Strenuous Exercise and Nursing...

Updated on April 19, 2008
K.L. asks from Washington, DC
21 answers

I'm happy to say that I've been able to nurse all 5 months of my little girl's little life. I would like to keep nursing as long as we can. I am beginning to get back into training for a season of road cycling. I cycled (lightly) all through my pregnancy, literally up to about 1 week before delivery. So, I'm not starting from scratch. I have read that it is fine to work out and nurse, and so far, little girl has never protested the milk post-workout. I am wondering how to manage these upcoming road rides (100 miles) that take the majority of the day...will cycling all day and not nursing/pumping be a problem? these things start really early in the morning, before she wakes up, so i'd have to pump before i go and then it would be about 5 hours of riding and then another hour or so before i return home...Does anyone have advice on the logistics or impact of not pumping for possibly 6-8 hours? She is just 5 months and is still nursing exclusively with a little bit of rice cereal now and again when we have time to fit it into the day.
thanks for the help!

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So What Happened?

Thanks for all the responses! happy to hear responses from other people who exercise regularly. I think I probably took all the advise that works in my favor :) What we'll try to do is pump a lot the week before an event to get the milk supply up, make sure to pump in the morning and bring the pump with me in the car. I may even be able to give the pump to an event volunteer to have them place at a lunch stop....I don't think I'll have an engorgement/leaking problem. She sleeps on average 11 hours a night, and I'm not pumping then, and I hardly ever wake up engorged...and I have never leaked...weird, huh? Anyway, the first century is May 10, so hopefully it'll all work out. And thanks to the suggestions to add a little formula if need be...Its funny how you forget that that is an option :)
thanks to all!
K.

More Answers

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A.P.

answers from Richmond on

K., just a quick response to your relating going all night without needing to pump & going about 7-8 hours without breastfeeding. With breastmilk, it is demand creates supply. So as your body adjusted to your young daughter sleeping all night, it did not produce milk then. It creates the milk according to additional or decreased stimulation. Hence no engorgement or leaking. It was all gradual, not sudden.

So honestly, I question you pumping a lot the week before. There are so many variables in this... what is your training leading up to the event, what is your current breastfeeding schedule? If you increase pumping the week before, you will increase the amount of milk your body produces, hence the possibility of more engorgement on the day of the event.
One possibility is to add one time a day, beginning now, where you pump & freeze. A time that is relaxed & about 2 hours after & before feedings. Maybe a late night or early morning before or after she sleeps. Between now & May 10th, you'll build up a supply that you can use if you need it after the demanding day.

The physical exertion of the race day can affect your milk supply... It is one thing to exercise for an hour a day, another to vigorously exercise for 5-6. If it is a one time thing, likely you can recover & build up your supply post event. If it is ongoing, many events, it can affect your daily breastfeeding. One other thing to keep in mind, our body releases hormones that do filter through the breastmilk. So if you have had a demanding day, those "stress" hormones go right through. They may not affect the physical taste of the milk. They can affect her emotional state. Just food for thought.

Only you can decide what is best for you. Weigh your options, decide what is most important for you & your lovely daughter. The fact that you have breastfed exculsively for 5 months is awesome & great for your daughter. You will know if the timing is best now for the distance cycling, or, if, as a new mom you can wait a bit, cherish thiese precious moments with your daughter, & perhaps do the distance cycling once she has been weaned onto eating healthy foods.

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M.K.

answers from Washington DC on

I don't know about the exercising part of your question. Definantly talk to a doctor or lactation specialist about that. I went 5-6 hours a day 2 times a week without nursing or pumping and my supply was still enough for my son (at about 3 months till 5 months). I nursed him right before I went to work, then I pumped in my car before I drove home. You could do something similar if you find that the exercise won't affect your milk too much. That way you will limit the time you have between nursing. Nurse right before you leave and maybe again before you start the ride (use a pump then)and then pump in your car before you drive home. If it isn't every day and you make up for it with pumping the number of times your daughter drinks a bottle while you are gone it might be okay. I am not an expert though. Hope this helped some.

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N.C.

answers from Washington DC on

Hi K.,

Congrats on your baby girl... and congrats on successfully nursing her exclusively. Good for you for continuing your passion for riding. I think it's important for moms (especially new moms) not to give up what was meaningful to them prior to becoming a mommy. Of course, things can get a little tricky once you are a mom, espcecially a BFing mom. There are so many demands on you physically, and it can be hard to get away for 2-3 hours, let alone 6-8 hours.

