Breastfeeding and Running
Today is the last day of World Breastfeeding Week and as Liv and I are in the end stages of weaning I thought it was a fitting time to share a little bit about our experience with breastfeeding and some tips that I found helpful this first year.
I originally decided I wanted to breastfeed because of the money saving aspect but over the past twelve and a half months I have truly come to cherish breastfeeding and the sweet moments Liv and I have shared through it. We’ve had a relatively easy journey, in the beginning we did struggle latching on the right side and Liv was a lazy eater (aka – she fell asleep every time she nursed) but after one session with a lactation consultant it has been pretty smooth sailing.
I knew I wanted to return to training pretty seriously at some point during the first year and was nervous about how breastfeeding would affect my training and vice versa. Luckily, I haven’t found either to have a negative impact on the other. I think the two biggest factors that have made that possible are…
1) I am very conscious that I was eating and drinking enough to fuel both my training and breastfeeding. I don’t count calories don’t recommend doing so but it’s important to keep in mind that breastfeeding burns 300-600 calories a day. That means if you go out for an 8 mile run you need to refuel as if you ran 11-14 miles. Thinking of it in terms of miles helped me to gauge the amount of food I needed to eat because I had a pretty good idea of what I would eat after 14 miles.
2) I waited a significant amount of time after Lavinia was born to increase the volume and intensity of my training. I started up running easy runs a few weeks after she was born but it wasn’t really until April (9 months postpartum) that I started training on the same level I had been before I got pregnant. This gave Liv and I plenty of time to get in a good, established breastfeeding rhythm.
General Breastfeeding Tips
- Take a breastfeeding class – Our birth center required us to take a breastfeeding class and it was SUPER helpful! I can’t stress how important it is to take a class solely focused on breastfeeding. Having knowledge of what to do, what is normal and who to ask for help will really build your confidence with breastfeeding. If I hadn’t learned about cluster feeding before Liv was born I would have got absolutely crazy during those week long periods when she was waking up every 45-60 minutes to nurse. The first week with Liv we had a issues with latching on the right hand side and lazy eating (falling asleep after a few minutes of nursing) and it was nice to have a list of lactation consultants to choose from that our instructor trusted. After one hour with the consultant we were armed with a handful if helpful tips and tricks.
- Don’t worry about “losing the baby weight” – Breastfeeding is going to make you super hungry, especially in those first few months when your baby is nursing round the clock. Don’t try to diet or worry about trying to lose the weight. You will need all of those calories that your body is craving to keep that milk production up in addition to fueling your training. Also, keep in mind that for some women breastfeeding helps them drop the weight they put on during pregnancy really quickly and for other women breastfeeding causing them to hold on to a few extra pounds. If your goal is to successfully breastfeed (whatever that means to you) your baby don’t try to be losing weight at the same time.
- Invest in a good water bottle – I have never experienced thirst like breastfeeding thirst. You will feel like you can’t possibly drink enough water, so if you don’t already have a water bottle that you love it’s a great time to invest in one. I love the Camelbak Eddy water bottle because it has a straw and is easy to drink with one hand – which is perfect because your hands will be full with a little one. Staying hydrated doesn’t inherently increase your supply but it’s impossible to produce enough milk without being hydrated
- Buy some nursing bras and tank tops BEFORE your baby is born – From day 1 it’ll feel like you are breastfeeding non-stop so stock up on some nursing tanks and bras to have on hand when baby arrives. For me tanks were easier than bras at first but as I started going out and about and wearing “normal clothes” I started gravitating more towards the bras. (pro tip: dark colors hide spilled/leaked milk better than lighter colors)
- If you are interested in natural methods to increase production consider Fenugreek and/or Mother’s Milk Tea – of course consult with your doctor before taking any supplements but these were both recommended to me by my midwife and when I took them I noticed a significant difference.
- Take the opportunity to eat lots of lactation cookies – They sound funny but boy are they tasty and they actually help! My favorite recipe is this one from How Sweet Eats.
Running Specific Tips
- SLOWLY increase your training volume – It is entirely possible to train and breastfeed but everyone has a different threshold of where their training volume can be before it impacts milk production. It’s a good idea to slowly increase your training load and monitor how it affects each increase affects your milk production. There were a few times I scaled my training back in order to keep my milk production up.
- Pack your breast pump in your race day bag – If you are going to be racing during the first year I definitely recommend bringing your breast pump with you on race day. For the half marathon I ran in November (Liv was 4 months old) I brought my breast pump to the starting line and checked it in my gear check bag. I pumped a little bit in the bathroom before the race and if she hadn’t been at the finish line so I could nurse I probably would have pumped after as well. For this to logically work you may have to buy a manual pump or a car outlet converter so you can use your electrical pump on the go.
- It’s inevitable that you will feed your baby when you are sweaty post-run – It happens to all of us. Sometimes you come back from a run, your boobs are full, your baby is hungry and there’s no time for a quick shower before your nursing session. Just remember a little sweat/salt never hurt anyone 😉
* While I have loved my experience with breastfeeding and want to be a support for other moms that chose that path I also want to stress that I support all moms and how they choose or need to feed their babies. Fed is best. 🙂
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