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Does Exercising Affect Breast Milk Production?

By Jessica Lietz ; Updated June 13, 2017

Exercising provides many health benefits, especially to breastfeeding mothers. There is no known evidence that lactating mothers who exercise experience any problems with the production of breast milk. Taking steps such as drinking extra water when you exercise and making sure you consume enough calories helps maintain your energy level for both breast milk production and exercising.

Misconceptions

Exercise does not significantly impact your level of milk production or the taste or nutritional value of your milk. No significant change occurs in the amount of lactic acid in milk produced during or after a moderate intensity workout, and no known harm exists for breastfed babies whose mothers exercise, reports the American Academy of Pediatrics. In addition, a baby of a lactating mother who exercises shows no differences in his willingness to accept his mother’s breast milk after a workout.

Dehydration

Dehydration is a common cause of temporary decreases in your milk supply. Intense or prolonged workouts or exercising in hot weather often leads to dehydration. Women who are breastfeeding require a greater fluid intake than non-lactating women, and exercise further increases the amount of water that your body needs. Drinking water before, during and after your workout helps prevent reductions in your milk supply caused by dehydration. Caffeinated, sugary or alcoholic beverages exacerbate dehydration and do not count toward your daily fluid intake.

Considerations

For your own comfort, consider nursing or pumping immediately before you exercise. Avoid wearing sports bras with wires, as these often lead to plugged milk ducts, which cause a temporary reduction in the amount of breast milk your body produces. When doing upper arm exercises, start slowly, advises the Breastfeeding Basics website, as repetitive upper arm motions such as weight lifting also contribute to plugged ducts. Both exercise and production of breast milk consume energy, and you might need to increase the amount of calories you consume to avoid depleting your energy levels and your body’s reserves of vitamins and minerals.

Benefits

Exercise helps many new mothers relax, and relaxation contributes to an effective let-down reflex when pumping or nursing your baby. Many exercises allow your baby to participate with you, such as wearing your baby in a wrap or sling while you walk at a moderate pace or loading your baby into a jogging stroller and going on a run. Stopping to rest and nurse during your workout helps relieve any engorgement if you are taking a long walk and keeps your baby hydrated and happy.

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