First off, I know breastfeeding vs. formula feeding CAN be such a sensitive subject for some reason… This is NOT to judge you for your decision – it’s not about weighing you down with some extra mommy guilt. THIS is about helping you educate yourself about breast feeding and working out – as well as giving you support IF that is something you need!
I breastfed all 3 of my little ones and am a huge “breast is best” advocate – however – at the end of the day, each of us are different, each of our little ones are different, and each of our journeys are different too – so a fed babe is the best.
Before we go into the details I wanted to share with you some of MY own story with my 3 little ones that NOW are 9, 7 and 4. Crazy how old they got in a blink of an eye!
I nursed my oldest daughter for 6 months and I had supplemented with formula from when she was about 3 months old – mostly because I didn’t know better and I didn’t have the support I felt I needed.
No one around me ever talked about breastfeeding or encouraged me to keep going and all I heard was that I shouldn’t nurse past 6 months because then she would be too old and get teeth etc… People around me thought that breastfeeding was kind of gross and that formula was just as good if not even better – because it would fill them up and they would sleep a lot better. And sleep was something I craved as a new mom – this didn’t come until she was almost 2 though… Haha!
If you know my story you probably know that our first daughter was not planned and I was NOT ready at all to be a mom. I struggled with postpartum depression, the opinions of others affected me tons, and I didn’t have a support system I so desperately had needed at that very hard time in my life.
My hubby was just as clueless when he came home from Iraq when my daughter Callie was almost 3 months old and all she did was scream and fuss.
She was a very difficult baby, but I always think back that I was probably a very difficult mom for her to deal with too. I was stressed, depressed, felt so lonely, had daily pity parties for the way I know looked and it felt impossible to ever “get my body back.”
Trust me, that kid changed our lives to the better and the love I had for that baby girl the second she was born was incredible and been growing since. She is our best “oops” we’ve ever had and she is growing up to be such an amazing big kid that has such a very special place in my mama heart.
Fast forward until after my second daughter Ella was born and my husband and I was in a much happier and better place together, I had a lot better confidence in myself as a mom and a much better labor, delivery and postpartum journey.
I didn’t care as much about other people’s opinions and I was a lot more educated and experienced as a mom and I knew that breastfeeding was important for me to do for at least her first full year. This was also the time when I started making tons of changes in my life – eating a lot better and learning about nutrition, and moving a lot more. I started with walks that turned into a few jogs and then I started working out at home. I nursed confidently out and about, almost never pumped and I was so happy, she was so happy, had less stomach issues etc. She never once had an ounce of formula and yes, I am so so proud of that. We ended our breastfeeding journey at 14 months I believe.
With Annabelle formula was not even on my mind really…
I was well into my fitness journey and worked as an instructor at a gym, and worked out up until the day I went into labor and nutrition was a passion of mine.
I was confidently nursing her until 16-17 months old when I stopped a little cold turkey. The only thing I wished I would have done differently was how we ended our breast-feeding journey. We were about to go to Sweden and stay for 6 months while my husband was in Afghanistan and I was just at that point when I was done and ready for my body to be my own again. I was stressed out that she would NEVER be done nursing so cold turkey seemed like the best option right then. However, I felt like crap and my hormones got all wacky for a long time after that.
Baby girl #4 will be here in + – 12 weeks and I am definitely planning to breastfeed her and although I’m looking forward to it, I’m also dreading it a little bit for some reason! The knowledge of a mom about to have her 4th is sometimes worse than all the things we are trying to figure out before we have our first. Haha. I have no idea how long we will breastfeed, I have no “goal” other than past her first birthday. And I know that it will go by so so fast just as it did with her sisters.
I’ve always found that my body knows exactly what to do when it’s breastfeeding. If I for some reason felt as my body was not producing enough milk, I just let my little one nurse more and longer and it would increase again. I never had a problem with supply, and I never had to do anything to really try to “make more” with teas, special nutrition etc like I hear some mom’s needing to do.
Now I’m making it sound very easy – it was not – and I definitely had my fair shares of sore, and painfully cracked nipples, engorgement, mastitis, long nights and days and lot of tears from both me and my little ones – although it takes a lot to be committed to nursing – for me it has always been something that I’m so proud of and something that has been so so worth it.
Also, I NEVER lost all of my baby weight until I stopped nursing 100% I always held on to my love handles and some weight around my tummy that just somehow came off as soon as I stopped nursing.
I will talk about breastfeeding and loosing weight below a lot more, but I want you to go into this – as with EVERYTHING else – with YOU in mind. Because we are all so so different, different back grounds, different outcomes, different labors and pregnancy’s etc.
OK! So that’s some of MY breastfeeding history. And let’s get into the good stuff!
“The days are long but the years are short”
The first thing I really want you to take to heart and put into perspective is that this is a really really short time in your life, the infant months, and the baby years REALLY goes by so fast. Although you are probably excited to get back into shape – and I have yet to meet ONE mom who is not at some level interested in losing weight or being able to put back on their “normal” clothes… But my advice to you is to take it step by step, slow and steady weight loss with focus on wellness and making sure you hydrate and eat enough calories. If you choose to go the breastfeeding route, and I’m guessing you are or thinking about that since you are reading this, the thing to remember is that YOU ARE YOUR #1 FOOD SOURCE FOR YOUR BABE.
