As a current breastfeeder of an almost 11 month of baby, I have gotten quite a few questions about how to keep your milk supply up while you’re on an exercise routine. I feel like I can answer this question honestly because in the beginning of my fitness journey I struggled a lot with keeping my supply up with all of the extra calories being burned from doing BBG and running. If you didn’t already know this, and I’m sure you do, exclusively breastfeeding can burn anywhere from 500-700 extra calories a day, which is a lot by itself. Then you add exercise and all of the sudden you are burning another potential 200-500+ (depending on how often/what you are doing, of course). Thus, you are burning anywhere from 700-1200 extra calories a day just from nursing your baby and exercising. THAT IS A LOT! Right?
Anyways, in order for your body to produce milk, you have to make up for the extra calories that are being burned. Some ladies have no problem with this as nursing can make you extremely hungry, but for me and I’m sure many other women, breastfeeding didn’t make me extra hungry, therefore I wasn’t eating enough and didn’t even know it.
It took me a while before I figured out why I was having problems and what to do about it, but let me just tell you, when you are a woman and it is supposed to be a natural thing to be able to nurse your baby and then all of the sudden your body stops making the one thing that your baby needs for survival, it can be extremely hard emotionally. I tried everything to get my supply back up, aside from eating more because I didn’t know that was the problem, and nothing was working. Thankfully, a friend of mine recommending I try doing what is called a “nursing vacation” and so I did that and it helped to bring my supply back up for a few weeks. Of course since I still wasn’t eating enough, my supply started to go back down, again. So I went through the same process to get it back up. Then it went down AGAIN. I was so frustrated!
Around the third time my supply was low again, I became vegan, which changed everything for me! Literally. I was all of the sudden having to pay more attention to what I was eating, how I was going to get enough protein, trying new recipes, and eating more vegetables and whole grains. All of which made me excited about food and always looking forward to my next meal. AND I haven’t had issues with my supply since! YAYY!
Now, I am by no means and expert on this topic, but having milk supply issues can be really hard and discouraging and you feel so helpless, so I want to help anyone struggling with this and share a few tips with you all that have helped me keep my supply up.
1) NEVER skip breakfast, EVER. Seriously this one is huge! It is super important to start your day off with a big healthy breakfast anyways, but when you are breastfeeding it is all the more important because your body isn’t just providing for you anymore and because of that you need to make sure you are getting proper nutrients for yourself, and for your baby. Plus, plus eating a healthy breakfast sets the tone for the rest of the day AND helps to kickstart your metabolism. I had issues with finding time to make breakfast and often skipped it because life as a mom can be crazy, so for a while I had a sticky note on my fridge reminding me to eat breakfast! Sounds silly, but I needed that reminder and it worked!
2) Provide your body with foods that are good for producing milk. If you don’t know what those foods are, you can Google a list, but one of the things that is super good are oats. Now, I never liked oatmeal growing up, even with a huge spoonful of brown sugar, but I knew how good it is for you and I wanted to like it, so I just started playing around with it. I would cook oatmeal and add cinnamon, chia seeds, peanut butter, and honey. Or I would eat it with sliced banana, cinnamon, almond butter, and agave. I would try it with banana and blueberries or mixed frozen berries. I experimented a lot and guess what happened? Now I LOVE oatmeal. I eat it every. single. morning. No joke! It’s amazing! And overnight oats…Ladies, I’m convinced there is nothing more delicious!
3) Don’t be afraid of healthy fats! Avocados, all natural peanut butter, almond butter, lightly salted or raw almonds, olive oil, coconut oil, etc. They are amazing for milk production and they are so delicious! Plus, avocado toast and peanut butter in and on everything, I mean that is life right there.
4) Don’t skip meals! Your body needs energy to produce energy. So don’t go hungry! Plus, nobody likes a hormonal hangry person anyways!
5) Snack between meals. A handful of nuts, a delicious homemade smoothie bowl, a protein bar, homemade popcorn, a bowl of fruit, veggies, a banana with cinnamon and almond butter, whatever it may be, make it healthy!
6) Don’t be afraid of calories! Don’t be the person that doesn’t eat enough because you think that will help you lose weight. It won’t. At least not in the right way anyways. I have absolutely made this mistake many times in my life and all it did was make me lose muscle and hold on to fat. Annddd I’m pretty sure there aren’t many people that want more fat and less muscle, right? Right. Make sure that what you are eating is clean, healthy, and whole and that you are eating PLENTY. Most importantly to produce milk for your baby, but also to nourish your growing muscles with proper nutrients!
7) Make food fun! This sounds like a pointless tip, but it actually helps a lot. Maybe you don’t want to be one of those people always taking pictures of your food, but actually who cares because it is awesome! I don’t just make a bowl of oatmeal anymore and throw some toppings on or a smoothie in a plain glass; I one by one place those sliced bananas on my oatmeal and drizzle agave and sprinkle coconut flakes on top and I blend a thicker smoothie and place it in a bowl with colorful fruit, nuts, and seeds and damnit I take a picture of it and I LOVE it! I have to say, sometimes plating your food can be a major creativity fail, but most of the time it is FUN and it turns out beautiful and it makes eating it so rewarding and YEAH I’m gonna take a picture of it, OK? OK. (insert laughing emoji here). But all jokes aside, plating your food and making the whole experience fun can actually change the way you eat a lot. And of course that does not mean you have to do that ALL of the time but when time allows, do it and if you don’t have a social media platform to share the photo on, maybe send it to a friend or sister and share the recipe with them and if all else fails, send it to your mom! Moms are always interested in what you’re doing! This will get you excited to eat and when you’re excited to eat you won’t have a problem eating a little extra to produce milk for your baby, if that’s what it takes!
8) Lastly, make sure you are drinking plenty of water! You should already be doing this anyways, but it is super important when you are breastfeeding because your milk supply is almost 90% water, which means if you aren’t drinking any water or not enough of it, your body won’t have the proper resources to produce enough milk for your baby. So drink up! I carry around a 33oz water bottle (CamelBak eddy 1L Water Bottle) and make sure that I drink at least 3 of them a day, which makes it easy to remember and track how much water I am drinking. So, if you aren’t already doing something similar to this, I absolutely recommend doing it!
OK, that about sums up my tips! I realize I rambled on quite a lot, but these are all things that have helped me and like I said, if I can help someone else get through the struggle of having a low milk supply, I want to do whatever I can! So I really hope that some of these tips help you out and please email me if you have any further questions (email@example.com) and I will try to help as best as I can!
Thanks for reading my excessively long post and I hope you are all doing well!