I am a breastfeeding runner. When I started running over a year ago, my baby was 5 months old and receiving all of his nutrition from me. Since completing the Couch to 5K program, I have run several 5Ks, a 5 mile race, a 10k, and I am currently training to run a half marathon. Did I really just say that?!?
Now my “baby” is a nursing toddler. I still feel very new at this running thing, but 3-4 times a week, you can find me plodding along at my turtle’s pace, trying to fit in a couple of miles before the kids wake up in the morning.
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If you’re interested in becoming a runner, you might think you need to wait until the baby is no longer breastfeeding, but that simply isn’t true. With a little bit of planning, you can totally make it work.
Hydrate, Hydrate again, and Hydrate Some More
Every breastfeeding mom knows that water is her friend, but this is especially true for the breastfeeding runner. Lately I take a large, reusable Tervis water bottle with me everywhere I go so that I can drink water without even thinking about it.
Empty Out First
Always nurse the baby or pump before running. Then there’s no need to worry about a hungry baby while running and you won’t be as “full.” Trust me, you’ll be a lot more comfortable while running!
A Good Sports Bra is a Must
This should go without saying, but you’ve got to take care of those mammary glands! I’ve heard of moms who wear a nursing bra plus a good sports bra on top of it for extra support. I really didn’t want to do this because I knew there would be times I would need to nurse my baby immediately prior to or after running, so I found an amazing sports bra that works for nursing too. I love the Fiona bra by Moving Comfort.
It is perfect for high impact sports like running and it’s especially rated well by those with larger cup sizes. It is not designed for breastfeeding, but it has a very unique way of adjusting the straps that actually works beautifully for nursing. The straps have Velcro that loop through the top of the bra for adjusting. By simply pulling the strap out completely, you can easily nurse your baby. I have nursed a baby prior to running my 5K races, and this bra is perfect for it. Even now, if I make it home from a run just prior to bedtime, then I might need to nurse my toddler as soon as I walk in the door so that I can put him to bed. The Fiona enables me to do this.
I’ve also heard wonderful things about the Moving Comfort Juno, but I haven’t tried it yet. I love my Fiona too much to try anything else, but it’s worth mentioning because I have heard it’s even more supportive than the Fiona.
I want to mention that I actually dealt with something called costochondritis, chest wall pain, as a result of not having adequate support while running. I had to stop running for a week or two and switch to the Fiona to correct the issue.
And now there might be a white elephant in the room. If you’ve ever worn a sports bra regularly, you might know that certain things are more visible than you’d like them to be. This is especially true for a nursing mom, and if you’re actually going to run any races, then you might be concerned about actually being seen in your running gear. There are actually a lot of products that can help with this issue, but if you want something that is reusable and will not bother you while running, then check this out. It’s what I use and I don’t even notice it.
The Lactic Acid Question
I’ve always heard that exercising can cause a buildup of lactic acid in your breast milk, which would then make your milk taste funny and baby would be less likely to eat it. But you know what? Now I’m reading that it might not be true. And if so, it would only happen for those who are exercising at 100% intensity, which is probably not going to happen with a newer runner. But even so, it’s completely worth it to give running a try. Most likely, your baby will not be bothered by it at all. For more information, I highly recommend this article on KellyMom that examines exercise and breastfeeding issues.
Milk Supply: Prioritize Your Baby
Remember, he won’t get another first year of life. This is the only time he’ll be breastfeeding and it’s the best start that you can give him, so make your nursing baby your #1 priority. If you feel you don’t have an adequate supply, then slack off on running or wait until later.
However, I’ve honestly never had milk supply issues–I’ve only had perceived supply issues. With my first baby, I was often concerned that I lacked a good supply simply because I was no longer engorged all the time like I was in the beginning. I find that new nursing moms often feel that they have a milk supply issue, when in fact they have more than enough and baby is gaining weight just fine. So before you stop running completely, really analyze whether or not you truly have a supply issue.
But with that said, your baby really is your main priority and if he is not gaining weight well, then your fitness routine will need to go on hold. Since I was a new runner, I was not running fast enough, hard enough, or long enough for my milk supply to suffer.
Good hydration, nutrition, and sleep are really important here. If you take vitamins and supplements, now is not the time to slack off on them. If your baby is waking up 4 times a night, you might want to wait a little bit longer before starting an early morning running program. When I started running, my little one was 5 months old and still waking up frequently. Early morning runs would not have worked, so we simply ran in the evening. With three kids. In jogging strollers. It was a hassle and it completely changed our evenings at home for a while, but it was worth it for my husband and I to become runners and establish the habit. Now we run in the mornings.
I try to remember that one of the main reasons I’m exercising is not out of a sense of selfishness. I’m not trying to push aside my family’s needs. I like to keep in mind that my family needs a healthy and happy mom. The more I exercise, the more success I have with losing weight, which affects my energy and overall health. And when I exercise regularly, I’m better equipped to care for them and meet their needs. I’m also healthier emotionally. And my children will learn to take better care of their bodies as they watch their mommy doing the same. It’s hard to make time for it, but it really is a win-win situation in the long term.
Have you ever been a breastfeeding runner? What would you add to this list?