We know that for mums, the decision to either breast or bottle feed can seem like a veritable minefield, with debates raging online every time there is the mere mention of an ACTUAL FEMALE NIPPLE being used to feed a baby, especially if said nipple is in PUBLIC* (*rarely is a nipple ‘in public', obvs, due to nifty breastfeeding clothes and a baby’s head, so if you’re easily offended, don’t panic).
We also understand the 'breast is best’ message can be harrowing for mothers who struggle to breastfeed their babies, resulting in guilt that can last long after your little one has ditched bottles and is happily munching away on breadsticks and bananas.
Here at The Running Bug, we’re firm believers in the message ‘fed is best’ – that every mother has the right to feed her baby without judgement, in whichever way is right for them. But because we’re here to make running accessible for all, here are our top tips on how to run while breastfeeding (but not at the same time – that would be an impressive yet highly impractical feat).
If you’re a breastfeeding running mum, you need to contend with the double whammy of staying hydrated for both milk production and exercise. Make sure you top up your fluid intake regularly.
Feed or express before a run
‘Most women find running after a feed is more comfortable than running just before a feed, simply because your breasts will feel less full,’ says Sherry Bevan, an NCT breastfeeding counsellor, runner and confidence coach. If your baby is not quite ready for a feed, you could always express a little milk before your run.
You may need to get remeasured for a new sports bra before returning to running, given the changes in breast size. ‘Be aware that if a sports bra is too constrictive, this could potentially lead to blocked ducts,’ says Sherry.
Don’t forget to pop your breast pads into your sports bra, in case of leaks!
Consider splitting long runs
If you’re training for a long-distance event and need to complete long training runs of several hours or more, you could consider splitting these if your baby will need a feed – you’ll still gain all the fitness benefits of a really long run, without having to be away from your baby for too long. Or you could leave expressed milk, if your baby will take a bottle.
Don’t worry about the milk!
‘Most studies show the effect of an increase of lactic acid in your milk after strenuous exercise has little or no difference on how babies feed,’ reassures Sherry.
If your baby refuses to feed after you run, it might be due to sweat. ‘Some mums tell me their baby seems a little more fussy at the breast after strenuous exercise – this could be the salty taste of sweat on your breast,’ explains Sherry. A quick pre-feed shower or wash should do the trick!
Give yourself a break
Motherhood is amazing, rewarding and life-changing – but it can be tough and exhausting. Breastfeeding is not always easy to establish, so if you don’t get back to running as soon as you’d like, or if you find you’re regularly missing runs, don’t beat yourself up. Relax, get out with your little one in a sling or buggy for a gentle walk and fresh air, and eat that slice of cake – you’re nailing this.
For more information from Sherry Bevan, visit . Sherry will also be representing at The Baby Show, Olympia London, 20-22 October 2017.
For more from Claire Chamberlain, read The A-Z of running for mums