3 ways to stay fit, increase breast milk supply, and support muscle recovery

Does getting or staying fit feel like an overly ambitious idea right now? If you’re juggling a load of things at once and simply don’t have any room for yourself, a lot of mamas can relate. Breastfeeding is a busy time and keeping yourself and your baby fed can be more difficult than you might have expected.

You’re on the clock 24/7. Your baby needs you and only you. So, it makes sense that your needs might take a back seat. But it’s also important for you to unwind and focus on your postpartum recovery. Getting back into an exercise routine or starting a new one (after your OB/Gyn gives you the all clear), is a great way to do that. 

Still, you might be wondering if it’s even possible to fit in fitness while breastfeeding. Without getting a Time-Turner (Harry Potter fans, holla!), there are some surprisingly simple ways to successfully juggle everything.

Ask your partner for help

You are supermom. But that doesn’t mean you should be doing it all by yourself. Your partner is there to help. In my house, we have a rule — when both babies are asleep, I exercise. My partner knows this rule, so at lunchtime, when (miraculously!) both of our daughters go down for naps, everything gets dropped and he works out with me, or encourages me to exercise solo. 

He also listens out for the baby and tends to her, if needed. The simple act of passing the childcare baton makes me feel liberated—even if it’s only for 20 minutes. I know I have his support, and it’s motivating. I can focus completely on myself and whatever I choose to do during that time.

And it doesn’t have to stop there. Your partner can also pitch in by cooking healthy meals. Mine makes a delicious vegetable curry with chickpeas, which helps me hit my daily protein target.

“Protein is especially important to your postnatal eating plan, because it keeps you satisfied and is critical for repairing your body from the wear and tear of the previous nine months,” says Michelle Braude, MBBS, author and founder of The Food Effect.

Dr. Braude also recommends having a high-quality plant-based protein powder on hand. “I love adding protein powder to porridge, overnight oats, smoothies and healthy, homemade protein balls,” she says. “It’s an amazing, delicious, and convenient way to ensure you meet your protein needs.”

If you love working out in the morning before the little ones rise, ask your partner to support you by setting up your protein-powered breakfasts the night before. Working as a team to prep healthy meals and snacks can help you stick to your fitness and breastfeeding goals. And it can bring you closer as a couple.

Just do 10 minutes of yoga

“As a new mom, it’s so important to remember to nurture yourself as a woman, as a mother, and as a goddess,” says Emily Cuckson, a yoga and meditation instructor. She recommends breastfeeding moms practice at least ten minutes of yoga daily, to strengthen the spine, cultivate patience, and improve posture.

“Yoga, even if practiced a couple of minutes a day, enables you to bring stability, to your ever-changing emotions,” says Cuckson. “Finding time to balance your emotions and connect to yourself allows you to give more to your baby.”

Your tight back and shoulders will thank you, and baby might benefit, too. Research shows the calming movements of yoga have a relaxing effect on the body and mind that can increase levels of prolactin and oxytocin, the hormones moms need for breast milk production (1).

Cherish your sleep

Reminding new mothers that sleep is important almost seems cruel. Parents coming out of the new-born phase know all too well how difficult it is to operate on little to none. But even if your baby isn’t sleeping for long stretches at a time, it’s still possible to prioritize your own sleep.

Getting enough rest is crucial for your body and your mental health. “Nursing and caring for a new baby takes a tremendous amount of energy,” says Cuckson.

Here’s a challenge: for the next three days, forget about chores, errands, and work, and obey the commonly used phrase, “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” Napping throughout the day can give you a much-needed energy boost.

Plus, studies link adequate sleep to weight management. Research shows insufficient sleep can negatively impact appetite-regulating hormones, causing you to eat more, make poor food choices, or both (2). The more sleep you get, the more energy you’ll have and the better you’ll be at making smart decisions when it comes to healthy habits, like exercising and eating well.  

Pregnancy and childbirth are no small feats, and hopefully those experiences have taught you that you are amazing, and that you can do anything you set your mind to—even if you only have ten minutes a day. Whether it’s prepping tomorrow’s nutritious breakfast, fitting in a yoga session, or taking a short nap, it’s important to dedicate that time to yourself. Because, after all, a happier, healthier you is a happier, healthier baby and family.

  1. Moh. Wildan, Kiswati, Jamhariyah and Firdaus Primasari (2015) Benefits of Yoga in Increasing Lactating Mother’s Breast Milk ProductionJournal of Nursing and Health Science
  2. Stephanie M. Greer, Andrea N. Goldstein and Matthew P. Walker (2013) The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Food Desire in the Human Brain. US National Library of Medicine.

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