Myth Busters: "Will exercise decrease my milk supply!?"

Cardiovascular fitness is an excellent way to protect our mental health. As a physical therapist, I work with a lot of mommas who want to get back to running, hiking, or bike riding without increasing their risk of prolapse, pain, urinary/fecal incontinence, or the "mommy tummy".  A common question that comes up in PT, and came up at group last Thursday, is: will exercise decrease my milk supply?

Let me be honest about my bias on this one.  I'm a physical therapist - everyone assumes that I love exercise.

BUT! I really don't like to exercise. There was one time that my friend Steph asked me to run the Tough Mudder with her. I said "yes" without thinking.  It was horrible. We ran a 10K with a bunch of obstacles, one of which was crawling through "mud" (more like rocks) with barbed wire over our heads.  As we crawled, some sadistic human being sprayed us with spring run-off, mountain-stream-water from a fire hose. This was probably the last time I legitimately exercised - 5 years ago.

I now live vicariously through my children and their exercise.

Before I became a lactation consultant, I thought that exercise would decrease a momma's milk supply. BUT! Once breastfeeding is established there is only one thing that can control milk supply.

Milk Removal.

Really? Just milk removal? Not hydration? Not nutrition? Not "Mother's Milk" tea? Not fancy lactation cookies?

Nope! Milk Removal.

"How does milk production work" -  EMPTY BREAST = FASTER MILK PRODUCTION

The momma who asked this question at group brought up a good point. She assumed that her milk supply had decreased when she started exercising because her breasts didn't feel "as full" as they did with baby #1.  Megan, had an excellent response to this - maybe baby #2 had a better latch than baby #1 and that is why the breasts didn't feel as full.

OF course! Here at The Local Latch, everything is always about the latch. :)

This leads us into another Myth Busters topic: does breast "fullness", based on the "grab and feel model" actually tell us anything about how "full a breast is" and how much milk it has?  I'll spoil this one for you...... no, no it doesn't......Also, since everything is about the latch here - it would appear that it is easier for babies to latch correctly on a breast that isn't "full".  Imagine trying to eat a veggie burger that is HUGE vs squished.

Squished burger....this is gross looking.... your breasts look better than this, for sure.

Remember: Mother's milk and her body are amazing.  Her breasts will steal from other parts of her body to make the most perfect food for her baby.

Need water? Momma's breasts take hydrogen ions from her stomach and oxygen from the air to make water.

Need nutrition? Momma's breasts take from all places in her body to find the right about of proteins, trace minerals, and nutrients to feed her baby.

Myth Busted!!!!

And, in busting this myth, I think I might just get my running shoes on and go for a jog along the Arkansas River with my friend Megan and our kiddos in a fancy running stroller.

"Right mom..... you? exercise?!" 
-- Dr. Ann Croghan, PT, DPT, CLC


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