Let’s face it, trying to get away for running while breastfeeding is no easy feat. Because, know what breastfeeding babies don’t seem to mind? Sweaty boobs! Know what they do mind? A mama who isn’t around to feed them whenever they want because she’s out running (!).
I got into a good routine for running while breastfeeding with my kids: nurse, run, and nurse immediately afterward again. But there were plenty of runs cut short or full or worry as I left my mama-loving babies at home.
Indeed, breastfeeding can pose a big challenge for Mother Runners. First, there’s the gargantuan-sized chest that can make a light jog pretty uncomfortable. Then, there’s the baby who wants to cluster feed and goes ballistic when mom’s chest isn’t nearby. Honestly, I never needed a run more than while nursing my children which also happened to be the toughest time to have that escape.
I asked other Mother Runners how they were able to run while breastfeeding. Here are their best tips.
Get the right support.
Chances are, your pre-partum sports bra isn’t going to fit your postpartum chest. You need more support and room. Our Mother Runners loved this Motherhood Maternity nursing sports bra. In fact, they wore it running, under outfits, and to sleep. They also liked Lululemon’s Enlite bra for its support and comfort.
Eat and drink a lot.
Running while breastfeeding will not decrease your milk but it does require a lot from your body so you need to fuel it right. After all, breastfeeding alone is like running 5 miles a day. Here is what you need to eat and drink while breastfeeding:
Up your iron. What’s the biggest mistake new moms make? They cut back calories while simultaneously upping mileage—that’s a recipe for injury, says local nutritionist Betsy Johnson. In order to be healthy and energized, new moms need to focus on eating the right foods, like those containing iron. In fact, one in five women is iron deficient. Focus on eating iron-rich foods like meats, fish, leafy greens, and chocolate.
Drink that milk. Be sure to get enough calcium—especially those of you who’re breastfeeding which requires extra calcium intake. The National Academy of Sciences recommends that women who breastfeeding consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day. Ask your doctor if it’s a good idea to take a calcium supplement.
Shake up that protein. Breastfeeding moms also need to make sure they’re getting enough protein. After growing a baby for 9 months and then supplying it with protein-rich breast milk, it’s necessary to replenish your own. Aim for five to seven servings of quality protein every day.
Stay hydrated. Aim to drink 1/2 to 3/4 of an ounce of water per pound that you weigh when you aren’t nursing. For example, if you weigh 130 pounds, it’s a good idea to aim for 65 ounces of water per day.
Nurse or pump first.
Empty those bad boys before you go. In a perfect world, you can feed your baby and have a nice three-hour window to run. Maybe even have time to stretch, shower, and drink a smoothie afterward (!). But sometimes babies don’t play by our rule book. They don’t want to wake up for a good feeding or you don’t want to wake them up because you just got them to sleep. For those times, pump and have fresh milk ready for your partner to give to your baby should they get hungry when you’re out.
(Related: The top running strollers on the market.)
Stay close to home.
But then there are those babies who won’t take the bottle. (My daughter was one no matter every trick in the book we—and professionals—tried). For those babies, stay near so you can run back if needed. Surely, this isn’t ideal. By the time you get home and do a feeding, your window to run is likely gone. When frustration mounts, remind yourself this won’t be the situation forever. Running will be there for you after you’re there for your baby.
Recruit your partner to your team.
One Mother Runner’s husband would kill me if he knew I was sharing this story…When confronted with a screaming baby, he put on his wife’s pink fuzzy robe that she wore while nursing—and lo and behold, the baby settled! Another Mother Runner’s husband would take their baby boy to the track and jog with him while the mama did speedwork. That way she was close by if needed. Her husband preferred this option to being home with a hysterical baby. In fact, the baby’s attachment to mama became a good excuse for the husband and wife team to exercise together.
I would often run with my baby in the BOB stroller where I stored a nursing cover and blanket. During those cluster feeding stages, I’d stop and nurse under a tree or on a bench, and then keep running. It wasn’t the best workout—but I’d make up for it during those times she wanted OUT of the stroller and I would have to book it home (spontaneous speedwork!).
(Related: 15 obstacles facing mother runners and how they overcome them.)
Pack your equipment.
One Mother Runner would pack a hand pump with her in case she needed to express milk while running (like if a baby only fed on one side during a run). (Check out this Mother Runner who set a world record in an ultra-marathon and pumped milk for her baby along the way. Incredible.) Another Mother Runner got an adaptor for her breast pump so she could pump in the car on the way to her starting point.
(Related: How to overcome all barriers to exercise.)
Feed, run, repeat.
For those of you ready to race while still nursing—you’re a badass—and be prepared to sandwich that race in between feeding sessions: breastfeed, warm-up, race, breastfeed, cooldown.
Then take a nap. A loooong nap.