Earlier, women were advised to wait for at least 6 weeks after giving birth to begin exercising.1 However, exercise is one of the best things you can do for yourself after pregnancy.2
Benefits of exercise on the mother
Regular exercise after pregnancy assists in your wellbeing in multiple ways. For example, it can:2,3
- Improve general fitness and mental wellbeing
- Improve energy levels
- Reduce stress and promote better sleep
- Promote weight control
- Improve bone strength
- Improve heart health
- Reduce post-natal depression
However, as a breastfeeding mother, you may be worried whether exercise can affect breastfeeding.3
Effect of exercise on breastmilk supply
Some research suggests that lactic acid accumulates in the breast milk after high-intensity exercise (exercising to the extreme of exercise intensity) and it may affect the taste of breastmilk, but this is rare.2
Mild or moderate exercise does not cause lactic acid build-up and does not affect a baby taking the milk.3 Since the goal for most mothers is improving/maintaining their fitness and general wellbeing, high-intensity exercise is not relevant anyway.3
Thus, mild to moderate exercise does not affect:3
- Breastmilk supply
- Important immune factors in breastmilk
- Major minerals in breastmilk (calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium and sodium)
- Major nutrients in breastmilk (fat, protein, lactose) or energy density
- Growth of the baby
When can you start exercising?
In case of an uncomplicated pregnancy and vaginal delivery, you can begin exercising a few days after giving birth or when you feel comfortable. In case of a C-section, talk to your gynaecologist about when to start exercising. Normally, you might be able to start light exercises about 4 to 6 weeks after your delivery.1
Begin slowly with simple exercises that strengthen your abdominal and back muscles. Gradually increase the intensity of exercise.1
Few exercise tips to remember
- Breastfeed before exercising for your comfort3
- Wear a supportive bra3
- Stay hydrated3
- Mayo Clinic. Weight loss after pregnancy: Reclaiming your body [Internet]. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth/weight-loss-after-pregnancy/art-20047813. Accessed on Feb 27, 2020.
- Mayo Clinic. Exercise after pregnancy: How to get started [Internet]. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth/exercise-after-pregnancy/art-20044596. Accessed on Feb 27, 2020.
- Australian Breastfeeding Association. Exercise and breastfeeding [Internet]. Available at: https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bfinfo/exercise-and-breastfeeding. Accessed on Feb 27, 2020.