Ten weeks after delivering my second baby, I stood in line to use the porta-potty in Hopkinton before running my first Boston marathon. After a long 30 minute wait in line, I spent the next 15 minutes with a manual breast pump, emptying all the milk that I could and then sadly dumping it down the hole. I knew it would be at least 5 hours before my next opportunity to pump. When I finally emerged from the porta potty, the people in line behind me didn’t look too pleased with me, but what is a nursing mother to do before running a marathon when her baby is thousands of miles away?
Since that April day in 2004, I’ve learned a few things about nursing and running and by baby number four, nursing and running seemed relatively simple and enjoyable. Running and nursing can easily go together and are both beneficial for the new mom. Post-partum moms often get depressed and running can help with depression. Both baby and mom benefit from nursing too. Before starting running post-partum always be sure to have your doctor’s approval.
Here are some tips for new mothers wishing to run and breastfeed:
1 – Pump or breastfeed before you run: Completely empty both sides. You will be much more comfortable running this way. Mothers generally produce the most milk in the middle of the night so if you run early in the morning, this is especially important.
2- Wear a supportive bra or two: Most women will find their bra size has increased significantly and that they need more support than they did before baby. Some women find wearing two bras simultaneously works for them, but others just buy a more supportive bra. Two bras that come highly recommended are the tata tamer by lululemon and the Moving Comfort Women’s Fiona Bra
3 – Hydrate well: If you are not well hydrated, you may not produce enough breast milk to satisfy your baby. Try and drink water every time you are nursing. As a runner, you will need to be even more conscientious about drinking plenty of water.
4 – Take Glucosamine for joints: Post Partum moms will often have sore achy knees due to the relaxin hormone still in the body. Glucosamine can help and is safe for nursing moms.
5 – Invest in a good manual pump:
I ran the Wichita half marathon relay at 4 months postpartum wearing two hefty duty sports bras. After the relay, we went to Chipolte's and ate. I went to the bathroom to pump. After getting all "geared up" to pump, the electrical outlet wouldn't work. Needless to say, I was pretty miserable by the time I got home. --Michele Ellis of Hutchinson Kansas
Manual pumps can go anywhere. They do not require batteries or an outlet and take up little space. They are perfect for pre-race or to throw in your car and you get in a bonus arm workout!
6 – Run on treadmill, in loops near home, or with jog stroller – One of the hardest parts about being a nursing mom is being away from baby. Sometimes, you are their sole source of food and you feel guilty leaving them at home while you run. Taking some time away from baby to take care of yourself is a good thing, but sometimes it’s hard to convince yourself of this. To elevate some of the guilt, you can run on a treadmill near baby or run small loops around the house so that you are never far from home. Of course, you can take baby with you in a jog stroller if the weather is good.
7 – Learn to nurse in bed: Runners require extra sleep and getting enough sleep with a new born baby to have the energy to run can be difficult. If you learn to nurse laying down at night, you will get a lot more sleep and from my experience, so does baby.
8 – Store up a good stash of milk in the freezer: It’s easiest to store milk in the beginning when your milk first comes in and you have an abundant supply. If you have stored up milk in the freezer, and baby will take a bottle, you will be able to leave for longer periods of time. It’s always good to have a nice stash of milk just in case you end up on medication that you cannot take while nursing or compete in a longer race or training session.
9 – Shower or rinse off before nursing: Mothers often worry about the quality and the quantity of their milk due to running. Studies have shown that lactate acid can turn naturally sweet mother’s milk a bit sour and remains in the milk for about an hour post-exercise. However, most babies do not mind the lactate acid and nurse just fine. There are no harmful effects on baby if baby drinks the milk. However, most babies seem to nurse best if you shower or rinse off before nursing to wash away the salt. Some studies have shown that the quantity of milk can increase slightly in women who exercise regularly.
Go ahead. Run and nurse and it’s good for you and baby!