I am a runner. Prior to giving birth to my son (almost 5 yrs. now) I ran 3 marathons and countless road races. I trained with a group that met every Saturday morning. I ran until 20 weeks pregnant and stopped b/c I was having weird pains that scared me. Anyway,
I swam and stayed very fit throughout that pregnancy. Once he was born, I walked my neighborhood once-twice a day (I'm at home full-time) and resumed running when he was 5 months. I exclusively BF him (he refused the bottle completely). That said, I did not start out with several hours of exercise.

It may be difficult for you to be away from your daughter for so long. Without pumping, you will be uncomfortable, and once you get over being uncomfortable, it may affect your milk supply (every mom is different). I don't know, 100 mile rides doesn't sound combatible with nursing, but I could be wrong.

I nursed my son until he was 20 months, and then I forced him to wean because I was ready. My daughter effectively weaned herself on her 18 month birthday. Each nursing experience was unique. My son was easy, my daughter more of a struggle and I supplemented her with bottles of BM and then some formula when I needed to. I only add this to say that when nursing is over, it's over. It's such a special thing to share with your child and so good for her. I'm not trying to guilt you, it's just that you might miss it when it's over.

If you want to continue nursing your daughter, then do it. You could cut back her nursing (you will anyway once she is eating more solids) if you want to make training a bigger part of your life. I knew moms who supplemented with formula and still nursed successfully until their kids were toddlers. You have to do what's right for you and your daughter. Happy moms make happier babies.

I ran a half marathon when my son was 13 months. I haven't run another marathon, but I haven't really wanted to and it's a long story (high risk pregnancy with daughter). I stay fit today running, walking, gardening and running after my two very active children!

Good luck with it all, you'll make it work. I realize I didn't offer any concrete advice, but take it for what it's worth.

Best,

N.
mom to son (nearly 5) and daughter (nearly 2)

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B.L.

answers from Washington DC on

That's a long time and you may become uncomfortable- setting yourself up for mastitis. Also be careful and work with your doctor with respect to proper hydration. The relative of a close friend of mine died during the Marine Corps Marathon. She was a nursing Mom and inadvertently over-hydrated during the race. Not trying to scare you, but it's just that your body is set up to nourish your baby right now and you don't want to hurt yourself, either.
B.

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A.B.

answers from Washington DC on

When I returned to running after giving birth, the big challenge was trying to find the right sports bra. This is tricky because sports bras compress and compression is not great for nursing breasts. It can lead to reduced production at best and mastitis at worst. Plus, they were downright uncomfortable!

In addition to full breasts being uncomfortable, especially while exercising, not emptying them regularly can lead to health problems.

If your daughter has never had a bottle, introducing one a five months will be tricky. (LLL recommends trying a cup.)

Going back to a demanding work-out schedule is a decision that's about more than just exercise--it's about reclaiming a part of your pre-parent life. Such a schedule is not easily compatible with full-time nursing. When you make this choice, be informed and aware of its potential consequences. And remember, there's often a middle ground. Regardless of what you choose, give yourself the chance to change your mind.

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E.J.

answers from Washington DC on

I haven't been strenously exercising, but I had to stop pumping during the day at work for my own sanity and the fact that 15 year old kids that I taught couldn't come talk to me at lunch. I have not pumped for 9 hours a day for the past 4 months. My milk supply has gone down and I am really not able to pump more than 2 oz per breast any more at a time, but on the good side, I still can nurse on demand whenever he needs it and seem to have enough milk in the mornings and in afternoon and evening. Lucas at 10 months is continuing to do well. Good luck.

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S.O.

answers from Washington DC on

Hi K.,

I nursed for 20 months, and my husband road cycles, although he doesn't do centuries. Kudos to you for that!

If you're not pumping at the times she would normally be nursing, your body will be sending the message not to produce as much milk and therefore your supply will drop. (And if demand goes up, then so does supply but it takes a few days.)

