Effect of Exercise on Breast milk

So with all this running I’ve been doing it got me wondering if I am negatively affecting my milk supply and if my baby was still receiving adequate nourishment (I think I was just looking for reasons NOT to train for this half marathon). This led me to do some research! Yes, I know… of course I’m a nerd like that but I didn’t become an evidence-based practitioner for nothing…this is how we roll! So let me share with you bits and pieces of what I learned.

women after long run

In summary, breastfeeding is not negatively affected by exercise whether it be prolonged cardiovascular exercise or moderate to high intensity training. There is some evidence that lactic acid levels increase if you feed your baby immediately after a high intensity workout (Carey & Quinn, 2001), which could cause a change in the taste of the milk but has no negative effects on the baby and most of the time they don’t notice. Even then, you would have to REALLY exert yourself to see this kind of change in milk composition.

In terms of milk supply, as long as adequate fluid and calorie intake is achieved exercise has no negative effect on milk supply (Dewy et al., 1994). This is what I was most worried about because after my long run last week I tried to pump afterwards and got very little! Which was stressful obviously! Of course I panicked, and then my husband reminded me that I just fed her before I left so it had only been a little over an hour and a half. Duh, that makes sense. Also, my own personal hypothesis is this… your body probably puts milk production on hold while exercising because it is using the energy for your muscles, BUT most likely makes up for it later in the day.

When the composition of breast milk was studied it was also found that there was no change in immune factors (such as SigA, lactoferrin, and lysozyme), major minerals (calcium, phosphorus, etc) and major nutrients (fat, protein, lactose) (Fly, Uhlin, Wallace, 1998).

I also found this to be super interesting ….

“ recreational athletes who performed an average of 88 minutes per day of aerobic exercise during the 6 months of breastfeeding had less body fat and produced a slightly greater quality and quantity of milk than postpartum non-exercising women” (Lovelady et al., 1990)

So pretty much because I am exercising I am producing higher quality and quantity of milk as well as reaping all the other benefits of postpartum exercise such as; decreased incidence of depression, decreased stress, improved mood and behaviour and increased weight loss. Guess this half- marathon training is paying off for everyone, including my baby & husband!

Now I have to add, after my quick literature review I did find there is definitely  room for further research on the subject, a lot of the studies were from the 90’s and came from the same few researchers, but it’s just not a very highly studied topic so have to take what I could get!

So there is it, you can put your mind at rest…. breastfeeding and exercise are actually a good combo! Few things to remember…be sure to keep your fluid intake up, especially if it is a hot day out! It’s crucial to replace everything that you sweat out to avoid dehydration. I aim for 16 cups of water a day, and I usually have a coconut water or electrolyte beverage if it’s a day where I particularly sweat a lot. Also, losing 0.5-1lb a week while breastfeeding is perfectly healthy but you don’t want to lose too much weight too fast so be sure to replace some of the calories burned by exercise by having an extra snack afterwards.

In fitness & good health,

Natasha

Sources

Carey GB, Quinn TJ 2001, Exercise and lactation: are they compatible? Can J Appl Phys 26(1): 55–74.

Dewy K, Lovelady C, Nommsen–Rivers L, McCrory M, Lonnerdal B 1994, A randomised study of the effects of aerobic exercise by lactating women on breast-milk volume and composition. New Engl J Med 330: 449–453.

Fly AD, Uhlin KL, Wallace JP 1998, Major mineral concentrations in human milk do not change after maximal exercise testing. Am J Clin Nutr 68(2):345–9.

Lovelady C, Lonnerdal B, Dewey K. Lactation performance of exercising women. Am J Clin Nutr. 1990;52:103–9.

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Healthy Eating Postpartum

healthy food in fridge

To Diet or Not to Diet?

This has been a major struggle for me lately, trying to find a good balance between eating healthy and dieting. Now the word diet as defined by google means

a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.

In the crossfit community there is a big emphasis on ‘going paleo’. If you aren’t familiar with the paleo diet it restricts you to eating meat, vegetables, nuts and fruit and..well that’s pretty much it. To be 100% paleo you must cut out all grains, legumes, dairy, and processed food. You can read more about the paleo rules here. Now there is another diet which is gaining popularity, called the Whole 30, you can check that out as well if you’d like. Personally, I have adopted a lot of the concepts from these diets without being 100% strict on what I can and can’t eat, since that hasn’t worked for me in the past. Now dont get me wrong these diets are fantastic if you want to lose weight, increase energy and get out of a slump and on your way to a healthier lifestyle. But can be difficult for some people to sustain if this is a drastic change from their usual way of eating.  An effective diet is one that promotes you to have a permanent change in the way you think about food, and hopefully have you on your way to a healthier lifestyle! 

So, what do I eat while breastfeeding!?!

