Breastfeeding + Marathon Training

(Disclaimer: I AM NOT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL NOR AM I A LACTATION CONSULTANT. ALL OF THE INFORMATION IN THIS POST IS BASED ON MY EXPERIENCE AND WHAT I FOUND TO BE TRUE.)

Eight months of breastfeeding my little Miss Ava, hoping to make it one year, but no exact end plan in sight. I’m still a strong believer in FED IS BEST.

I have had one of both. My first was mainly bottle fed, my second has been exclusively breastfed with bottles of breast milk when we are apart. Every baby and mama are unique, so feed your baby whichever way works. With that being said, unlike my first born, breastfeeding Ava has come very naturally to us.

Although, breastfeeding is a huge time commitment, I am very proud that I am able to provide for Ava in this way, especially since being a busy working mama of two, while also training and running a fall marathon.

When I first started my marathon training in July, I was 13 weeks postpartum/post c-section. Because of the summer heat, I became paranoid that I might see a dip in my milk supply, once I started to increase mileage. I had heard stories of women who exercised too much, very suddenly, and just as suddenly they found their milk supply drop. I told myself that my main priority was (is) my baby (babies), and if my milk supply became jeopardized in any way, then I would stop training for the marathon.

I began researching breastfeeding and marathon training, but I couldn’t find very much information on this topic. So I reached out to other mother runners on IG and in Mom’s Run This Town running group, to see what other mother runners experienced. I also asked my daughter’s pediatrician who is a certified lactation consultant for advice.

This is the knowledge I gained while exploring the topic of Breastfeeding and Marathoning. This is my experience.

Hydrate + Fuel = Breastmilk

First thing first – according to my pediatrician and lactation consultant, as long as baby continues to drink milk from the breast, emptying the full breast, my body will make the exact amount of milk that my baby needs. This is true even if one is marathon training. However, the proper nutrition and fueling is very important during marathon training, even more so for a breastfeeding mother runner, such as myself. It is very important to consider hydration and calorie intake, because they are crucial components to making milk.

During a twenty mile training run, the body burns close to 2,000 calories and as a breastfeeding mom an additional 500 calories is burned a day. So those calories must be replaced to make milk.

My experience …

Because I stayed hydrated and well fueled, I never saw a dip in my milk supply. I found this true when asking other mother runners from IG and MRTT.

Take Your Prenatal Vitamin

Another important factor is taking a prenatal vitamin. A prenatal vitamin is recommended three months before pregnancy, during pregnancy, and while breastfeeding. It will help provide all the necessary vitamins mama and baby need. This is extremely important for breastfeeding mamas who are also marathon training, because these extra vitamins will help prevent injuries.

My experience …

I took my prenatal vitamin all through out my training, and I am continuing to take it, until I stop breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding + Running Injuries

As a breastfeeding postpartum mother runner, I am more prone to running injury. There are several reasons why… but the main reason is because of the hormone relaxin. Relaxin is created by the pregnant body to soften and loosen ligaments and joints, so the body will be capable of giving birth. This hormone is still present several months after giving birth, and makes a marathon training mama more prone to injury.

Another reason is Calcium and Vitamin D. This is where it is important to take a prenatal vitamins and eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D. If the body is not getting the sufficient amount of calcium and vitamin D, it will provide what it has to for baby first, through breastmilk, making mama more prone to stress fractures.

And healing from injuries may take longer as well.

My experience …

During marathon training, I personally never experienced any major injuries. I had a sore calf muscle after my first run over ten miles, but rest is all I needed. Regardless if you are breastfeeding or not, always listen to your body, and back off the training when you need to and rest. With that being said, always remember rest days are part of training. Rest and recovery are as important as your long run.

Foods for Breastfeeding Mamas + tricks to get your supply back up

If for some reason you do experience a drop in your breast milk supply, know this, breast milk supply can go up, down, and back up. DO NOT WORRY… Stress can make things even worse. Just relax and use these tips to help bring your supply back up.

