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Running and breastfeeding

Updated: Jan 10, 2023

Before I started running after my baby was born, one of the biggest things I was wondering about is how it would impact breastfeeding.

Would my supply drop off? Would my milk taste different? How would I manage running longer distances if my baby wouldn’t take a bottle?

I found a bit of information out there, but there were a lot of things I learnt along the way.

Stay hydrated – In the first few weeks after my daughter was born, I noticed I was a lot more thirsty than usual, especially over night. Six months later, that hasn’t changed and I notice it even more so after a run. I try to remember to stop at taps if I’m out, and bring water with me for the treadmill. It’s hard sometimes when I’ve got limited time and in a hurry to get back. But I think it’s important, especially now that it’s summer and I’m losing fluids through sweat. I need water to produce breastmilk, and when I find myself feeling thirsty, I make an effort to drink more.

I haven’t noticed a major drop in supply since I’ve been running, but it’s worth staying on top of.

Invest in a supportive bra (or two) – I was initially wearing my regular sports bras, but they weren’t cutting it when I needed to feed after a run. I had a lovely mum from Running Mums Australia donate me two Cadenshae breastfeeding sports bras, which are super comfy. I have gone up a bra size since I have been pregnant and have definitely felt like trying to squish into my old sports bras wasn’t giving me enough support. My Cadenshae bras are also much more practical for when I need to feed straight after a run, which is often.

Feed (or pump) before you run – Most mums have probably experienced the feeling of very full boobs when they wake up in the morning or miss a feed. It’s not the most comfortable thing I’ve ever experienced, and not something even my breastfeeding sports bras can help with!

Feeding before a run will help with feeling really full and also means your baby shouldn’t get hungry for awhile. If your baby isn’t hungry/isn’t due to feed/isn’t with you when you start your run, pumping can also help with comfort and maintaining supply.

Bottle feeding helps – One friend described it to me as a game changer. It can be a personal thing because not everyone can/wants to use bottles. We tried for quite a while to get my daughter to bottle feed, just so we knew she could if she did happen to get hungry while I was running (or just out in general). We didn’t have much success, but she did eventually start to drink from a sippy cup, which took the pressure off a little bit knowing she would be able to feed if she had to.

It’s possible without them, just be organised – When I did my first few parkruns after my daughter was born, I used to say I would be there depending on what time she woke up and wanted to feed.

When I entered my first race that I paid for, I definitely wanted to be on the start line. It was a 10km, so I wasn’t going to be gone too long time wise. But Beth was only 3 months old, definitely unpredictable and hadn’t progressed to the sippy cup yet. I expressed at home when I woke up, fed her at home, packed milk and a bottle for my husband just in case and fed her again on the start line.

It was a bit over an hour that I was away, so definitely possible that she wouldn’t have got hungry anyway. But I felt a lot more comfortable being prepared, especially since we would be doing the same thing when I started running longer distances. The days of ‘get up and go’ are no longer!

Your plans may change, so be flexible – There have been a few times when organising longer runs with early starts that I was anticipating Beth waking up to feed before I left. However, in the midst of unpredictable sleep, if she wasn’t awake when I was expecting her to be, and it was still dark outside, there was no way I was waking her.

That meant needing a plan B for the feeding/long run I had scheduled. The first time it happened, I was very tempted to just crawl back into bed and get some more sleep. If the run can be postponed, that is definitely an option. This one couldn’t, so I ended up leaving without feeding, and arranging to meet my husband part way through to feed before continuing the run. Flexibility is definitely key!

Solids really are a game changer – Okay, so this is getting off the topic of breastfeeding. But now that we have started on solids, it does feel much easier to go out for a long run. Though solids don’t instantly replace breastmilk, the older our baby gets and the more she gets used to them, we can now give her some mushed up avocado or banana if she gets hungry while I’m away. This has definitely coincided with an increase in the distances I have been running.

While it does feel like the easiest way to manage running and feeding, we aren’t always going to wait until our baby is old enough for solids to run. For me, the points above are how I balanced running and breastfeeding.

Feeding at the start line of the Blackmores 10km

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