After carrying a baby for nine months, easing back into fitness can be rather daunting. Your body won’t feel like your own, and if you have chosen to breastfeed, you might be concerned that exercise or healthy eating may affect your supply, or your body, or both!
As always, there is lots of conflicting advice online, so here’s our guide to debunking the most common myths about breastfeeding and your return to fitness…
1. MYTH – You shouldn’t exercise while breastfeeding
TRUTH – First and foremost, it is completely fine to take part in regular moderate exercise while breastfeeding, in fact, the NHS recommends it, especially if you have put on a little weight while pregnant.
Brisk walks with your new mummy friends, or taking part in reasonably low impact activities will have no effect on your feeding or your milk supply, and getting out in the fresh air will do you and baby the world of good!
Listen to your body, as your muscles (especially lower back and core abdominal muscles) will be weaker after pregnancy, and get plenty of rest, too.
One thing to note, though – make sure you warm up thoroughly and gently and take it easy as your body gets used to exercise again. Post-pregnancy, your body will still be carrying higher levels of the relaxin hormone, which will stay around or longer if you are breastfeeding. Your amazing body produced relaxin to soften the muscles and ligaments in preparation for childbirth, but it does mean you could easily overstretch yourself when exercising and cause injury.
2. MYTH: You’ll need specialist active wear
TRUTH: You certainly don’t need to spend a fortune on breastfeeding-friendly sports gear (although some brands do make some incredible kit if you have the money!). However, due to your changing body and considerably larger boobs, it’s recommended to get measured for a sports bra and invest in a supportive one that will help lesson the impact upon your precious bangers!
3. MYTH: You shouldn’t try to lose weight while breastfeeding
TRUTH: If you have put on a few extra pounds while pregnant, it’s only natural that you will probably aspire to get back into your old jeans again one day, however, breastfeeding produces important nutrients for your baby, so the type of diet or plan you can do will be restricted.
The best way to lose weight while feeding is to eat a very healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruit and veg, and keep in mind that you’ll need extra calories on board while breastfeeding so your body can produce your incredible milk.
If you prefer the structure of a diet plan and weekly weigh-in meetings, brands like Slimming World factor in breastfeeding (and even pregnancy!) into their plans so you are guaranteed to get the extra calories, calcium and fibre that you need, all while losing weight slowly and sensibly.
If in any doubt, speak to your doctor or health professional and they will be able to recommend a healthy plan or local slimming club that you can join, that will accommodate breastfeeding and ensure that you and baby stay healthy.
4. MYTH: Breastfeeding will cause the pounds to fall off without trying
TRUTH: Ah, if only this was true! Sadly, breastfeeding doesn’t always work that way, and although some lucky mummies tell us that breastfeeding alone melted away the pounds, in many cases, it can have the reverse effect! In fact, even uber-fit queen Serena Williams has struggled to shift the pounds after pregnancy, despite breastfeeding and eating a super healthy sugar-free diet.
A recent Guardian article explored the biological reasons for not losing weight too, stating that “the breastfeeding hormone prolactin increases appetite, while sleep deprivation skews the balance of lepton and ghrelin (the “hunger hormones”), promoting cravings for sweet, salty and starchy foods.”
No wonder breastfeeding mummies are prone to a bit of cake!
Remember, if you have any concerns or worries, take it easy and most importantly, speak to your doctor or health professional. There’s no time limit on getting fit or losing weight, so take it at your own pace.