Joanna Hess PT, DPT, PRC, WCS
- Intensity: Most studies evaluate moderate exercise intensity, roughly measured as the ability to talk, but not sing during the activity. Depending on the mother’s fitness level, the activity varies from walking to jogging. Vigorous activity is cautioned mainly because of the lactic acid buildup that is associated with poorer baby nursing.
- Duration and frequency: 45 minutes, 5 days/week for cardiovascular. 30 minutes, 3-4 day/s week for resistance training (6).
- Fatigue. At 6 weeks postpartum, the majority of mothers do not yet have their normal level of energy (9) making additional activity difficult and almost incomprehensible to include into long days. Physical activity is only one part of wellness in the postpartum period.
- Fussy baby. Full breasts contribute to uncomfortable and leaky exercise. If possible, feed your baby before heading off to exercise. Clean off the sweat after exercise, wait for 30 minutes if your baby seems fussy after exercise.
- Good fitting bra. The balance of support for comfort and managing compression to protect milk ducts is the goal for your sports bra. Take off your bra when feeding to allow for complete emptying of the breasts and maintaining supply.
- Hydration. Although hydration is more important for mother thirst than milk supply, increase fluid intake during and after exercise by about 1 liter (5). Attend to the thirst signal.
- Baby and mother health. Although studies show that physical exercise does not detrimentally affect infant growth nor maternal health, consult with your healthcare practitioner if baby or mother aren’t following expected patterns.
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