Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, midwife or nurse. The information expressed in the series “Running and Breastfeeding – By JBRobinBog.com” should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before running during postpartum.
I got allot of comments surrounding the subject of running and breastfeeding and how the one wouldn’t work with the other. I got comments about how my milk would dilute or become weak, I got comments on how my milk would go away, or my body wouldn’t be able to cope working hard to achieve both running and breastfeeding. But I wasn’t about to compromise on either of those two to produce enough milk for my baby whilst adhering to my fitness regime.
Breastfeeding is hard work, and I say this allot but, it’s really hard hard work. It means eating or not eating certain things depending on your baby. It means not sleeping through – not for the first few months and then if you’re lucky you won’t have sleep issues as baby gets older.
Running and breastfeeding has taken a lot of effort and planning. The first few months when I was home with maternity leave wasn’t as bad as I had the time to decide when to go and if my morning did not work out as I wanted I had the rest of the day to make up for it.
At month 4 I started working and everything changed. I had to plan carefully when I was going to sleep, get up for baby and when I was going to run.
My work is about 45min away from my house but with morning traffic I have to leave early to be on time for work, which means I need to get up early if I plan to run before work… I’m a morning person, so usually getting up does not bother me, but with baby keeping me up at night it has made the task really difficult most mornings.
Below basically describes the plan I have in my mind of how things need to go for a perfect Running-Breastfeeding-Mommy plan:
- Baby goes to bed at 18:00/19:00
- Baby has his last feed at 20:50/21:00 and
- Mommy goes to bed at 21:00/21:10.
- Baby wakes up for a feed at 3:00am, Mommy feeds baby and pumps out the remainder of the milk before run,
- Baby sleeps again till about 6:00,
- Mommy gets dressed and goes for a run at 4:00am. Perfect…
Below is what currently happens in my life:
It’s not so simple in real life.
- Baby goes to bed at 18:00/19:00
- has his last feed at 20:50/21:00 and
- Mommy goes to bed at 21:00/21:10.
- Baby wakes up at 23:00, 1:00am, and 2:00am and then again at 4:00am, Mommy feeds baby, Mommy calms baby, Mommy tries anything to get baby to sleep again with no prevail,
- Daddy helps Mommy with baby from 4:00am-5:00am, so Mommy can get an hour of sleep and in turn Mommy misses her run…
- Mommy gets dressed and goes to work, not perfect…
Because I’m still breastfeeding at 6 months , I’m the one that gets up for baby a t night because most of the time baby is crying because he wants to feed, and other nights it feels like it’s the only way for me to get baby to calm down. At 6 months I have now tried everything to get my Paul to sleep through, but it’s not working out.
We have now started solids as we were suspecting that he might need a little something extra, and because his basically big enough, showing all the correct signs and to be frank… Breastfeeding gets to me some days, So If I can get Paul to eat sooner rather than later, that would be great.
Here are a few things that I’ve learnt, encountered over the past 6 months of breastfeeding and running:
The Inability to plan:
You’d think that it’s easy to stick to a feeding schedule with a breastfeeding baby, but it’s not. You have to take things as they come.
- Running with empty breasts have since gone out the window; let’s be honest, some days I’m in such a rush to get out the house for my run that my main priority has become having Paul’s tummy filled rather than having my breasts empty. And if he is asleep I have learnt to leave well enough alone! I just pop some frozen milk into the fridge and tell my husband that there’s milk for the next feed. Alternatively, waking up a sleeping baby to empty me out has back fired too many times now and then my runs suffer.
- Plan for failure; I always have a set of running clothes set out for my morning runs, so I can literally dress myself in my sleep if needs be. Then I also pack a back pack with running clothes that I can take with me to work – so if the whole morning run blew up in my face with regards to baby duties etc, I just run at work, if I can, otherwise I just cry silently on the inside.
- Just go with it; Make yourself flexible and adaptable – teach yourself to just go with it, move on and move forward, don’t dote on the fact that things did not go as planned, you’ll just waste more time – move on and go run, grab the opportunity if it presents itself!
However much weight you gained, and lost again, just accept that nothing will be exactly the same as it was before, especially if your breastfeeding and not for a while. One moment your Breasts will be fine and the next you might have some freaky lump sticking out. You might look normal and the next moment you have these two huge balloons…
- Tank it out, before considering tank tops; Your fave running top might not be as flattering as before or it might fit you now, but in a few hours it might be a little small… Consider wearing tops that are flattering on you at the moment. Low cut under arms and open necklines might leave you feeling a little bare. I have found myself in the situations where I went for a race and ended up feeling very silly and self-conscious because my shirt clearly did not fit me the same way it did 4 hours ago before my run, and if you’re not close to baby or able to pump , this becomes a issue.
