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Baby Development – Breastfeeding Mums Need more Aerobic Exercise

Posted Nov 17 2009 10:00pm

By Colleen Hurley, RD, Certified Kid’s Nutrition Specialist

It is well known that breastfeeding is the feeding method most recommended by physicians across the globe as it provides health benefits to both mother and baby.  Breast milk is nutrient dense loaded with lots of vitamins and minerals as well as a unique artillery of antibodies to help boost a baby’s immune system right from the start.  Those nutrients of course come from the mum and her diet, sometimes at a mother’s expense.

According to a recent study from the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, breastfeeding can cause a temporary bone loss due to calcium depletion.  The good news is though that this temporary depletion can be offset by aerobic and resistance exercise but does indicate that breastfeeding mothers need more exercise than those who are not nursing.

Women transfer about 200 milligrams per day of calcium stores from their bones to their breast milk to meet the needs of their baby.  Researchers from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) measured bone mineral density in 20 women for 4 to 20 weeks post pregnancy and found that mothers who didn’t exercise lost about 7% of their lower spine bone density during that timeframe.

exercise Calcium is a key component in bone mineral density as well as overall health and the depletion of calcium during lactation can indeed reduce density.  Once an infant is weaned from the breast, bone mineral density does typically return to normal levels.  The study found that exercise, particularly resistance training or weight bearing exercise can slow bone loss during lactation ultimately reducing the risk of osteoporosis later in life.   This post pregnancy exercise also had another bonus for moms trying to shed the post-baby weight: body fat percentage decreased while lean muscle mass increased for the exercising mums when compared to the non-exercisers regardless of dietary intake. 

  What you can do

It is understandable amidst the sleep deprivation and the constant feedings that the last thing you might feel like doing is exercising.  First, it is important to check with your physician before initiating an exercise regime especially after having a baby.  Once you are given the green light from your physician, take it slow and keep in mind that every little bit helps so don’t feel overwhelmed by thinking you have to jump right into a big workout- a few minutes here and there throughout the day adds up.  Be sure to listen to your body, and ease back into exercise.  Even though it might be a struggle at first, you will find that exercise can help reduce stress levels, provide better quality (quantity aside) sleep, and make you feel better overall once you are done.  Also, maintain a calcium rich well balanced diet to meet the increased needs while breastfeeding.

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