Have you recently given birth to a new family member? Did your doctor clear you to start adding some exercise back into your routine? Let these five benefits of exercise while breastfeeding guide you back into shape.
1. Maintains a Healthy Weight
Women gain weight during pregnancy, and being overweight is a risk factor for various diseases. Exercising postpartum is an excellent way to remove excess fat. Breastfeeding burns about 500 to 700 calories daily, and pairing that with moderate exercise can help you return to a healthy body size faster.
Before signing up for a gym membership, ask your doctor how soon you can engage in
low to moderate physical activities. Remember to maintain a balanced diet featuring fruits, vegetables and whole grains if you want to return to your usual, active lifestyle.
2. Improves Your Mood
As many as 84% of infants breastfeed after birth, but this goes down to only 58% after they turn 6 months old. There are several reasons why mothers stop or don’t breastfeed at all, some of which are unavoidable, but some we may be able to fix — one is having a down or saddened mood.
Exercise can put you in a better mindset. It’s completely safe to do while breastfeeding and won’t change the taste of your milk or make it any less nutritious. Instead, it will make you feel happier. One study showed mothers experiencing postpartum depression significantly reduced their depressive symptoms after creating an exercise routine.
3. Boosts Maternal-Infant Relationship
Since exercise makes you feel more optimistic and reduces symptoms of depression, it can increase the bond between you and your baby.
Breastfeeding is a form of mutual interaction between mother and child. It’s one way that they bond, as their bodies “communicate” breastfeeding signals between them. Babies are hungry and the mom makes milk to feed them.
One study found that mothers with a low risk of postpartum depression breastfed their babies more than those with severe symptoms. This means moms in a better headspace may be able to spend more time with their babies through breastfeeding. Nursing mothers also touch their babies more often, which is the primary language of a mother’s love for her infant.
4. Makes the Baby Healthier
One study determined that moderate exercise after giving birth increases milk protective compounds called 3SL. Babies who drink this compound reduce their risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease, obesity, and diabetes later in life.
The study was initially conducted on mice born to sedentary mothers. The pups were fed milk from moms who were fit throughout their pregnancies. The result was health benefits transferred to the newborns, proving that some traits can be passed through breast milk. The same results were evident in a human study.
5. Elevates Energy Levels
Your new responsibilities as a mom will deplete your energy faster. Exercising can give you a power boost to tackle child care and will improve your sleep.
Going to the gym or stretching at home can elevate your endurance and muscle strength. Cardio makes various body systems work efficiently to support your daily activities. It can also increase your tolerance to stress, so you have more bandwidth to juggle tasks without burning out.
Exercise Can Support Moms in a Healthy Way
The only time exercise is bad after giving birth is if you do it too excessively or amp up routines too quickly. You now have a baby to care for, so be gentle with yourself. Work out cautiously and ask your doctor about safety, especially if you had a cesarean section or have another pre-existing condition.
Your body may still be healing from a traumatic event, and may need more time to recover before jumping into an exercise routine. How quickly you are able to return to exercise may also be related to how active you were during the pregnancy. Again, your doctor can answer personalized questions if you aren’t sure how much is too much.
With any exercise program, you will also want to be sure to stay hydrated, as milk production relies on this! Sweating away the pounds is great, but be sure your body is kept hydrated at all times.
You’ll have more responsibilities as a new mom, but remember to prioritize self-care, too. Physical activity can help you develop the muscle and bring back your body, and give you the endurance to bond with your baby.