFitnessPal. I found I didn't need to worry about getting extra calories if I was hitting the right amount of protein. The weight I wanted to lose came off quickly, I feel very confident in my body, and I'm faster than I've ever been. I also never experienced a dip in supply due to lack of calories.
Protein need for endurance athletes= (weight in pounds) x (.8 to 1 grams of protein)
Example: If you weigh 120 lbs, you will need between 96-120 g protein per day.