The first few weeks after labor and delivery will probably go by as not much more than a blur and the life you lived before your baby was born will, for better or worse, be little more than a distant memory. Running will likely be one of the furthest things from your mind during this time, as it probably should be. But once things have begun to settle back down and you start to get a better handle on your new life routine, you’ll probably feel the urge to get back out for a run growing. When your body is actually physically ready for a return to running is a somewhat more complicated question which will be the subject of a future post(s). But once you are able to resume running don’t think that this will automatically have a negative effect on your ability to continue breastfeeding as some would suggest.
You may have heard stories about babies refusing to nurse after their moms exercise because higher lactic acid levels in the breast milk gave it a bitter taste. As with many of these unsubstantiated “old wives’ tales”, the truth of the matter is a bit different. Medical studies have shown that moderate or even high intensity running does not increase the levels of lactic acid found in breast milk, nor does it negatively affect breast milk quality or quantity. It is usually only after sustained exercise at a maximal level of effort that increases in lactic acid levels are actually observed. So unless your trying to jump right back into maximal intensity workouts, which would be problematic for several reasons, you should probably be able to continue breastfeeding without issue even as you begin incorporating running and/or other forms of exercise back into your routine.
However, always remember that while you’re breastfeeding, a significant amount of your daily fluid and caloric intake will be dedicated to the production of breast milk. Because running burns plenty of calories and causes significant fluid loss through sweating, you’ll need to make sure that you replace both the fluids and the calories that you lose during your runs so that you don’t run into problems with insufficient milk supply.
If you are having trouble producing sufficient breast milk, there are several ways that you can try to stimulate an increase in your milk production:
- Make sure that your baby is nursing efficiently and not just sucking for comfort.
- Offer your baby both sides at each feeding.
- Try feeding more frequently and/or adding pumping sessions in between or after feedings.
- Try breast compression, which is a technique that can help keep your baby feeding longer.
- Make sure that you’re drinking enough fluids, getting as much rest as possible and eating a balanced diet.
- Try using natural herbal supplements, like Fenugreek, Blessed Thistle, Red Raspberry and Brewer’s Yeast.
- Talk with your doctor about prescription medicines that are available, like Domeperidone (Motillium) or Reglan, which have been shown to help with increasing milk supply in some women.
- Get in touch with a La Leche League Leader or a board certified lactation consultant who may be able to offer other suggestions.
If you’ve already tried several possible solutions and are still having problems with insufficient milk supply, you may want to try reducing your mileage or even stop running temporarily to see if that helps in correcting the situation. As was discussed in a previous post, breastfeeding for as long as you’re able is better for the health of both you, by reducing your cancer risk, and your baby so if you need to put your return to running off for a short while longer to continue breastfeeding, it’s best for everyone.