I just did some quick research online. Some of the basic information I found was simple: drink lots of fluids to replace the fluids you sweat out (fluid intake is very important, even if you're not exercising strenuously while nursing), get plenty of sleep, and adequate food intake. (Duh!) And I also found this on the website for the La Leche League:

http://www.llli.org/FAQ/exercise.html

You might also want to consult with them for more detailed information.

Basically it sounds like you'll just be reducing the amount of milk you produce, and therefore she won't be nursing as much. Depending on how often you'll be away training and cycling, you may have to supplement with some formula. Don't feel bad if you have to do that. You're still giving her breastmilk when you can, and every little bit helps. :-)

Once you start giving her more solids or formula, be prepared for the poop to have odor!

If you find your supply has dropped too much, you can take supplements to help. My period started back when my son was about 9 months old and my supply dropped drastically. I went to a breastfeeding clinic while I was visiting my mom in MS and the doctor (an M.D.) recommended I take 2000mg of calcium and 1000mg of magnesium per day. The La Lecha League also suggested I take the herbal supplement Fenugreek, which can be found at GNC. I did all the above, and was able to continue nursing until my son finally weaned me at 20 months.

Good luck and please let me know if you have any questions!

S.

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A.F.

answers from Washington DC on

Can you take a lunch break and nurse the baby during your break time? That is what I would do. What's more important: your bike miles or your happy baby? AF

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S.W.

answers from Norfolk on

Great for you for doing the best for your little girl by nursing!!! Yes, it could cause problems to go 6-8 hours without pumping or nursing. Your milk supply could diminish, you could end up with mastitis, or clogged ducts, etc. You can check with the La Leche League (www.llli.org) or a lactation consultant for more specifics.
Good luck to you!

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J.L.

answers from Washington DC on

I think your little one should be fine with some pumped mommy's milk and rice cereal. You, on the other hand, may end up quite engourged by the end of the day.

I had a day away from my son when he was around 8 months. He did fine with daddy for the day, But my boobs hurt pretty bad by the time I got home.

Hope This Helps a Little.

-J. L.
Mother of 2. Son 3 yrs. old, Daughter 10 mos.

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G.M.

answers from Washington DC on

Hi K.,
I too have a 5 month old little girl. Congratulations. And I too am still nursing. I went back to work when my daughter was three months old. I pump once a day at work. I usually leave the house around 5 am and pick up my little one at 3:00 pm. I pump between 10 and 11:30 everyday. The longest I have gone without pumping or nursing is 5 1/2 hours. I was pretty engorged at this point and uncomfortable. I would pump minutes before you leave the house, or pump in the car on the way to the event. This way your pump will be in your car and you can pump as soon as you are done. This should take a least an hour off of your time. I hope this helps....(I'm new at this too!)

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L.P.

answers from Washington DC on

Our daughters have exactly the same birthday! I wish I were as in shape as you must be. But I CAN share that I was recently away from my daughter for 5 hours without pumping. My mom babysat her and fed her about 6 ounces of my bottled milk. I fed her as soon as I got back because she was hungry, but I could probably have gone another couple hours without getting extremely uncomfortable. Come to think of it, I usually dont get uncomfortably engorged unless its one of those freak nights where my daughter sleeps more than 11 hours.

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L.K.

answers from Washington DC on

Hi K.,

Mother of 7 here and I'm all about exercising and keeping myself in shape. I'm going to be honest with you. After 5 hours of cycling, your breast are going to become enlarge and start leaking. That's the reality of nursing. I suggest that you start weaning her during the day around the time you'll be gone. Maybe you can continue to nurse in the morning and evening and once during the day. All depends on how dedicated you are to getting back into your sport. If this is just a one day/one time thing, you could always suffer the enlarged breast and leaking, but if you plan to continue with the biking, then in my opinion you'll need to scale back the nursing.

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R.A.

answers from Norfolk on

I don't want to sound dumb but is there any way you take a break and pump or nurse? I was never away from my kids for more than a couple of hours when I was nursing exclusively - I didn't pump very well and didn't have much stored - so didn't have much choice. It could be very uncomfortable at first if you are riding at a time when your body is used to nursing and it will effect your milk production eventually depending on how many days you ride. Is there any one you ride with who might have gone through this and could give you some constructive advice?
All the best -
R. A

D.S.

answers from Allentown on

Hi K.,

Pump your breast on your routine. Contact your local Le Leche League and see what they can suggest.

www.lllusa.org/VA/WebTidewaterVA

Hope this helps. D.

