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.

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.

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.

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.

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.  

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!





Posted Feb 04, 2011 by Cassandra Forsythe.

Comments for This Entry

GravatarEmily11:37AM on February 05, 2011

Hi Cassandra, I'm also breastfeeding exclusively - my son is 8 1/2 months old and showing no signs of weaning. I'm wondering though if it's safe to try to get leaner while breastfeeding? The last time I checked my bodyfat it was around 17-18%. With the summer coming up I (selfishly) want to actually look good in my bathing suit this year... Though I'll never do anything to jeopardize my son or his nutrition.

I wouldn't eat less, I would just do more cardio (mainly walking, maybe some sprints) to get some extra bodyfat off. I seem to be holding onto a bit on my stomach and thighs.

What do you think?

GravatarCassandra06:39AM on February 07, 2011

Hi Emily!

I think your plan is a good one - being more active will benefit your psychological well-being in addition to helping you create more muscle and burning more fat. Much better than eating less, IMHO.

With regards to getting leaner, yes, it is possible, but I'm sure the hormonal status of breastfeeding puts a bit of a barrier to how lean you can possibly get. But, you can still improve where you're at now.

Remember though: you only really have one time in your baby's life to breastfeed them, so it you have to sacrifice one summer in a less revealing bathing suit than normal, I don't think that's entirely a bad thing. You know what I mean? Not that you're going to wear a Moo-Moo, but, you might not be your normal super-star self just one time.

GravatarIris07:49AM on February 08, 2011

Cassandra, thanks so much for this series! Your blog has become the best resource on the internet when it comes to strength training and nutrition during pregnancy. You are helping women to do REAL exercise and fueling their bodies with real food the baby and they need instead of recommending the insane amounts of grains (who needs them, anyway?) they recommend elsewhere. Soooo, Have you ever thought of writing a book on the subject? If so, please hurry up,..;-) I am already planning a second pregnancy...:-). It would be so helpful if you could post some examples of how to continue with strength training. I was too scared to do free weights during my first pregnancy and did machines only. Now I have started to lift heavy but I am afraid that I will feel insecure again once I am pregnant. I have found the information that it is reasonable to stick to the weights you are used to and just doing less reps...I love heavy back squats but I cannot imagine my pregnant self continuing with them...stupid, I know...And you shared in an earlier post about your nutrition. Maybe you could post (or include in the book I wish I could encourage you to write) more ideas (for women who do not work out as much as you do). So keep on with your blog!!!

GravatarMiranda02:33PM on February 08, 2011

Thanks so much for this series. I really appreciate it as my pregnancy is drawing to a close and I am thinking a lot about what's next.

I guess my only question would be somewhat in relation to #6. I feel like during the pregnancy I have been able to maintain my strength, or at least suffer very minimal lean muscle mass loss because I have kept up on my weight training. But after pregnancy I am going to want to start NROLFW and really lift heavy to make gains on lean muscle mass again. Do you gals think gaining muscle while breastfeeding still is possible, or is this sort of a competing mechanism on the body that wants to use nutrients toward milk? If that makes sense at all...I am like the previous poster that I don't want anything to interfere with my milk production, but would like to resume a more strenuous lifting program.

GravatarCassandra11:20AM on February 09, 2011

Hi Iris! Yes - I'm actually working on a book as we speak :) :) FINALLY! I have the models ready and will be doing it as an e-book, but might work with a publisher. Such fun! :) Thanks for the support.

Miranda - yes, you are going to be able to gain strength and even muscle while breastfeeding. At least I have been able to do this. At first it'll be difficult as many women's bodies are very sory and tired in the first 1-6 months. After that though, you'll be golden. :)

GravatarEmily10:03AM on February 10, 2011

Thanks for responding Cassandra! My post probably sounded vain, huh? haha I'm all about the breastfeeding, I wouldn't have it any other way. I just wish there was a way to cut the fat while nursing... Though I understand it's in the baby's best interest. :)

Good luck with the book as well! I'm sure it will be great, and it's definitely much needed these days.

GravatarIris01:18AM on February 11, 2011

When do you think will your book come out?

GravatarIris10:16AM on February 12, 2011

Cassandra, have you ever thought about establishing a forum where pregnant/postpartum or exercising women in general could "meet" and support each other and share their experiences? Just a thought...

GravatarJuli03:11PM on February 16, 2011

Hi! I recently had a baby, she is 12 days old. I have been breastfeeding from the start. I am wondering if you are pumping or if you have been nursing the whole time. It seems like it will be hard to try and go anywhere or have someone else babysit (down the road), as I am not pumping yet. I am wondering if pumping will make things easier as she gets older. The doctor said it would be good to wait to introduce a bottle around 3-4 weeks. I don't mind nursing at all, it is a great bonding time, but it just seems like it will be hard to go anywhere for more than an hour or 2 at a time (by the time you finish feeding, get ready, drive somewhere, etc). Any feedback would be appreciated. Thanks!

GravatarCassandra07:11PM on February 16, 2011

Hi Juli!

Congrats on the new baby! Great news! :)

I waited to start pumping until April was ~8 weeks old because I was told by my lactation consultant that if I pumped too early, I'd produce WAY more milk than I needed and be very engorged all the time (not too much fun....)

Once I did start pumping, I stored it all since I didn't really need to bottle feed her much. But, now I give her a bottle when either I'm out and not able to breast feed her or she's with someone else.

Have you talked with a lactation consultant? Most hospitals offer their services for free and you should definitely check it out.

Best, Cass

GravatarCassandra07:11PM on February 16, 2011

Iris - I think Fit Pregnancy the magazine does that.... Right? I wish I had time to manage a forum, but it's a ton of work :(

GravatarMara12:40AM on March 02, 2011

Emily, 17-18% body fat is awesome! You are going to rock your bikini! If you want to lose more I would absolutely rather do intervals than steady state cardio and, of course, lift some heavy weights. I recently have read in an article that the act of breastfeeding causes insulin spikes so if you pump a lot (breastmilk, that is!) it might help to decrease pumping to a minimum if this agrees with your schedule. And, keep in mind, in some months your child will have found an interest in solids so you might drop some fatin no time. But again, 17-18% body fat is great, if you do not mind please share how you got there!

GravatarEmily09:17AM on March 27, 2011

Mara, thank you! In response to how I got where I am... honestly, it's been mostly the breastfeeding that's done it I think. Well, I also have an older son who just turned 2 so I'm constantly chasing him around. :) I'm a personal trainer as well, so I try to work out and eat right - you know the usual stuff. I'm pretty skinny by nature too, so that helps a bunch. But, really, I haven't done anything special.

GravatarAngela11:28AM on April 14, 2011

I'm almost 8 months into Breastfeeding but in a different way. I exclusively pump, and while not ideal and hard to keep up with, I'm so close to a year I'm definitely hanging in there.

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