Running & Nursing

Alex and Mommy, baby is 6 months old

I really wanted to breastfeed my baby for her first year. I’ve always heard how “breast is best” and I was happy that milk came in and I didn’t have any problems breastfeeding.

Alex and Mommy, baby is 6 months old

Alex and me, the day she turned 6-months-old

I have a love/hate relationship with breastfeeding in general. I like that I don’t have to buy formula and I don’t have tons of bottles to keep clean (just the ones from her daily daycare needs). I like that if it comes right down to it, I have her food with me all the time. And when we have a nice peaceful feeding, I love the cuddling moments and the image of my sweet baby at my chest is forever seared into my brain. (I hope!)

I don’t like that my body is so different due to this, I don’t like leaking and needing nursing pads, I don’t like feeling chained to my baby or my pump a little bit. (I don’t dare leave town without her! Well, Kevin wouldn’t have time to take care of her now anyway if I did leave town without her.) I don’t like that she pulls on the neckline of all my shirts while she eats, stretching them out. I don’t like that some shirts just don’t work very well for nursing, either because they have too much material bunched up when I pull it up, they don’t move very well or they just don’t fit right over my chest these days. I hate nursing bras, I can’t find ones that fit right in the band (they’re all too big, I have a small rib cage) and they don’t create a flattering silhouette. I hate pumping.

But most of all, I don’t like how nursing interacts with running.

I can’t get up super-early in the morning to go for a run because I would have to pump first in order to be comfortable. And then the baby would probably wake up while I’m out running and Kevin would need to feed her. While it might be a good experience for them, so far he’s only tried to feed her a few bottles and my understanding is that it hasn’t gone so well. Anyway, if I can feed her directly… again, it’s fewer bottles and it’s some cuddle time since I miss out on that some with her eating from bottles at daycare.

I have to coordinate run times around nursing/pumping schedules. Just like I hate nursing bras, I hate nursing sports bras too.

But my biggest obstacle has been supply lately, and I’m pretty sure it all correlates to running more mileage and getting sick a few weeks ago.

I’ve heard talk from other running mamas that breastfeeding hunger is way more intense than marathon hunger. And I experienced that for a while, but when I got sick a few weeks ago and spent several days puking my brains out… my appetite has seemed reduced ever since. I don’t feel completely starving all the time anymore.

When I went to the doctor for bronchitis, they had me get on the scale and I broke my cardinal rule of not looking at the weight. I was surprised to see the number on the scale. It was about 7 pounds lower than what I would have assumed and what I know the ob/gyn’s office had down as my pre-pregnancy weight. The number has been haunting and taunting me ever since, I’m starting to become mildly obsessed. And I’ve been somewhat naughty and I’ve stepped on the scale at home a few more times since then. My weight has dropped another 3 pounds.

I’m trying to make sure I boost my protein and healthy fat intake. I don’t want to count calories or track my food… that’s scary territory for me to venture into and I’m positive if I open that door, more ED tendencies will come flooding in. But I just don’t think I’m very good at nourishing my body to support myself, my daughter and my running.

I’ve taken a few steps this week to try to improve things.

1. I haven’t run as much. I have a half marathon in a couple of weeks and I’ve pretty much decided that I’m tapering. (I think, there’s still a part of me that feels guilty about this because it’s a longer taper than I would usually plan for a half.) I have no time goals for the race and right now I’m kind of at the point where I just want to get it out of the way and say I accomplished it. It’s feeling like more of a hassle than excitement to me.

2. I started taking My Brest Friend Fenugreek. Fenugreek is supposed to help boost supply, despite the silly misspelled naming of the company.

3. I bought Mother’s Milk tea from Traditional Medicinals. I don’t really like it, it’s got fennel in it that has kind of a licorice-y taste. And I hate licorice. But it is consuming fluids and serves a medicinal purpose.

4. Hydrating, hydrating, hydrating.

5. Trying to eat more. I’m seriously considering buying some brewers yeast and making lactation cookies. They’re supposed to be full of lactogenic ingredients and it would be more calories. Plus it’s cookies!

The baby has started on solids, it’s been almost a full week. I’m sure her milk consumption will change as she eats more too. But right now she’s only eating a tiny bit of food and I want to make sure I’ve got milk to support her, since that’s still her primary source of fuel. (Yep… I’m a runner. My baby is fueling!)

And the solids arena… well, that may be a whole other post! I feel like I just have more and more questions about that each day! :-)

Moms… have you ever experienced supply issues? Or have you done long-distance running while breastfeeding? Did it cause you any problems? Got any advice for me?

18 Comments

  1. I didn’t have supply issues while returning to running in the first year after each of my sons’ births, but I also didn’t do any long distance (for me, more than 7 miles at a time, or over 15 miles per week) running until they were a year old. I just didn’t have the energy. I agree pumping sucks, organizing runs around nursing is a pain, and that nursing clothes are not so hot. But for all the reasons you value giving your daughter breast milk, remember that you won’t be nursing for very long in the grand scheme of things. It feeeels like it now–I totally get it—but it truly is over pretty soon in the life your child and you never get to go back. You have your entire life to run and get back up to speed.

    Reply
    • You’re right, it is a short period of time. That’s kind of why I’m just thinking “Get through this race, and then you can scale your running back and worry about distances more when I’m not supporting another human being with my body!

      Reply
  2. I had supply issues but wasn’t running. I totally hear you on the whole my-life-and-body-are-not-my-own-anymore thing, though. In my experience that tends to be true even when nursing has stopped, though! (Not in the same way, but still. Motherhood, man. LIFE-CHANGING.)