Rest and breastfeed baby- If possible take a day or two of rest, meaning decrease mileage or rest from training entirely and be with baby. If baby is able to breastfeed on demand or you have the opportunity to offer the breast to baby, your body will be able to determine the exact amount of milk your baby needs. Breastfeed baby often. Ideally breastfeed baby every 2-3 hours. Never go more than 5 or 6 hours with out breastfeeding or pumping, especially if you are experiencing a supply drop or low supply.

Hydrate- Drink tons of water. If your body is dehydrated it can’t make milk. The more you drink the better. For an extra boost in milk supply, drink Mother’s Milk Tea.

My experience … I drink Mother’s Milk tea. I use the brand Earth Mama Angel Baby, but you can find this type of tea at Whole Foods and MOM’s Organic Market. It really does help milk supply. My supply never dipped during training, but I drink this sporadically and always find my supply boosted the next day. (Not an ad, not sponsored.)

Fuel- Make sure you are eating enough calories. But for a boost in milk supply, eat oatmeal.

My experience …

I tried to eat oatmeal regularly during my training, and still love to eat oatmeal, and oat based foods. This definitely helps keep my supply boosted. I buy the organic instant apple cinnamon flavor. It is very fast and easy for me to take on the go. Never ate it before a long run though. Try eating every morning for breakfast especially during a marathon training build up.

Other foods I eat are green smoothies enriched with fennel, and soups. Fennel is very good for breastfeeding moms. And smoothies are both calorie and hydration. Soups also do the job because again, soups are both hydration and calories.

Pump- If you can’t be with baby to breastfeed or you just want to add additional feedings… get your pump ready. There are a couple different ways you can use your breast pump to increase your supply.

One way to increase supply when you find your supply dipped is feed baby on both breasts, and then immediately pump after the feeding for a minimum of 5 minutes on each side. This will insure you empty the breast completely. If milk does not come out while pumping it means your baby successfully emptied the breast, however keep pumping for the addition time, it will trick the body into thinking baby is still there and needs more milk.

Another way to increase or bring milk supply up is to pump in between feedings. For example if you are feeding every two hours then pump an hour after breastfeeding baby.

Do not play the comparison game. If another mama gets more ounces than you, that’s what her body does. You focus on you, and every drop of milk counts, so take what you can get and store that milk.

My experience … I’ve done both of these pumping strategies and they both work on increasing milk supply. However, I have a very consistent pumping schedule for the days I work, and a very consistent breastfeeding schedule for my baby while I’m at home with her. I find the more consistent I am at feeding my baby and pumping the more consistent my milk supply becomes.

Breastfeeding + Pumping + Race Day

Schedule 15-20 minutes extra in the morning on race day to either breastfeed or pump. Or if you are traveling a further distance to your race, bring your pump with you, and pump in the car. Whatever decision is made, make sure the breasts are empty before you toe the line.

My experience … I ran the Navy Half Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon, as a postpartum breastfeeding mama. Both times, my baby, Ava, was asleep, before I left for the race… So I pumped. The expressed/pumped milk went right in the bottle and then the refrigerator, that way it was ready for Ava, first thing, once she woke up. This also made it easier on my husband, who also had to get the baby and my three year old dressed and ready to spectate my race.

In the early days, when my daughter was a newborn, I breastfeed her on demand. As she became an infant I breastfed ever 2-3 hours, never going longer than 3 hours. Now that she is taking on solid foods, I normally breastfeed every 3 hours offering her solid foods at least 3 times a day. I normally offer milk first and then food.

When I’m at work, my pump schedule mimics my breastfeeding schedule. I do not have a huge breastmilk stash in my freezer. I normally pump exactly what she will need for the next day. My goal is to be consistent and on schedule, that way my body is never guessing.

When I ran my half marathon, I had no problem. I pumped in the morning right before the race. I ran a 2:10 half marathon, and then got home right after to breastfeed Ava. It was probably 4 hours between feedings, which is totally fine.

