Fit Pregnancy Breastfeeding Roundtable
Today I've got another fit pregnancy-related roundtable for you all.
In this roundtable, I interviewed the women that participated in my fit pregnancy interview series and asked them about their experiences with breastfeeding. Of all the fit women I interviewed originally, every one of them breasfed. Some longer than others (minimum of 6 months) and almost all of them exclusively breast milk vs formula.
In my experience, two of the biggest reasons a woman has to supplement with formula is that she started out with a low milk supply from the get-go (such as due to a complicated delivery and a poor initiation of breast feeding) or because she had to return to work full time and couldn't keep up with the pumping while at work (it's not that much fun to pump in those "pumping rooms" as some of them are just closets with chairs... so sad).
In any matter, today I've got four of my fit pregnancy friends, Christa Doran, Helen Kolias, Sarah Craig and Sandra Cruz with me (Cass) today to tell of our experiences with breastfeeding while still being a very fit and active mother.
Read on to view our stories and please share your experiences if you have any. Thank you!
Q1) How long did you breastfeed for? Did you do it exclusively or did you have to/ want to use formula as well? If so, why?
Sandra: I exclusively breastfed my son until he was 13 months old. I am exclusively breastfeeding my 14 wk old daughter and do not plan to use formula.
Helen: For about 13 1/2 months. Only breast milk for the first 12 months and then started using goats milk. My daughter initated the wean as she was eating more solids and drinking less milk. Plus, the goats milk worked well for her.
Sarah: Still breast feeding at 6.5 months. 100% exclusively breast fed.
Christa: 16 months. Exclusively. No need for formula and I did not want to. Liv initiated the wean.
Cassandra: Still breast feeding at 11 months. 100% exclusive. Don't know when I'll wean - I'll let April tell me when she's ready.
2. After delivery, when did you start exercising intensely again?
Helen: About a couple months, but I ended up getting the flu (H1N1) 3 weeks post-partum which delayed my return to exercise. Otherwise I would have been back around 4-6 weeks.
Sarah: I started exercising lightly two weeks after. Intensely I started in after a month.
Sandra: I began exercising intensely after about 12 weeks with my son...and at 6 weeks with my daughter.
Christa: 5 weeks after
Cass: 3 weeks because I felt good enough to do so
3. Did exercise "ruin" your breast milk? You know what they say: "If you exercise hard, it'll change the way your breast milk tastes and baby won't drink it". How true/not true is this?
Christa: I was worried about lactic acid in my breast milk, but figured my daughter would "tell me" if it tasted different by not nursing, which she never did. I always watched and monitored her very closely after intense exercise, but there was no change in how she nursed.
Sandra: I have never had a problem with my breast milk. Neither child has ever refused and I have always felt that I have had an ample supply despite my exercising.
Helen: I don't think so since exercise or not baby seemed happy with her milk.
Sarah: Exercising "ruining" my breast milk is a joke! I would finish working out, be sweaty and nasty, and my baby would be so excited to nurse anyways. She still happily nurses right after I work out 6 months later with no side effects or unhappiness about it.
Cass: Such a myth! No, never had any problems. If anything Brussels sprouts made it taste funny to her, but that’s it.
4. What were some barriers to exercise while breastfeeding, and visa-versa, barriers to breastfeeding while wanting to exercise, if any?
Sarah: Well sports bras are a pain in the butt to nurse in first off :-) Second, it's hard if I become engorged and want to work out. I work out first thing in the morning, and so I have to feed her right before I work out or else it's uncomfortable for me.
Sandra: The only barrier I have encountered is timing....making sure that I have fed him/her before going to exercise.
Christa: None that I could see/feel. I always made sure I nursed her before training so my milk supply was low and my breasts were softer and smaller. I did hear you have less energy when you are nursing so you can't train as hard, but I never experienced this.
Helen: Timing was the biggest issue. Getting enough time to exercise and doing it between feedings.
Cass: I’m with Helen and Sandra – since I was teaching classes three times a day at some points, I had to always make sure I pumped before I left the house, or it would be very uncomfortable for me and possibly disastrous. Now that April has been eating solids, I have to worry about this less.
