I've already blogged about the impact that pregnancy and labour had on my fitness so thought I would continue that theme by discussing the challenges of exercising whilst breastfeeding. I'm a huge advocate of breastfeeding - it's not often easy to get going (despite what Jamie Oliver might have you believe...) & can be very tough, but for me the rewards have very much outweighed the early problems and at the moment I intend to carry on for the foreseeable future. It hasn't impacted on my ability to train anywhere near as much as the other issues, but these are my tips for any other breastfeeding runners:
1. Fuel properly. Breastfeeding means that you are providing calories & nutrition for a whole other person (allbeit quite a small one) - when I run, especially in the mornings, I notice that I need more energy than I used to so factor that in to make sure you don't have a big energy crash.
2. Try and time it so the baby won't need a feed half way round the course - that won't be fun for anyone. Breasts are super clever and can start lactating in response to the baby crying even before the baby has latched on!
3. Wear a decent sports bra. This is a tricky one as you can't easily feed in a normal sports bra, but I learnt the hard way that a feeding bra doesn't provide enough support. You can buy special feeding sports bras - generally American companies are more clued up on pre/post natal fitness wear.
4. Hydrate properly - breastfeeding makes you thirsty anyway so you need to ensure you're keeping your fluid levels topped up after exercise.
5. Be flexible & patient. Babies aren't predictable especially in the early weeks/months and they might need a feed unexpectedly which could scupper best laid plans. If you are exclusively breastfeeding then it can start to feel a bit overwhelming and like you'll never get out, but 6 months on I'm beginning to get some freedom and independence again. In the grand scheme of things, 6 months of cuddles on the sofa isn't going to impact on amateur runners & even Olympian Liz Yelling tandem breastfed her twins for 6 months!