L.A.

answers from Washington DC on

That schedule is definitely going to reduce your milk supply. Of course, we're all built differently, but an example I went through deminished my supply and took me a week to build it up again.

I don't know how many days you'll be on the road with that schedule, but all it took was one day for me. I went to a full day seminar where there was no way I could pump in between workshops. I was in pain from the buildup, so I had to hand express in the bathroom during breaks. My daughter was 7-8 months and already on solids, so I didn't think it would be a problem, but it was!

Good luck on your race, but just expect it to be uncomfortable if you don't break to pump.

~L.
www.accesspilates.com
www.notaboutfood.com

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K.L.

answers from Washington DC on

All I can say is WOW! 100 miles of biking on a regular basis is pretty amazing. Anyway, I don't know if it's possible to do that and nurse, but what I do know is when I started running again (only about 3 miles every day) when my kids were about 4 months old my milk supply dwindled. And it wasn't like I was gone for hours or missed any feedings. I think the exercise in and of itself can slow milk production. I just started doing formula at that point because, not to be selfish, but I was ready to have my body back to myself. Be prepared for that possibility. Good luck!

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L.K.

answers from Charlottesville on

Hi Karisa,

First of all, congratulations on your healthy nursing relationship with your daughter! Just so you know a little about me, I've nursed my daughter for the past 14 months.

As a general rule, when you are away from your baby, you want to pump at the times you would have nursed. However, this isn't really the option you have in your situation.

Here are a few questions that may impact you:

1. How often do you plan to do this extended time away from your baby? If it is only once or twice a month, I doubt it will be a problem. Just make sure you have saved enough milk in your freezer for her to drink while you are away.

2. How many normal feedings will this cause you to miss? I know about the morning feeding, and I assume at least one more. If you get up extra early to pump before you leave the house, you should have some milk by the time you get to the riding site. I'd recommend taking your pump with you and getting a car adapter for it. When you get to the riding site, take a few minutes and empty your breasts and put the milk on ice. This way, you will have pumped 2 times that day, which should remind your body to keep making milk.

3. Nurse as soon as you arrive home. Ask your husband or babysitter not to feed the baby right before you arrive home so that she is ready to nurse.

Good luck, and enjoy those long rides.

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A.S.

answers from Washington DC on

Hi K.! Great that you are nursing your baby girl. I teach exercise and do sprint triathlons. I nursed my little boys until one was 10 months (he self weaned) and the other until he was 14 months old. The strenous exercise is not a problem if you keep yourself hydrated. The 6-8 hours might be b/c it could effect your milk supply, although if you can keep it at the shorter end you should be OK. I would just make sure to pump more on the days you are not cycling to keep the supply up. Good luck!

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F.J.

answers from Washington DC on

Unfortunately it will probably affect your supply. That's a long time to go without feeding/pumping for a baby that age. I tried to vary my feeding schedule that much with previous babies, and the problem ended up being that because it wasn't a regular schedule, i.e. like that every day, then I'd get too full on the days I didn't do the pumping/feeding and get engorged, which is quite painful - twice it even ended up leading to mastitis, and then the next couple of days my babies didn't get enough milk, until my body adjusted up again. If this is something you want to pursue, you might want to try and adjust your daughter's schedule to ALWAYS have a bottle during that time, so your body will adjust to those breaks, and know to make more milk during the times that you will be pumping. Or you could decide you want to give her a bottle of formula at that time where you would skip the feeding, and then nurse her the rest of the time. Some people will try to tell you that nursing is an all or nothing deal, but it's not - I've successfully combined breastfeeding and formula with 2 of my four babies. Good luck, and feel free to email me if you have questions about how to make this work - I'm not a doctor or a lactation consultant, but I've breastfed 4 babies now, the youngest of whom I'm still nursing at 17 months. I'm always happy to help if I can.

Mary/F.
[email protected]____.com
http://F..typepad.com

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K.C.

answers from Washington DC on

There is no doubt it will affect your supply. If this is just an occasional thing, your supply may recover. The thing you should also consider is that if you are nursing regularly and then just one day do this ride, you will most likely become very engorged and it could even be very painful for you. Personally, I think I would postpone the long rides for a few more months, until your daughter is nursing less, it would be better for both of you.

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