5. How did breastfeeding affect your appetite? Was your appetite the same as before you were pregnant or less/greater? How so?
Sandra: I eat smaller meals more often while breastfeeding (about six 300-400 calorie meals per day). My appetite is greater now than before I was pregnant.
Christa: I was so much hungrier and consumed a lot more calories than when I was pregnant. I ate more frequently, and larger portions at every meal. I was eating all the time, especially in the beginning when she was nursing every 2 hours all day/night.
Helen: I couldn't eat enough. It was crazy, my pregnancy appetite wasn't close to the breastfeeding. I was hungry all the time and I was losing weight.
Sarah: Holy cow breast feeding has made me eat like a horse! I'm way more hungry now then I was while pregnant!!
Cass: Sarah took the words right out of my mouth: I’ve never been hungrier.
6. Do you think breastfeeding was a help or a hindrance to getting you pre-baby body back? (i.e., some women say that breastfeeding causes your body to hang on to some fat in places we don't want it, like our bellies, whereas others say that breastfeeding causes a lot of fat loss).
Helen: I think breastfeeding helped get my body back because it help me lose the weight by 6 weeks postpartum. I've always kept weight around my stomach so it's hard to say if it was worse because of breastfeeding.
Sandra: I think that breastfeeding was a help to getting my pre-baby body back with my son. However, I am having a different experience thus far with my daughter. I feel as though my body is hanging on to some fat in places.
Sarah: I think that breast feed has made me a little bit chubbier actually. I'm holding a little bit more chub on my hips and tummy. I'm hoping it will go away once I wean her.
Christa: I think it is a huge help. Your uterus goes back to normal quicker, you burn more calories just by nursing, and I did not hold onto any extra body fat. My weight stayed the same after I stopped nursing.
Cass: I’m actually 8 lbs lighter than when I first got pregnant, so it’s been helpful, but there is a bit of tummy chub that makes me frown. I’ve heard this tightens up though after weaning.
7. Did you ever have any difficulties producing breast milk? If so, was this due to exercise, diet, psychology, something else? Please explain.
Helen: No problems producing milk. The whole thing was really smooth.
Christa: Yes. There was a week when my husband was away when Livia was still very young and I was stressed, busy, and not eating/drinking enough. When I saw she was not getting enough milk I made sure to eat and drink more and it came right back.
Sarah: I have had zero problems at any point producing breast milk.
Cass: Only once when I got stressed out and thought that I wasn’t able to produce milk (personally, I think that’s the issue with a lot of women… if you think you can’t, you won’t.) But, then I relaxed and it resumed normally.
8. What are your overall thoughts on breastfeeding for the health of yourself and the health and well-being of your child? If you were to do it again (or if you're doing it now...) would you do it as long? Longer? Change anything from what you did the first time?
Sandra: I think breastfeeding is wonderful for the well-being of my children and also for my health. I am thankful that I was able to do it until my son was 13 months old despite the fact that I worked full-time. I look forward to doing the same for my daughter.
Helen: I think breastfeeding was great for both of us and it was way more convenient than making formula (tried it once as backup when I had to go out suddenly and wasn't sure how long I'd be.) I breast fed for a little over a year and I think it was the perfect time for it since baby seemed ready to move on and I had started work.
Christa: Breastfeeding is an incredible bonding experience with so many benefits to your baby's health and to the mother's mental and physical well-being. With my next baby (due May 22) I plan on nursing the same amount of time (12-16 months) and would not change anything.
Sarah: I'm passionate about breastfeeding. I think it's a gift to your child. It's the best for them in every way. The list could go on and on and on about all the health, mental, emotional, social benefits of breastfeeding. I plan to go for a while longer because my daughter clearly isn't ready yet to be weaned. I'm going off of her signals at this point. We'll see how this goes though :-) I have the feeling this will be a child I'll have to reason with to get weaned.
Cass: I’m very happy that I’ve been able to breast feed this long. It makes me feel good and April loves it. If I was working full time away from home though, I don’t think it would be possible as on days I’ve had to work outside the house all day, I forget to pump and end up with a lower supply.
THANK YOU for your time, ladies!