Many women believe breastfeeding their child will help them lose the weight they gained while pregnant. While it’s true that breastfeeding burns about 500 calories a day. If you’re not running a deficit you’re not going to lose weight. But how much of a deficit is okay when your breastfeeding?
This is an important question for any endurance running mother who is breastfeeding her child, even when not trying to lose weight. Having enough milk to feed your child is obviously very important if you want to continue breastfeeding. The best way to maintain your milk supply is to drink lots of water and eat enough calories.
Many ultrarunners survive on calorie deficit pretty much everyday. Even marathon runners are going to have days where they don’t replace all of the calories they’ve burned. If you’re trying to lose weight, you’re going to have to fiddle with your calorie intake, but start with a 200 calorie deficit. Wait a couple of weeks before creating a bigger deficit. You shouldn’t be doing any dieting until your milk supply is well established at about eight weeks post partum. You shouldn’t be losing more than a pound a week.
Runners who are not trying to lose weight will need to monitor their calorie intake and milk supply.
The available research shows that exercise does not impact the composition of your milk. Breast milk contains protein, carbohydrates, and fats to help your baby grow. The other important thing your milk gives your baby are the antibodies you already have in your system. This is a major reason breastfeeding is recommended. Your baby can’t get those antibodies from formula.
Spend some money on a good sports bra. You’re going to need some solid support. And when your baby is under a year, you probably need a bra you can nurse in too. The Brooks Juno has been perfect for me.
Newborns eat every two hours or more frequently. Feeding on demand is the best way to make sure you have enough milk and your baby is getting what he/she needs. Infants feed every 3 hours. This means it’s going to impact your running. Once your baby has a schedule, you should be able to get away for shorter runs. Long runs over two or three hours will require some planning and help. You’ll either have to have someone bottle feed your baby expressed milk or bring the baby to you to feed her. If you bottle feed, the issue you’ll run into is full breasts. You’ll have to stop to pump milk. There is a new breast pump called the Willow. It fits into your bra and doesn’t have any wires or tubes. Find it here.
Running ultras and breast feeding are definitely compatible. Here are some tips to make the partnership work out:
- Feed baby or pump before you go out for a run
- Make sure you are consuming enough water and calories to maintain your milk supply.
- Find a way to pump on the run or feed baby during long runs.
- Get a really supportive sports bra.
- Be flexible with your running schedule to meet your baby’s needs especially before some predictability is established.
- Consider splitting long runs up.
- Take baby with you on runs and stop to feed if needed.
- Pay attention to caffeine in your sports gels, chews, and hydration.
- Throw a hand pump in drop bags where you can’t feed your baby. You’ll just have to dump it, but it will make you more comfortable. You don’t have to empty your breast just skim some off the top.
- Practice the plan during training, before you register for a race.