Breastfeeding & Exercise—The Journey Continues
If a Mom is physically able to breastfeed, there are so many reasons to continue nursing for as long as possible. We know human milk is optimal for infants because of its nutritional value and immune-building benefits. It’s also important to note that Mom’s health can improve too. The Federal Government Source for Women’s Health website says, “mothers who breastfeed have a lower risk of some health problems, including breast cancer and type 2 diabetes.” Obesity is a growing concern for both adults and children. Plus breast cancer is the second leading cause for death among women ages 30-50. Wouldn’t we want to do everything we could to prevent both obesity and breast cancer?
The Best for Babes organization believes both breast cancer and obesity are “somewhat preventable” by implementing two lifestyle choices: 1) breastfeeding and 2) exercise. Their website says: “For every 12 months of breastfeeding, a woman can lower her breast cancer risk by 4.3%. This is cumulative, so that a mother who has two children and breastfeeds each for 2 years can realize a 17.2% reduction!” And a woman with a family history of breast cancer can reduce her risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer by 59%. In addition, the BFB website states that if Mom is breastfeeding girls, her daughter’s “risk of developing breast cancer in her lifetime is lowered by 26%-31%!” In general BFB concludes that, “Breastfeeding’s associated protection against being obese and overweight — major risk factors in adult diseases — buys your baby girl or boy extra protection against developing certain cancers as an adult.” Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to combat disease and encourage healthy mothers and children.
Although Emma’s days of breastfeeding are over. (At least from what I think—I’m wondering if she’ll want to go back to the breast after her twin sisters are born!) I know my breastfeeding journey will continue. And I will continue to learn as a mother. I’m wondering if the twins will mimic Emma’s behavior when it comes to me working part time and teaching my Pilates inspired program for parents: Asobi Sport™ Family Fitness.
During the first day of my Asobi Sport™ classes, Emma wanted to breastfeed during the first half of the class. Dismayed, I thought, “Not now!” But finally, I decided there was no fighting this girl’s appetite. The solution was to let her eat. Thankfully I knew what to do. It wasn’t the first time Emma’s ferocious appetite came at an “inopportune” time. I threw on my BeBe au Lait nursing cover and used the Moby Wrap to position Emma at my breast. Once she was securely latched, I looked up at my group of Momma’s and somehow resumed teaching. I even figured out shortly thereafter I could exercise while tending to Emma’s feeding needs! This was a huge discovery for me.
Not only could I continue teaching, I could share this knowledge with other active Moms. They could learn to improve their postural awareness, strengthen their deep pelvic floor with Kegel Exercises, and build core strength—while they breastfed! My Jia-Yo! Philosophy (exercising while you parent) was developed thanks to Emma’s constant demand to breastfeed. I wanted to show Moms they could meet their wellness goals and simultaneously nurture their child. They didn’t have to leave their child to workout or replenish their energy.
I do, however, caution any Mother who chooses to perform these Pilates inspired movements while they breastfeed to focus on their child’s needs first. When Baby is hungry, the goal is to make sure Baby gets fed. Exercise is secondary. So as long as exercising isn’t impeding a child’s nutritional intake, then exercise can be performed and even encouraged during breastfeeding or bottlefeeding. Ideally, Mom will see Asobi Sport™’s form of exercise as relaxing and replenishing. She can take these moments while seated to focus on deep breathing, Kegel Exercises, and postural awareness. The breathing techniques can even be meditative and calming. While Baby is nourished with unbeatable food, Mom is nourished with oxygen and newfound energy.
Before Mom should try exercising while breastfeeding, it is imperative that a) Baby has a
correct latch and b) Mom’s milk letdown has occurred. In order for Mom to let her milk
release, she will need to relax. The deep Pilates breathing is very helpful to accomplish this goal. She can also sit in Neutral Spine (the natural curvature of our back and the safest position for our spine) and raise her postural awareness.
Of course, if any of my Asobi Sport™ participating Moms were to suffer from a reduction of milk production and Baby isn't getting fed, then we would remove exercise all together. There is never a need to exercise while breastfeeding. It is simply to allow Mothers a way to nurture their well-being while they nurture their child’s—especially if their child is anything like Emma and enjoys taking her time while eating!
I guess if our twin girls do exhibit their big sister’s eating patterns, I at least have a sense of what to do. Of course nursing two at once will be a whole new ball game! If I’ve learned anything about this endurance sport I call “parenthood,” it’s all about staying in the game. And that means going with the flow and being open to learning along the way. I’m excited to combat the risk of breast cancer (for both myself and our daughters) with breastfeeding and exercise. I look forward to sharing our Asobi Sport™ Family Fitness DVD with other Moms so they too can learn how to simultaneously nurture themselves as well as their children.
Sarah, Mom to Emma - 2.5, & Soon-to-be mom of Twin Girls!