However, I was a little worried after my full marathon. I pumped in the morning. Then I ran my marathon in 4:44:21. Although, I tried to get to Ava as fast as I could. If you add up the time before and after the race, it was probably 6 hours between feedings, maybe a little longer. Of course my husband fed her bottles ofbreast milk and solid foods while I was gone, so she was content with a full belly. It was more about me needing to empty the breast. Because I don’t run marathons everyday, and there normally is not a 6 hour gap between feedings, it didn’t effect my supply in anyway. One day out of the norm isn’t going to be a problem. Plus Ava was seven months old, and my milk supply was well established plus, never took a dip during training.

Nursing Tents at the Marine Corps Marathon

Although, I didn’t take advantage of the tents, because my husband brought my baby to me as soon as he could. I was very impressed with the Marine Corps Marathon this year, for having nursing tents at the finish line. This was a huge help for breastfeeding mamas who ran the marathon and either needed to breastfeed baby right after the race, or had to pump immediately after.

Proud Marathon Mama

This year’s Marine Corps Marathon was my slowest, but my most accomplished. Very few people run marathons, and even fewer run marathons at 7 months postpartum while still breastfeeding their baby, and I did all of that. (Not trying to brag, just so proud.)

I managed to successfully continue to breastfeed and marathon train. I managed being a mother of two small children while also making time for one of my life passions, running. It’s incredible what the female body can do, and I’m so very proud of mine.

One day, when I was heading out the door for a run, my three year old begged me not to go. She said, “Don’t go running, mommy!” Normally, she comes with me in the double Bob running stroller. But that day for some reason she didn’t want to go, and she didn’t want me going either.

I told her, “Nope, I got to go run.”

“But… why?” She asked.

“Because Mommy, made a commitment. When you make a commitment, you have to stick with it. I signed up for a race, and paid money to participate in it. I set a goal, that I need to achieve. I’m committed.

I then told her she could come with me or stay home with daddy, but I was going running and would be right back.

One of my biggest hopes is that one day, my little ones will find something they are truly passionate about, and that they will understand the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. I have little eyes watching my every move, my ultimate goal is to set the best example I absolutely can.

Thank you!

So that is all that I experienced as a breastfeeding marathon. If you have an question please contact me.

I want to shout out a special thanks to the Marine Corps Marathon. You put on a great race yet again.

And thank you Marines, for supporting Breastfeeding marathon mamas!

15 mile long run, at four months postpartum/post c-section.

⚡️1 5 M I L E R ⚡️

On Saturday, I woke up early, and hit the MVT south side for my 15 mile run. It had rained, Friday night, so everything was wet, and although it was humid, it felt cooler than the summer scorcher the day before.

I started my run around 8 am. The trail was already buzzing with other runners and cyclists. Finally, I wasn’t alone. I even saw Potomac Road Runners out there, and water stations set up if one needed water, making me smile. “That’s a kind gesture”, I thought. It reminded me of why I love the running community and at that moment I felt thankful to be a part of it.

The trail had some rolling hills, which I actually prefer – it kept things interesting.

Wow!

When looking back, I have come to the fact that this is the longest run, that I have run since my 2016 marathon! That alone is something to celebrate, especially since I’m only four months postpartum/post c-section. And the cherry on top, is that it went well. Not my fastest 15 miler, but I’m not racing my training runs.

“Marathons are extraordinarily difficult, but if you’ve got the training under your belt, and if you can run smart, the races take care of themselves. When you have the enthusiasm and the passion, you end up figuring how to excel.” ~Deena Kastor

This marathon training cycle has been my hardest so far. I have the enthusiasm and passion, but I often question if I am running “smart.”

I’m in a different season in my life, now as a mommy of two. I took the fourth trimester very seriously. And took that time to rest, heal, connect with my new little babe, Ava, and help my Zoe transition to big sister.

It has been harder than I thought it would be to find time to fit in my weekly runs, being a working mom, with a 3 year old and 4 month old – but other mother runners do it.

I have the double bob and almost all of my weekly training runs have been stroller miles, running pushing my babes. The stroller running has definitely helped me gain core strength, and although, there is still strength to gain, this is great progress for me, considering I couldn’t even do one sit up weeks after labor.

