We turned to Heather Kelly -- Bravado’s trusted breastfeeding brain and resource -- for some sage advice on the topic.
An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Heather has been affiliated with the Elizabeth Seton Childbearing Center and is a member of the Manhattan Lactation Group, a private practice group of four consultants in New York City. She also serves as a lactation consultant for Realbirth, NYC’s premier pre and post-natal education center.
Getting back into shape after growing and carrying your little one for nine months can be daunting. Starting on an exercise regimen too soon post-partum can put extra stress on you at a time when you are juggling so many new demands. Don't be too hard on yourself; it took nine months for your body to change and adapt to growing a baby, so it can take several months for your body to return to its former shape. However, breastfeeding in those early months can actually help the weight come off. The act of breastfeeding itself contracts the uterus back to its pre-pregnancy size through the repeated release of the hormone oxytocin. Additionally, the body of a nursing mother does not seem to need extra fat while her levels of estrogen are lowered.
In terms of exercising while nursing, there really are no rules or do's and don'ts. One thing to be vigilant about: make sure you don’t wear a sports bra or a restrictive bra for too long either before or after exercising. Since your breasts will be heavier and denser during lactation, it is important that your exercise bra be supportive and properly fitted. However, wearing an exercise bra for too long could set you up for plugged ducts or mastitis. Remember to stay hydrated during any exercise, including that during lactation.
In terms of dieting during breastfeeding, it is perfectly fine. Any diet you do should include well-balanced nutrition. Some women worry that cutting calories can reduce their milk supply; this is not true. Humans have evolved to nurse through famines and food shortages; dieting or cutting calories will not negatively affect your supply, especially if you are doing it in a healthy way.
So when you feel ready (and this could be several months after the birth of your baby) it is fine to resume an exercise/weight loss regimen – just remember to go easy on yourself and start slowly.