Does Exercising Lower Your Milk Supply?

This post is very timely, you guys, because this week I decided to get back in the gym after my year and a half hiatus! How do I feel? Sore. Very sore. But like my dad always says, “if it hurts, it means you needed it.”

After my second consecutive day at the gym, I got a little anxious about my milk supply. Will working out affect it in any way? I crossed my fingers and did some research to find out whether a drop was to be expected in the near future…

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What I found was this: Bodies are meant to be in motion.

It is healthy to work out during both pregnancy and postpartum months, as long as it is not to the point of exhaustion. Do remember, however, that your milk supply establishes itself around the 2 months postpartum mark. Working out before that point is not recommended.

The most important thing, I think, is timing: a few studies have found a buildup of lactic acid in breastmilk following high intensity exercise, and also a small decrease in supply in the 90 minutes following the workout. The key is to pump or nurse before your workout and aim for workouts that are (maximum) 1.5 hours in length. Take a shower and wait a little while before nursing or pumping.

While breastfeeding, you are already burning a ton of calories (about 500!) so working out should not be for weight loss during the first year. Instead, work out to feel good about and tone your new body, recharge, and do something other than being a mommy for an hour or two. Every woman is different when it comes to breastfeeding and weight loss (I know I lost the baby weight very quickly because of nursing, but do store fat in places like my butt if I’m not mindful of what I eat!) so keep your body and metabolism in mind when choosing a workout plan.

Interesting fact: it is easier to lose lower body fat (hips, buns, and thighs) when you are nursing compared to moms who are formula feeding!

Here are some tips about working out while breastfeeding or pumping:

  • Pump or nurse right before you go to the gym or work out. Your baby will not only settle for a few hours, but you’ll also be more comfortable throughout your workout (a tight sports bra can only do so much, and I speak from experience: engorged breasts suck.)
  • Drink a ton of water. Seriously. You’ll get dehydrated so much quicker than before. On my first day back, I forgot to take my water out of my bag and almost died of thirst on the elliptical. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the time.
  • Compensate with extra calories. A breastfeeding mom needs an average of 300 more calories a day because she burns about an extra 500 calories a day! When sweating and burning calories, keep your daily quota in mind. Always “eat to hunger”.
  • Make sure you give yourself enough time to get home and shower before baby’s next feed. Some babies reject a mother’s breast if it tastes salty (from sweat). Not an issue with Liam, but still something to consider. Every baby is different!
  • Don’t overdo it, especially if you haven’t worked out in a while. Start with simple workouts like walking on a treadmill. You may feel more tired if you overdo it, and your supply may temporarily drop because of the effort.
  • If you happen to lose too much weight too quickly (more than 1lb per week), simply adjust your calorie intake, hydrate, and decrease the length/intensity of your workouts. It’



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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

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