I’m still breastfeeding Ava, and that alone demands a lot of my time. And lately during her four month regression/growth spurt, that also means sleepless nights.

As expected, at four months postpartum I’m still getting my fitness back, after having baby Ava. I still have 8-10 pounds to loose. And I don’t have my speed back yet, which makes my runs slower and more time consuming.

But guess what…

I’m still running.

Why I didn’t run when I was pregnant. And some fitness advice for mama’s to be. 

My story. 

I always pictured myself running through out my pregnancy, but to my surprise when I became pregnant I didn’t like running at all. I was slower. It was harder to breathe. My heart beat faster. I was nervous I would fall – I’m clumsy as it is.

During my first trimester, I was exhausted, and starving all the time. It was also December, so cold winter days, didn’t really motivate me, plus we had a snowy winter. What if I slipped on ice? So I didn’t run, and instead I spent my free time curled up in a chunky knit sweater drinking a hot tea, reading about how to be pregnant.

Once the winter passed the summer began. I walked every day, wishing I was running, but it was just to hot. I did prenatal yoga as well. And by the time I hit 36 weeks my feet were swelling and the pool became my best friend.

The few times I did run while pregnant, I was slower, out of breath, and it wasn’t fun. I had a doctor tell me, if it feels good then go for it, if it doesn’t, then stop. Running while pregnant didn’t feel good, so I found other forms of exercise to keep me healthy and strong during my pregnancy.

The Facts.

I’ve been reading this book, called Brain Rules for babies. It says, “If I were to give a single sentence of advice based on what we know about in utero development during the first half of pregnancy,it would be this: The baby wants to be left alone.”  

Sounds weird, but the fact is the baby has a lot to accomplish and develop. The best feature of life in the womb is the lack of stimulation.

Because of this, we have morning sickness to keep us eating a bland diet, away from any foods that could harm. We feel exhausted because our body is at major work. Most energy goes to the baby developing in the womb, but this exhaustion keeps over achieving athletes, like myself, from over doing it. The female body is truly amazing, it does all of this, so it can avoid overstimulation of the fetus.

The book also states that anthropologists believe our ancestors walked as far as 12 miles per day. And evidence proves that exercise should definitely be a part of a healthy pregnancy. However, what I have found is there are certain types of exercise that is better for a woman during pregnancy than others.

The more I research this subject the more glad I am that I didn’t run during pregnancy. 

Along with reading, I have been listening to a couple of podcasts with the focus on motherhood and running. These podcasts have called in many experts including, running coaches and physical therapists who specialize on the pelvic floor. Through them, what I have discovered, is that… Running may not harm your baby, but it may harm you, during pregnancy and postpartum. 

Here are the facts

Heart: During pregnancy your heart beats faster to pump more blood to the fetus. In the early stages when your heart rate goes up so does your baby’s. However, at the end, the opposite happens. When your heart rate goes up, your baby’s heart rate (in most cases) drops.

Lungs: When you run you may feel out of breath, because your lungs are pumping more oxygen to the fetus.

Ligaments: During pregnancy, your ligaments start to soften to prepare for child-birth/labor and delivery. This normally starts to happen at around 20 weeks. I remember laying in bed with hip pain. This pain was totally normal. My hips were just spreading to make room for baby, and softening to prepare for labor. When running during pregnancy, most coaches suggest that most pregnant runners stop running after 20 weeks, however, each person is different and they evaluate case by case. After 20 weeks, the ligaments are soft and pregnant runners become more injury prone.  Postpartum, your ligaments may still be soft. And although, baby has been born, your ligaments are still soft which means you are more prone to injury.

Bones: Postpartum, if you choose to breast feed, calcium first goes to baby. If you are not getting enough calcium in your diet, this can be a problem, and can lead to stress fractures.

