Balancing breastfeeding and exercise


Diana Archer Mills


We know breastfeeding is good for the baby, but man, can it be a drag. It hurts, it’s messy and it takes time. What’s more, it can be a challenging balancing act if you want to work out. Here are a few pointers for any mama-to-be or current fitmom who’s struggling…


After each of my babies was born, one of my biggest dilemmas has been ‘How can I make enough milk for my hungry baby while I get my fitness (and body) back?’ I know I’m not alone – a friend recently disclosed to me that she gave up breastfeeding at five months because her doctor had told her she needed to quit if she wanted to exercise! What rubbish.

A girl’s gotta eat

When you’re pregnant, you aren’t actually eating for two (although I personally found refuge in this wondrous myth a few times). Once you start breastfeeding, you are going to be an eating machine. And guess what? It’s all good! Your body is officially working overtime to make milk and keep all regular functions going, so now is your legitimate chance to eat a little extra. This is especially true for women who work out. The added calories will give your body the chance to keep producing milk. I’ve found that some great snacks throughout the day will boost your milk and keep you feeling solid through your workout. You can find some suggestions for milk boosting snacks here. Whatever you do, don’t diet, make the milk.

Does it need to hurt to feel good?

A hardcore mama I know was excruciatingly disappointed when she realized her high-intensity interval training workouts were leaving her completely wiped out, lowering her milk and just generally not working. Sure you’ve spent those past nine months dreaming of the day you’d smash those burpees again, just like that fantasy of a glass of wine and a plate of sashimi (remember that one?). But the fact is the intensity of your workout can make all the difference. Do you really need to destroy yourself to feel that healthy hit of endorphins? No. The best option is to slowly ease your body back in to exercise – our new Les Mills post-pregnancy workouts make this simple. Check them out here. Don’t worry, you’ll be back to smashing your PBs in no time, just give it a while.

Exhaustion is the swing-vote

If you did just pull an all-nighter, you know what won’t help? Sprints. What will help – some yoga and a walk with the pushchair. I know you want your body back, you want to feel like you again, but give yourself a break – did you see what you just did? You’ve earned a bit of rest and recovery. And remember, if you’re up at 2 a.m., count it as three sets of squats (which it probably was if you were doing the Thai Bounce).

Clichés are the best

So here’s the message you’ve heard a million times already but I know I need to reiterate because it really is true… listen to your body! No two women are going to recover or produce milk the same. Do what you’ve got to do to get through this tough time, and work out as much as you can without sacrificing your and your baby’s health and sanity. I know you want to throw yourself back into it 100%. Trust me, I’ve been there. But the hard truth is that those nine months were just the beginning of your sacrifice. Right now, your body still belongs to your baby, not your gym membership. You’re not in training, you don’t need to be a size two immediately. Know that you’re doing best by your baby (and the bizarre, magical process we call motherhood) if you just take it a little easy, and train a little spontaneously, while your baby is still that – a baby. If you want to breastfeed, just know that you can make it work alongside exercise. Just be a little more intuitive about it – you can do that right? I mean, you are a mom now.

If you want some expert advice on how to best look after your body while you breastfeed check out this helpful how to video.

Visit and you’ll find all you need to know about looking after your body post birth – there’s free at-home workout videos, nutrition plans, helpful tips and more.

Diana Archer Mills has a love of health and fitness running through her blood. She was just 12 when she started working in the gym owned by her parents (Phillip and Jackie Mills). Now, as Les Mills Creative Director she is behind the music and moves that feature in some of your favorite workouts. But that’s certainly not Diana’s most important role. Diana is a mom of four – so it’s fair to say she knows a fair bit about pregnancy, parenting and how to juggle a busy young family with a passion for health and fitness.


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