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Feed and Run - Tips for Breastfeeding Runners

Let's be clear about this. Running and breastfeeding are entirely compatible. by Dr. Juliet McGrattan

When you're looking after a baby, the benefits that being active gives you are huge, from improved mood to higher energy levels, from peer support to raised self-esteem; there's rarely a more important time to be putting on your trainers. Mums however do need some reassurance and advice to help them feel confident that breastfeeding and running are a good combination. 

Let's start by dispelling a myth. There's lots of conflicting advice about Lactic acid and whether or not it will not harm your baby. Lactic acid is a by-product of exercise. The higher the intensity of your exercise, the higher the levels of lactic acid will be. Lactic acid can transfer into breast milk. Moderate exercise hasn't been shown to increase breast milk lactic acid levels. Lactic acid present in breast milk after high intensity exercise has not been found to be harmful to baby in any way. 

So whether you're leaving your baby with someone else while you run or whether you're taking them in the pram and stopping to breastfeed on the go, here are some top tips for breastfeeding runners:

Strap 'em in. It's crucial that your breasts are well supported when you run. You should get a professional bra fitting if you can. Don't assume you will stay the same size throughout your breastfeeding era. Soon after you've given birth your breasts may be a lot bigger than they are a few months down the line. There can also be a big difference in your breast size pre and post feed too. You might need a selection of bras. You might also find you need the support of a crop top over your bra if your breasts are heavy or tender.  

Pad up. Breast milk can often leak out at the most unexpected times. Sometimes just thinking about your baby can produce milk and if you're away when a feed is due then you might find wet patches showing on your bra and T shirt. Breast pads can be a life-saver. Disposable pads often have a sticky strip on the back to help keep them in place but do check out the washable pads too which you can throw in the washing machine with your kit.

Protect your nipples. Breastfeeding can be tough on your nipples. They can get sore and cracked and just plain uncomfortable. Running can add extra trauma from salty sweat and friction, so if you're struggling, then blob on some lanolin cream or petroleum jelly to protect them. Check whether the product you use advises you to wash off before you next feed your baby. A breast pad can add extra comfort too. 

Feed and run. The best solution when it comes to running and breastfeeding is to feed your baby before you run. This way your breasts are lighter and your baby is satisfied so you can relax more when you're out. If you are happy to express milk before you run, then this will also lighten your breasts and ensure a feed is available for your babyminder to give while you are out. Some women say that intense exercise changes the flavour of their milk and their baby refuses it - feeding before you run or giving expressed milk on your return are two solutions but this isn't a common problem.

Drink up. It's super important to hydrate yourself properly. Producing all that milk is a thirsty job and if you then do a sweaty work out you can easily get a bit dry, so remember to drink plenty of water before, during and after your run.

Fuel up. Running won't affect the quality of your breast milk if you are fuelling yourself well and eating adequate nutrient packed calories. Go for quality of food rather than quantity and have healthy snacks between meals. Be mindful that it's easy to become iron deficient when you're breastfeeding, you will already be low in iron stores following pregnancy. Eat lots of iron-rich foods and don't forget that you'll still need to take a Vitamin D supplement (10 micrograms a day is recommended in the UK) until you stop breastfeeding.

There's more tips on exercising as a new mum in Dr McGrattan's book Sorted: The Active Woman's Guide to Health published by Bloomsbury.

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