But even though you are literally a walking fast food machine ready to whip out that boob at any moment, I’m also here to tell you that YOU CAN get back into shape and get back or into fitness for the first time ever – EVEN when breastfeeding and WITHOUT putting your supply, and health of you and your babe at any risk at all!
As with everything, we are all different and you should always ask your doctor if you have any concerns with your milk supply decreasing.
But generally for a mom who works out regularly and EAT enough calories and eat enough HEALTHY foods you can totally work out, start running and get back to bootcamp etc!
Listen, daily MOVEMENT is good for you! Breastfeeding is good for YOU and your little ones. There is just NO WAY AROUND these two topics no matter how much you try to twist and turn and look at different angles on this topic.
But let’s check out some of the most common questions that I get from mamas!
WILL WORKING OUT DECREASE MY MILK SUPPLY?
This is by far the most asked question. Many people think and hear that if you work out, you will risk your supply. The truth is, as long as you are not pushing yourself to the extremes every single time you work out, AND are eating ENOUGH calories AND hydrating the majority of us will be perfectly OK!
Some studies have actually shown an increase in supply when the mama is working out and eating right.
WILL MY MILK TASTE BAD?
It is true that if you are pushing yourself really hard AND then feed your little nugget right after you MAY have a bit of lactic acid in the milk. Some babies may be sensitive to this taste, but many don’t care. And it’s not dangerous in any way if your little one gets hungry right after you are done working out. Make sure you have cleaned off your nipple area so there is no sweat or salty taste, and also, if you can, maybe wait 30min or so for the lactic acid to subside or go away completely on it’s on if you have a sensitive baby.
I have however stopped many times in the middle of a work out to nurse my screaming little one and never had any problems with them not wanting to eat…
PEOPLE TELL ME I SHOULD NURSE TO LOSE ALL MY BABY WEIGHT, IF I DO, IS THIS TRUE?
Again, this is such an individual thing. I held on to 10 something pounds the whole time when I was nursing, and like a month after I stopped nursing it just “melted away.” But I have friends who lost all of their baby weight and then some because they nursed. Yes, your body will burn extra calories to create milk, but you shouldn’t breastfeed as a way to lose weight!
CAN I GO ON A DIET WHEN I BREASTFEED?
This answer is a little tricky, it depends, so… yes and no.
If you are talking about cutting calories, skipping certain food groups etc you need to be very aware of eating enough.
Listen, you need about 300-500 calories JUST to MAKE the milk, and if you are cutting the calories TOO low daily, your body will need to SLOW DOWN milk production and metabolism to not only keep YOU alive but also the BABY and it can cause a lot of stress on your body and YES, the milk supply CAN and probably WILL decrease.
As I mentioned earlier, YOU will be the #1 food source for your baby and you want to make sure that you eat enough and that you eat GOOD food. (I will share a list below with tons of great foods for a breastfeeding mom!)
If you are familiar with me, you know that I don’t like “diets” or to count calories (what mom has time for that anyway!?) But I think it’s important to know how many macros a day you should strive for (carbohydrates, protein and fats.) And then make sure that the QUALITY of these macros are on point for you to feel freaking amazing and energized and for you babe to get the best nutrition.
So it’s a NO if you are looking to go on a low-calorie diet and cutting out meals throughout the day, it will affect your supply and effect you with getting malnourished and tired.
It’s a YES if you are “cleaning up” your diet and eating more whole grains, more lean proteins, a lot more healthier fats and LESS to sugars.
HOW MUCH WATER SHOULD I DRINK WHEN I BREASTFED?
I usually tell my mamas to drink about HALF of their body weight in water ounces as a general rule of thumb. Another tip is to check out your pee – yep, you read that right. Next time you go to the bathroom take a look at the color of your urine. The lighter it is, the better hydrated you are. If it’s really dark yellow you need to drink some more water, if it’s clear and looks like water you are right on track!
Since water is important in the milk making, you will need to add even MORE when nursing – especially on days when you work out or it’s really hot outside.
Drink a glass when you wake up in the morning, drink a glass every time you nurse, bring a water bottle every time you leave the house.
Also, avoid ALL sugary drinks, yep, you saw that right, ALL of the soda, fruit juices, etc. It will add unnecessary sugars, artificial sweeteners, coloring etc.
Flavor your own water with cucumbers, citrus fruits, fresh mint, berries, water melon etc.
Don’t forget to limit your caffeine intake, research the green teas you may be drinking – some of them you should avoid when pregnant or nursing – and of course limit your alcohol intake as well!
Here is a quick guide with foods you should be eating a lot of when you are breastfeeding! Save it to your phone or pin it to your board.
Here are some great things you can prepare OR whip up super quickly and snack on while nursing. If you are anything like me when I nursed I was always HUNGRY and my cravings were actually WORSE than when I was pregnant!
Breastfeeding is a crazy journey. Don’t give up on it – hang in there! In the long run it is so so good for your little one and for YOU!
Please reach out to me with any questions, or if you are just looking for some extra support. Ask your doctor any questions you may have, contact a lactation consultant if you are having problems with latching etc. I had help with my oldest and it was worth GOLD to get the right help early on.
You are AMAZING – never doubt that for a second.