- Remember, You’re going for a run; When you run, things bounce up and down…. Unfortunately – I had the unfortunate experience and regret of wearing a top that previously fit me when my Breasts were much smaller. We were at a photo shoot, and I was running my little heart out for the pictures, only to blush myself into another dimension when I ended up seeing the pictures afterwards…. It might not seem so bad to others, but it was pretty embarrassing to me, and it made me regret my wardrobe option on the day ….
You can see the picture below…
Both images are with the same shirt, just different colours.
When I put the top on, everything looked fine, but after my milk came in….everything got a little big. Also We were busy working/shooting so I was unable to feed Paul at the normal time – causing me to get a little engorged… It’s safe to say I could have given Pamela Anderson a run for her money – or that’s how I felt at least.
- Sports bra’s Now come in two’s; As when you were pregnant and had to run with two bras – this continues – I wear one padded running bra with underwire – preferably a high impact bra, with a softer non padded sports bra over the top for some extra hold. Another reason why my photoshoot image flopped, I was only wearing one bra…
- Be Realistic, and don’t compare; this is a hard one for me… Looking at all the girls/ ladies around me and comparing myself to them. How they all look really pretty in their tank tops and evenly proportioned busts… and I feel like I’m literally a stuffed sausage. This makes one envious of all the other ladies that seem to be running a little more care free than you do, especially when I hit the 8km mark and my milk comes in, and you immediately feel heavier. The important thing to remember it that you are doing something very important and that is feeding you Baby. And that is for the most part the most important thing at the moment, this too shall pass in time.
Supply and Demand:
So here we go…
Here I’m going to contemplate with you a few things I have found with regards to my milk supply whilst running and Breastfeeding. I have to be honest with you and it’s a bitter pill for me to swallow seeing as I stood very firm to believe that running won’t affect your milk supply. But in all honesty I think it has to some degree. At 6 months Paul is still gaining weight and his health is perfect condition aside from a few terrible teething episodes.
- Full cream or low fat; breastmilk is manufactured for the majority from a maternal water take from the mother. That is why it is so important to remember to not get dehydrated and to continue drinking as much water as possible. When you express breast milk you will notice that when the milk cools down a little there is a small layer of cream at the top, this is the richness and fatty-ness of the milk. This can be closely compared to the hind milk.
I have found that when I express milk before and after a run the layer of cream on the top usually differs, depending on the distance I ran, the time of day and the weather. It basically comes down to dehydration and the water you lose when exercising.
(I will get a picture and update the post in time)
- How much do you actually run; the above did not happen when I was on maternity leave, I never had this issue and my milk was always very rich and my supply was always more than Paul needed. This helped me to build up quite a big milk supply for when I started working again. But previously I ran less than 90km per month and I was able to sleep a lot of the time of the day – taking about two naps per day, and Paul slept much better at night than he is sleeping now. So for me now aiming to get to about 150km-200km per month my mileage is bound to affect my milk supply, as it would affect most things in someone’s system, from your period to your immune system. SO I think if you’re not actually running the mileages that I’m aiming for then you don’t need to stress too much about your supply – just stay hydrated.
- It could be a combination of things; SO there are a number of things that can affect your milk supply, Maybe, just maybe, I’m experiencing all of these things all at once which is in turn affecting my supply.
- Less sleep: Paul wakes up every 2-3hours.
Paul is teething so he is soooo fussy
Getting up early to train, so less sleep
- Stress: Back to work – I can’t take as many naps as previously.
Back to work – work stress and traffic might be affecting me.
Pressure to perform – adding stress onto myself to train harder and do better at work after being away for 4 months.
- Less Demand: With Paul going to school my body might feel that milk is not so high in demand anymore, so my body is just producing less.
- High Intensity workouts; Doing more and more mileage per month might be affecting my supply.
- Lady Time: You period can also affect your milk supply in the days leading up to you lady time, so this could also be a reason.
So like I said it could be a combination of all of the above. But whatever it is, at month 6 Paul will be starting to eat more and more now, meaning that there might be a much smaller need for a large milk supply which is then actually fine. I bought myself these Fenugreek tablets (Picture below), so I’ll see if it makes a difference as well.
That’s the main things I’ve encountered but there are lots of things that could be different for you or that you might be able to relate to, either way please feel free to comment below if you have questions or if you want you can pop me a mail, and I can see if I have a answer for you.
If your currently Pregnant and want to continue running have a look at my ‘Running Pregnant’ Series, click on the links below:
Running Pregnant: The first trimester
Running Pregnant: The Second trimester
Running Pregnant: The Third trimester
Also follow me on Pinterest for more interesting articles on Running, Running and Breastfeeding and other Health related things
Jani du Toit
Mother, Blogger and Pattern maker from Pretoria
Age group: 30
Club: ASICS FrontRunner
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