Can you go paleo, or do the Whole 30? Well, I did for a week, my milk supply dropped and I am still struggling to get it back up. So I’m going to say it’s probably not a good choice. Any drastic loss of weight after having a baby can negatively effect your milk supply. You want to aim to lose 1-2 pounds a week and no more. Remember breastfeeding burns approximately an extra 500 calories/day which you MUST eat in order to sustain this. Here’s a quick little math lesson on weight loss….

what goes in > what goes out = weight gain
what goes in < what goes out = weight loss

So if you take a woman my size (these numbers are approximate by the way)
800 calories- basal metabolic  –> this is what you need in order to live even if you just laid in bed and did nothing.
500 calories – breastfeeding
500 calories – workout
200 calories – extra walking around/picking up baby/cleaning the house, etc ,etc
= 2000 calories/day.

That means that if you want to stay the exact same weight you should eat 2000 calories a day. I usually aim for 1600-1800 to promote a slow and steady weight loss. Now I have a vague idea of how many calories are in various foods based on my previous experience in the field but I highly recommend using a calorie counting app (like MyFitnessPal) for a few weeks to get an idea of how many calories you are actually eating. Make sure you pay attention to portion size! You would be surprised how many servings you are actually eating if you measure what you eat. After doing this for a couple weeks I no longer feel its necessary to track calories everyday. By this point  you should have a general idea of how much you can eat and stay under that 2000 calorie a day goal. I actually found by using this app that I wasn’t eating enough! I would have days where I would have a salad for lunch and chicken  and vegetables for dinner and hardly reach 1200 calories for the day.

So when people ask what kind of diet I follow I tell them I eat by the Canada Food Guide (I’m from Canada, gotta represent eh!). What this means is that I eat a variety of foods from different food groups each day. I try to eat whole, non-processed foods when possible and limit the amount of junk in my diet. You can read more about the Canada Food Guide here.

canada food guide Image Source

Now this is also not a one size fits all for everyone! I made some changes to suit my own nutritional needs. I like to eat slightly less grains and more protein to satisfy my hungry muscles, I also don’t each much dairy so I replace this with vegetables that provide me with necessary calcium. I also require a slightly higher fat content because of nursing so I eat an extra serving of grass fed butter or coconut or olive oil with one of my meals (usually breakfast). So as you can see this is simply a guideline that helps people understand the importance of eating from all 4 food groups.

What foods are best while breastfeeding?

Fish (low mercury content like salmon) – high in Omega3’s essential for brain function
Lean Beef – high in Iron and B-12 for energy
Fruit – healthy carbohydrates and high in vitamins, fruit like blueberries and Oranges are a great choice.
Whole Grains – for energy and calories
Eggs – for protein and DHA (if they are fortified)
Leafy Greens – vitamin A, calcium and Iron
Prenatal vitamin – keep taking those vitamins to make up for the nutrients you may of missed during the day
WATER- this is #1. You MUST drink enough water everyday. And when you think you drank enough have a little more. It’s important to stay hydrated especially if you are sweating it out at the gym.

Now just a reminder, I am not a nutritionist (I have taken 2 courses in nutrition which by no means makes me an expert) but I am a mother and a health coach so these recommendations are based on what works for me. See your dietician or nutritionist for more personalized recommendations if you have special diet needs!

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Lactation Cookies

Paleo lactation cookies

So I hate baking but decided to take a shot at some lactation cookies since I hear all the galactagogues (milk producing foods) in them are great for maintaining milk supply, and hey… It’s a treat I don’t feel bad about eating!

Here’s the recipe I used, I adapted it from this one I found on mama natural.

PS, If you don’t like the taste of fennel you can substitute it for 2 tbsp of flax seeds, I personally like the taste but it can be a bit overbearing.

Recipe

Ingredients
4 cups organic rolled oats (blended or whole, I’ve used both and it works fine)
1 cup organic coconut sugar
1/2 cup organic cornstarch
1/2 cup Brewers yeast (I got this in the supplement section at whole foods)
1 TB fennel seed, ground (can sub for 2 TB of ground flax)
2 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. sea salt
1 cup almond butter
1/2 cup, plus 2 TB coconut oil
4 eggs
2 TB organic blue agave
1 tsp organic vanilla extract
1/2 cup of organic dark chocolate chips

Yield 20 large cookies

Directions

Pre-heat oven at 350 degrees fahrenheit.
Put your 4 cups of rolled oats into a high speed blender or food processor (I used my nutribullet). Blend until the oats are ground but not completely smooth.
Measure out 1 TB of fennel seeds and grind until fine powder. ( or use 2 tbsp of ground flax seeds)
Put dry ingredients into large bowl and mix.
In a smaller bowl, put your almond butter, melted coconut oil, honey, eggs and vanilla extract. Mix well.
Pour the contents of smaller bowl into the dry ingredient bowl. Mix well with spoon or clean hands.

Grease a cookie sheet with coconut oil. Form flat balls, I made mine pretty big because I wanted them to be more like a breakfast bar but you can make them smaller if you want them to be more like cookies.
Bake cookies in oven for 8-10 minutes. Check for slightest browning on outside of cookie.
Take out and transfer cookies to a cooling rack.
Enjoy warm, or let cookies cool to room temperature.

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