New moms hoping to get right back to running as soon as possible are faced with some challenges. One that rarely gets discussed — except among crews of actual moms on the run — is the challenge of breastfeeding while getting back into a running routine.
From making sure you have the right running bra to getting enough calories, here are a few things to consider when returning to running after having a baby:
Jennifer Faraone, author of “The Athletic Mom-To-Be: Training Your Way into Pregnancy and Motherhood,” got back to running soon after giving birth. She says one of the biggest considerations a breastfeeding mom needs to think about is eating enough. Breastfeeding already requires more calories, and running compounds that. It’s easy to get into a “low-calorie” mindset to get back to your post-baby body, but Faraone cautions that not eating enough will leave you fatigued and can make breastfeeding a serious struggle.
“My running undergarment needs have changed while nursing,” one mom told me. You’re almost definitely not going to be wearing the same sports bra you were pre-pregnancy while breastfeeding and even the ones you wore through your pregnancy might not fit properly. There are some sports bras designed for easier breastfeeding, but most running moms said you’re better off skipping any zippers or snaps and opting for a standard sports bra — but not that flimsy one you used to wear. One with more compression than you’ve used in past might be more comfortable, since you’re likely experiencing some tenderness that will potentially be exacerbated by any up-and-down bouncing.
As a runner, you probably know your pre-pregnancy splits — and you probably want to get back to them. But Faraone says the worst thing new moms can do is be in competition with their former selves. It’s OK to take it slow at first — especially if you’re experiencing any discomfort. You might need to retrain your stride if you ran through your pregnancy, since your weight distribution will have shifted quite a bit after giving birth.
Pre-pregnancy, you might have loved that caffeine jolt provided by a cup of coffee. Sadly, most moms skip the caffeine while breastfeeding, meaning that pre-run espresso is off the table. That might mean rethinking your rituals ahead of runs and races, especially if you relied on caffeine not just for energy, but for a push toward the port-a-potty. In that case, you may need to move your meal a bit earlier to allow for your digestive system to more naturally process your snack. If you primarily considered coffee an energy boost, consider swapping for a branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) supplement, which has been shown to boost energy.
“As the mother of a toddler, the hardest part is packing for an extra person and trying to anticipate my child’s needs in relation to my race schedule,” one mom says. “When I came back to racing, my son was 6 months and still exclusively breastfed, so it was really challenging to fit in a warm up before my race. It took a full season to develop a good race routine for us.” If you have a goal race in mind, it might be a good idea to sign up for a couple of earlier races to test out how your race day will work and fix timing issues. If you’re lucky enough to have a group of other moms around, consider trading ‘pit crew’ duties: Your friend will skip this week’s race to help you prep and watch your kiddo while you race, and you’ll do the same for her next time.
Take it slow and give yourself the grace to take more recovery days, drop your pace and pay attention to the first signs of injury. “As a new mom, exercise can be so important to you, and the last thing you need is to be sidelined by an injury,” concluded Faraone.