After baby is born, mums have one specific goal in mind – to lose that baby weight and postnatal bulge. Unfortunately, most have to sweat their way through workout after workout to achieve this. After all, few of us are blessed with Victoria Secrets Angel Miranda Kerr’s genes, which helped the mum to Flynn and wife to actor Orlando Bloom return to the catwalk just two months after giving birth.
But if you are breastfeeding your little one, you’ll probably find it somewhat uncomfortable to engage in activity that will incite too much mammary motion. And what about those unexplained leaking episodes? Furthermore, milk stains and perspiration don’t form an aromatic partnership.
Still, if you do crave that runner’s high or yoga bliss, go ahead and exercise. Breastfeeding mums can lose weight and get fit – without embarrassing spillage or agonising aches. But first, the scientific bit.
As a breastfeeding mother, you will have noticed the size and shape of your girls changing. Breast size is determined by the amount of fatty tissue in breasts. Lactation creates denser tissue so the breasts become fuller and heavier. The increase in blood flow to the bust during breastfeeding may also cause them to become sore and swollen with milk － and this breast engorgement could leave the breast slightly mis-shapened after nursing, explains Charine Tay, a spokesperson from Marks & Spencer.
Your breasts may not return to pre-pregnancy size or shape after breastfeeding. As breast tissue swells with milk and shrinks after nursing, bust contours may change. The flow of milk during breastfeeding can stretch breast skin and tissue so some women may also find they have an ‘empty’ or ‘stretched out’ look to their breasts. On top of breastfeeding, genetics, weight gain during pregnancy and age can also determine whether the breasts sag or stay full after nursing.
While most bras are designed to only limit vertical movement, breasts actually move in a figure of eight during exercise. The basic rule of thumb, advises Charine, is to look for well-designed bras that provide firm and gentle support.
The bra should support your increased bust size during lactation, which means fuller cups that fit snugly around the breast without putting undue pressure on breast tissue, and shoulder straps that help lift and support the bust. The bra should also limit breast movement during exercise to help protect fragile ligaments in the breast from being stretched and damaged.
Marks & Spencer has bras which are designed for specific sporting activities: the Medium Impact Race Back Santoni Crop Top for light running, the Medium Impact Non-Wired Yoga Sports Bra, and even a High Impact Padded Eco Sports Crop Top for more strenuous workouts.
Monica Moritz, owner of By Brasil Sports, a retailer and wholesaler of ladies boutique sports and fitness wear, recommends tight pressurised tops that “hold the breasts in place and give your milk ducts the freedom to flow, without bands or padding blocking that tingling feeling”.
The mother of 13 and 10-year-old boys (who breastfed her sons for three years and 16 months respectively) advises against sports bras: “They can constrict milk ducts around our breast area. I had many painful cysts due to the elastic band pressure constricting the flow of milk. Once I stopped using those, my problems stopped.”
Her tips for breastfeeding mums who exercise:
• Breastfeed before your workout, and wear comfortable supportive gymwear.
• Wear suplex sports tops or full length tops in dark colors or prints. Regatta style tops with layering for extra support work well too.
• Give your core added support with a gym belt or pants that offer tummy support.
• Wear form-fitting and supportive tops for comfort.
• Dealing with leakage will always be a problem. Breastfeed before you hit the gym and wear dark or printed tops. Better still, wear two tops – layer them – the more pressurised support you get, the less likely you are to leak. And of course bring a towel with you. In case you do leak, just pretend you are wiping off your sweat!