Pelvic floor: The pelvic floor is the muscular base of the abdomen that is attached to the pelvis. These muscles for a woman, hold all of our organs inside – organs include uterus, bladder, and large intestine. The pelvic floor becomes weak during pregnancy, and during labor. It is more prone to injury to those who run during pregnancy, and for those who jump back into fitness to early postpartum. It is typical for doctors to give the “OKAY” to work out again to their postpartum patients 6-8 weeks postpartum, however, most running coaches, think this is too soon. Some highly recommend postpartum runners see a physical therapist who specializes in the pelvic floor, and get their pelvic floor evaluated before they start running again.

In Europe, strengthening the pelvic floor, is something that is included in prenatal care, and postpartum care, however, in the USA some pregnant women have no clue what the pelvic floor is. For those who are pregnant, it is very important to focus on strengthening the pelvic floor during pregnancy. In the prenatal yoga class I took when I was pregnant, the two areas of focus were on strengthening the pelvic floor and doing chest and hip openers.

Do you have a weak pelvic floor? There are a couple of symptoms and signs that you may notice that means your pelvic floor is weak. If you have had a baby, and you leak urine, this may be a sign that your pelvic floor is weak. Sometimes it may be while you are on a run, other times you may sneeze and pee a little. Also if you ran while pregnant and you are experiencing hip or back pain it may mean your pelvic floor is weak. In this case, it is best to get it evaluated.

There are ways to strengthen your pelvic floor during pregnancy in order to avoid injury. Also if your pelvic floor is already weak there are exercised you can do to strengthen it back up. However, if you ignore the problem, you may need surgery later.

Another great reference for pelvic floor information, is on the blog Run Far Girl.  Also read about her own personal experience in her blog post, Why I wish I hadn’t Run Pregnant.

Uterus: During pregnancy the uterus expands to hold baby, this heavy uterus pushes down on the pelvic floor. Because of this reason, it is important to strengthen the pelvic floor (read above). Running during pregnancy, when the uterus is larger, heavier, pushing down on the pelvic floor can cause injury. Postpartum, the uterus may take time to go down. Again because it is larger, pressing on the pelvic floor, working out to soon postpartum can cause injury.

Running form: When you are pregnant your body has transformed to make room for baby. Rib cage and hips have spread and expanded. Your core no longer exists. You have gained weight. Your uterus is larger, and is housing a baby. Your ligaments are soft. Your lungs and heart are working hard. Because of all of this, your running form may adjust in order to handle your pregnant body. You may or may not realized this change, however, a change in your running form may cause injury. If you do decide to run while pregnant, you may consider getting your form evaluated because you may need different running shoes.

Cadence: How many steps you take in one minute is your cadence. The goal is to reach around 180 steps per minute. When you are pregnant you may not be able to get your feet off the ground fast enough, so therefore your cadence may be a lot lower.  When your cadence is lower it means your foot is on the ground for longer, or your stride is longer. Both of these can cause injury.

RUNNING Now:

running with Zoe

At 7 months, postpartum, I am now RUNNING for TWO. Zoe my 7 month old daughter is my favorite running buddy. I have never been an early bird, but Zoe is training me to be one. She goes to bed every night between 7:30 and 8:00, which means on a lucky day she sleeps in until 7:00 am, but on most days she is up ready to play at 6:00 -6:30 am. This gives us plenty of time to go for morning runs.

I have been running since 14 weeks postpartum. This gave me a full two months to focus on just me and my running. I focused on form and cadence. I’m not as fast as I was before, but I am getting there. Those two months gave me the time I needed to get my strength back so I would be comfortable bringing on the extra weight of a baby and running stroller. I have been running most days, and everyday I run with Zoe my pace improves. This stroller gig is making me stronger. Zoe loves it as well, and on most days as long as she is well fed, she naps during our runs.

So although, I didn’t run for two while pregnant, I am doing it now. And whether she is sleeping peacefully, or giggling, or in the rare case screaming her head off, running with Zoe is my new favorite kind of running.

So if you are a pregnant runner consider the above information, and always remember, although it may seem like forever, you are only pregnant for a short time. Soon your baby will be here, and you will be pulling out the running stroller before you know it.

Run Happy!

Mama’s – Did you run pregnant? 

© 2016 sweat1xdaily