Take a moment and think back to the early postpartum weeks. Other than sleep, was there something you couldn’t wait to do? Some part of your routine pre-baby, something that made you feel great, that you were dying to resume?
For me, it was running. I love running, admittedly to the point of being annoying. And while I did continue running while pregnant (I ran a marathon with my first and was still running two days before giving birth to my second), I hit the pause button on it for a few weeks after delivery.
When I got the all clear to resume running at my six-week appointment, I was excited. I needed running. I craved the stress relief, the fresh air, the majorly sweaty, slightly sore feeling that only comes from a well-earned workout.
For running enthusiasts, this story probably sounds familiar.
For those who loathe running, I do not judge you (I used to hate running!).
Whether you ran before baby or have an interest in starting post-baby, I want you to know that yes, you can run and breastfeed.
Getting back to running after a few weeks off (and, you know, birthing a human) I expected challenges. I expected to be tired and slow. And I expected that I would need to start running just one mile.
Those were valid concerns. I expected what comes with running while being a new mother. What I didn’t expect was how breastfeeding would affect my running, and vice-versa.
I had read about professional runner Kara Goucher and her dilemma of choosing between running and breastfeeding because doing both wasn’t possible.
But the majority of us don’t face the same challenges — running 100+ miles a week and meeting contractual obligations to perform at an elite level, just weeks after giving birth.
Most of us have the freedom and flexibility to just run. However, even as non-elite athletes, running while breastfeeding still is not as simple as lacing up and heading out.
Again, I want you to know that yes, you can get back to running while breastfeeding. And I’m sharing three must-dos pre- and post-run that will help you get back into it.
Pre-Run Must Dos: The “B’s”
You are ready to hit the pavement. Yes!
Every breastfeeding mama knows the importance of hydration. Both because running dehydrates and breastfeeding moms need more hydration, be sure to take down extra liquid on run days: water, Gatorade, any favorite, hydrating beverage.
For the sake of your bladder, do this gradually leading up to the run. Try not to chug water just before. And if running first thing in the morning, allow time to take in fluids.
I cannot imagine anything more uncomfortable than running with full boobs. Not even chafing holds a candle to that scenario. Whether it is nursing your little or a pumping sesh, empty the breasts as close to running as possible.
Again, because of the need to be super hydrated, breastfeeding moms pee a lot. Especially early in the postpartum journey or if you have issues with leaking, it is important to empty the bladder right before heading out the door. Make it the last thing you do.
Oh, you just peed 15 minutes ago? That’s nice. Pee again. Literally, the last thing you do.
Post-Run Must Dos: The “Re’s”
You crushed that run. High fives! Or, maybe you barely survived. Put ‘em up high mama, I’ve still got fives for you!
In addition to drinking lots of hydrating beverages pre-run, it is also important to guzzle down post-run, and throughout the rest of the day.
Also, replenish calories lost. A post-run snack is good for any runner, but is crucial for breastfeeding moms to keep up energy and supply.
To keep the body strong and injury free, a good cool down and recovery stretch is crucial. I have various yoga poses I do after every run (hit me up if you need suggestions!) to avoid tightness and injury.
This is also the time to do pelvic floor exercises. Whether you have had five babies, one baby, or no babies, a strong pelvic floor is a must for all runners. These exercises will look different for everyone, but definitely make sure you are doing the ones that are right for you.
Note: Pelvic floor health is a very important topic. Because every woman’s pelvic floor needs are unique, I suggest seeing a specialist to find out what is right for you.
I did not want to include this and I cringed while typing it. Relax? C’mon, Lindsay. I have children, when do I relax? I get you. Here is what I mean by relax.
Do you like to plan activities and outings with your littles? Yes! Do them another day, do not to plan anything elaborate in the hours after a run.
Is there is housework to be done? Of course! Do it tomorrow.
Is your toddler allowed screen time? Awesome! Now is the time to plan for him or her to have it.
Would it be bad to order dinner? Not at all! Let someone else do the cooking.
These are all ways to work in a little break and relaxing time. Do them.
An easy way to remember what to do pre- and post-run for when you are exhausted and need a reminder of even what day it is: before the run, it’s the “B’s.” After the run, it’s the “Re’s.”
Challenges for Breastfeeding Runners
Like anything worth accomplishing in life, running comes with a special set of challenges for breastfeeding moms. Here are three I want to share.
Challenge #1: Hard Work
You are already working so hard. Not only is your body producing the best form of nourishment for a child, you are taking care of a young child or, in some cases, children. Add to that the million other daily tasks and just getting through the day can be exhausting.
It will be hard to get out the door some days. Give yourself grace. Set realistic goals. And keep your expectations in check.
On the flip side, while running is hard work, it can be relaxing. I know, odd right? But it’s true. Running can be great stress relief, it increases energy, and it is something that is just for you. All day, we are “mom.” Running lets us just be “me.”
Challenge #2: Time
No longer can you just put on the kicks and hit the pavement. There’s a lot of planning that goes into a run now, fitting it into the schedule, and everything that needs to be done before and after.
I’m a big fan of planning workouts in advance. That is good advice for anyone and in the case of breastfeeding moms, planning ahead is essential to getting in a run.
Challenge #3: Supply
I’m not going to dance around this one and it is probably the biggest drawback for most breastfeeding moms: running may cause a hit to your milk supply.
It may not happen or it may be a small dip, barely noticeable. But I think it is important to know that is a possibility, both to set expectations and to try to prevent it.
I wasn’t aware of this with my first son. And was caught off guard when my supply took a hit after I started running. I spoke to a lactation professional and she offered advice, that I am now following with my second child and sharing here.
My list of three “Re’s” includes some of the best ways to keep up the milk supply — eating/drinking enough to overcompensate for what was lost during the run, and any relaxation you can get.
Additionally, we all know the best way to keep a supply strong is to nurse or pump. Don’t skip that pre-run pump session and, depending on your babe’s feeding schedule, be ready to nurse or pump soon after a run: ideally, after a shower.
If running makes you feel good, you absolutely should get back into it as soon as you are ready. With extra planning and effort (and of course, a good sports bra) yes, you can run while keeping the breastfeeding game strong.
Happy running, mamas!
Do you have more questions about running after baby? Are you in need of exercise motivation or help to get moving? Connect with me on Instagram or Twitter, or find more running and wellness advice on my blog, wellirl.com.