    I’ve heard just eating a bowl of oatmeal every day can boost milk production in a big way!

    Could you transition to Kevin giving Alex a bottle of formula or pumped milk (that you pump some other time of day) early in the morning, and you pump less and less every day till you’ve trained your body to not need milk at that time of day? Once you’re not pumping (or nursing) at that time of day, your body will adjust to not needing to produce that milk.

    As for solids…there’s no reason you have to start Alex off on rice cereal (blah, boring!). Start her off on mashed avocado, which has more calories and healthy fats! (For the record, my mostly-breastfed kids’ first foods were, bananas (Annalie) and applesauce (Elliora), and they both eat a HUGE variety of fruits and veggies and meats and grains today.)

    Reply
    • We gave her sweet potato first, she seemed to like that. The rice cereal, she didn’t seem as impressed. I stirred sweet potatoes into her cereal for today, hopefully that will go over better. And she gets applesauce this weekend and I was going to do avocado after that! :-)

      I forgot to mention oatmeal, I’ve been eating oatmeal each morning this week too!

      Now that you mention it about everything changing… I have heard from many people about how they have kids summoning them while they’re going to the bathroom. And I know I barged in on my mom when she was trying to take a bubble bath or do other things for herself many times as a kid. I guess I can have my life/my body again someday… when I won’t remember what it is that I wanted to do anyway!

      Reply
  3. Hi Jill,

    I had the same issues – I lost 10 lbs below my pre-pregnancy weight while I was nursing. Also, you need to be careful to avoid stress fractures, because your calcium stores might be low, and your endocrine system wonky.
    And yeah, I also couldn’t run in the morning because my boobs were too uncomfortable.

    As said by someone above, this is a very, very short period of time. My youngest is seven and my oldest 10 now, and looking back? I’m so satisfied with the decision to just let my mileage slip and not worry about it. Running is how I manage stress, and building mileage while nursing was just too much stress for my stress-busting activity. :)

    If you want, use the time to explore other shorter races that in the past, you would have overlooked.

    Reply
    • I’m definitely thinking I’ll do shorter races, after I do my half marathon in a couple weeks… since it’s already paid for!

      Stress fractures… ugh, I don’t need another one of those! I’ll definitely make sure I’m taking my calcium supplement. And I agree on the wonky endocrine thing. Even though I have had my thyroid tested, I still don’t feel that it’s right. My doctor won’t adjust my thyroid med levels because the labs say I’m in the “normal” zone, but I certainly don’t feel 100%.

      I’m beginning to truly realize this is a short time. I have felt a lot of pressure from the online world like I have to get back out and run long distances immediately. But I need to balance that with what is right for me.

      Reply
  4. I’ve been nursing for ten years (four babies) and have run solidly through the last two. Supply issues weren’t so much a problem but cosleeping and night feeds make both baby and I a little less desperate for that first morning feed which seems to work well for us.

    As for food, I’ve never gone the cereals first route. Food should be fun and varied and healthy so we just start that way from the beginning. Same goes for you, eat but try not to stress. Many women, me included, are smaller after children than before. Our lives are fuller, busier. As long as you are getting what you feel you need and your doctor is happy, just enjoy your food and your baby.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the feedback! I don’t co-sleep, but that morning feed is necessary… for both baby and me. I need to be drained, but I also need that cuddle! I know I won’t get those forever!

      Food in general should be fun… I too frequently forget that!

      Reply
  5. Pingback: Week in Re/Preview
  6. Hi Jill,
    First, you need a hug. Second, I want to tell you that you are a very good mother. You want the very best for your baby, and you are giving it to her.

    As milk production works by supply and demand, many moms find simply increasing the amount of time the baby spends at the breast helpful in increasing supply.

    Many moms have found Penny Simkin’s “24 hour cure” to be helpful:
    http://www.birthlore.com/class/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/The-Twenty-Four-Hour-Cure.pdf

    This pdf is from her book, “The Birth Partner”, and I have used it with many mothers. The wording seems specific to new moms and newborn babies, however, I have worked with plenty of moms of older babies who have benefited from employing this strategy.

    This is a nice feed on the same topic:
    https://www.llli.org/nb/nbmayjun08p46.html
    (from La Leche League International, the worlds foremost “experts” on breastfeeding).

    I hope that helps, Jill. I know you are aware that this time is so precious. It has been 8 years since I last breastfed my daughter. I cherish those memories, and I am proud that I gave her (and her brother before her) the best part of me.

    I wish you the very best!
    Jennifer

    Reply
    • Thank you for the links. Those are very interesting approaches and definitely something to consider! I love the wording about giving the babies the “best part” of us. That’s beautiful!

      Reply
  7. Thank you Jill!
    I found this blog looking for help with running and breast feeding. My child is 7 months and it appears my supply is dropping! Wanted to see other runners’ opinions on how to handle it.
    How did the 1/2 go?

    Reply
    • The half was a lot harder than other halfs I had done previously. I just felt like it was so hard to keep myself fueled for the energy. In fact, after I finished I decided I didn’t want to do another half until after I had weaned her! I know some people are able to do long distances while nursing, but it felt exhausting to me! It’s hard to deal with that emotionally, I want to just be able to run long whenever I want and feel good doing it, but I’m in a changed body right now. And breastfeeding seems to take a lot of energy out of me!

      Good luck!

      Reply

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