Does Working Out Change Your Breast Milk?
Breastfeeding can be hard, especially in the early weeks when you and baby are still trying to figure out how to get started. Between incorrect latches and slow let downs—not to mention a number of challenges that you may not have even thought to worry about yet, some moms and babies have difficulty in the beginning. But there’s good news: Your boobs work! And whether you choose to directly nurse or pump and bottle feed, as soon as your milk comes in your production should respond to the demands of your baby—going up as your little one grows and eats more.
Still, there are things that can cause your milk production to take a nosedive. The biggest culprit: “Stress,” says Shivani Patel, MD, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UT Southwestern, “nothing shuts breast milk production down faster! That’s why it’s so important to find activities, like exercise and meditation, that ease anxiety and lower cortisol levels.”
Working Out Doesn’t Change Your Breast Milk
The myth that exercise can have a negative impact on your milk production has been debunked. As long as you’re taking in plenty of calories and getting the right amount of protein, your breasts should be able to pump out plenty of milk. In fact, studies show exclusively breastfed babies grow at about the same rate whether their mamas work out regularly or not (1). Which means, your breast milk will continue to be nutritious even if you’re sweating to the max daily.
But many moms still have trouble nursing after major training sessions, and some babies flat out refuse to take the nipple. If that’s been your experience, you might wonder if working out changes the flavor of your milk. The short answer is, yes, it can.
Lactic Acid & Sweat Can Change the Taste of Your Breast Milk
Pushing through a tough climb on the bike, an intense speed workout at the track, or a power lifting session, causes your body to produce a quick form of fuel for your muscles called lactate. And that lactate can linger in your blood and breast milk, in the form of lactic acid, for as many as 90 minutes after exercising (2).
So is it safe to breastfeed after exercise? Hell, yeah! Lactic acid doesn’t pose any threat to the nutritional value of your milk, but it can change the flavor—one explanation for baby’s fussiness when you pop him on your boob immediately after working out.
Another taste changer: Sweat. “Some babies don’t like nursing when mom has been sweating due to the salt on mom’s skin,” says Kelly Bonyata, IBCLC, an international board-certified lactation consultant and owner of KellyMom.com (3). Think of it this way: When was the last time you enjoyed licking a sweaty human? Bonyata recommends rinsing your nipples or taking a shower before the next feeding session.
The good news is exercise doesn’t have a big impact on your breast milk. Your supply won’t take a dip if you continue to eat well (4), and your milk will be nutritious no matter how often you work out. Sure, the flavor might be impacted for a few minutes, but that shouldn’t be an issue. If anything, it’s a green light to relax and take a shower before jumping back into feeding duty.
Bottomline: Exercising doesn’t change the nutritional value of your breast milk, but baby might not like how it tastes immediately after.
Daley, Amanda J., et. al. “Maternal Exercise and Growth in Breastfed Infants: A Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” PediatricsJul 2012, 130 (1) 108-114; DOI: 1542/peds.2011-2485.
Carey, Gale B., et al. “Breast Milk Composition After Exercise of Different Intensities.” Journal of Human Lactation, vol. 13, no. 2, June 1997, pp. 115–120; DOI:1177/089033449701300211.
Bonyata, K. (2018) “Exercise and Breastfeeding.” KellyMom.com
Kominiarek, Michelle A, and Priya Rajan. “Nutrition Recommendations in Pregnancy and Lactation.” The Medical clinics of North America 100,6 (2016): 1199-1215; DOI: 10.1016/j.mcna.2016.06.004
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