Hello! I’ve written this post in my head dozens of times, but lack of sleep, lack of time, etc. pretty much ensured I never took time to sit down and write. First, a few disclaimers-
- If you don’t really care about nursing, babies, or how they affect your running, this probably isn’t the post for you. I get it. Before I had a baby, I was all like, “Why do moms always want to talk about their boobs?! No one cares. Just feed the baby.” But to be honest, this baby and how he is eating and sleeping affects every aspect of my life, especially running, which is so important to my mental health.
- I am a firm believer that a fed baby is best. I am dedicated to making breastfeeding work, but even with a great support system, preparation, and getting lucky (no mastitis, thrush, etc), it is FREAKING hard. So, I completely get why it sometimes doesn’t work out. I think as a whole we can do a better job supporting nursing moms, providing more paid leave, pumping opportunities, education, etc, but that is a whole other blog post. All moms are doing the best they can and I don’t judge anyone who can’t or doesn’t want to breastfeed.
- All that being said, I am dedicated to making nursing work for as long as I can. Whenever I’ve run in to an issue, I’ve found fellow moms and blogs to be an invaluable resource. I haven’t found too much information on how running can affect one’s milk supply (or how breastfeeding and the associated hormones can affect running), so maybe by sharing my experience I can help other mom runners. I’d love to hear other women’s experiences!
Some background – Before I gave birth, I thought I would hate breastfeeding. Honestly, I did. As someone who is fairly modest, I was terrified of having my boobs out in the open all the time. But I actually ended up really liking nursing. It’s created such a special bond between me and Teddy and 90% of the time I love it (the other 10% of time I’m like, “ugh can I have my body back?!)”. Howeverrrrr, those first few days and weeks of breastfeeding were hard AF. Things were okay in the hospital (besides the toe-curling latch pain which I know they say shouldn’t happen, but it does). But the night we got home from the hospital, my milk came in and the babe wanted nothing to do with my engorged boobs (it’s tough for them to latch). I blearily found my pump and parts and tried to read the instructions, sterilize the parts, etc. all while my 2-day old was screaming in hunger. (Side note: would have been good to do this prep in advance, but ah well, hindsight is 20-20.) I ended up pumping and feeding him expressed milk in a bottle throughout the night and that served as a temporary fix. The next day I scoured the internet for local lactation consultants, but since I live in a very rural area the closest ones I could find were about 45 minutes away. Not super appealing or practical when you’ve got a fragile little newborn and are feeling pretty beat up from labor & delivery. So instead, I sent my husband to Target for a nipple shield and although some people say they can cause more issues than good, this tool honestly saved our ability to breastfeed. Before the nipple shield, I was ready to throw in the towel. In fact, I was already researching which brand of formula to buy. With the shield, I had zero nipple pain and Teddy was able to latch without a problem. He quickly put on weight (2 lbs the first month!) and we all started to settle into a routine. Nipple shields aren’t a solution for everyone and lactation consultants consider them a temporary fix, but for us, they were a godsend. At first, I made it my goal to get through the first 2 weeks of breastfeeding, then 6 weeks, 12 weeks, and so on. We are now currently a few days away from the 6 month mark (!) and I hope we can continue up until 12 months or longer. But I’ve also learned that parenthood and advance planning don’t often mix, so we’re just taking it day by day.
Finding a Balance
As the weeks went by, we really got in to our breastfeeding groove. I fed on demand and Teddy was eating (and gaining weight) like a champ. By 2 months postpartum, I still wasn’t running much (2-3 miles a few times a week), so I didn’t notice any difference in my supply. Around this time, Teddy started sleeping more and more (5-6 hour stretches at about 5 weeks old, 8-9 hour stretches at 9 weeks old). This was AWESOME, but…it also meant I had to wake up and pump (I didn’t want to get clogged ducts). Overall, my supply was still regulating. Many mornings I woke up drenched in milk and had to change the sheets. Fortunately all this extra milk was put to good use and I was able to build up a pretty good freezer stash. In mid-September, when Teddy was about 11 weeks old, I had to have some minor surgery that necessitated about 2 weeks off from running. And even when I started running again, we had some travel planned, so I wasn’t running more than 3-4 miles a few times a week. At this point, my supply appeared to be very strong.
By early October, I was fully healed and ready to start training seriously again (well, as much as one can train seriously with an infant…). I ran a 5k on October 8th in 22:17 and was encouraged! I increased my mileage over the next month, racing a 10k in 48:06 and then a 15k in 1:11:44. By early November (4 months postpartum), I had completed a few 10 mile runs and was logging 30 miles a week. Historically that isn’t a ton of mileage for me (I try to peak around 60 miles for marathon training), but it was still more than I had run in probably 18 months. I was feeling strong and good! But then…
What’s Going on?
In late October, Teddy turned 4 months old and went from sleeping 9-10 hours a night (nonstop, no feedings) to waking up either multiple times a night or waking up really early for the day (~4am). In retrospect, a couple things were probably at play – 1) the 4 month sleep regression [a developmental shift in sleep when baby sleep cycles start to become more like adults…a.k.a. they start having distinct cycles and less deep sleep], 2) we transitioned from the bassinet to the crib, 3) daylight saving time effed us up, and 4) I believe my milk supply dropped a bit.
We recovered from daylight saving time fairly quickly and the sleep regression and the crib transition are something we’re still working on (sleep training is a whole OTHER post….), but I truly believe Teddy was hungry for awhile in mid-November. Looking back, he started sleeping like crap right around the time I started logging double digit runs. During that same time, I noticed that I weighed about 4-5lbs less than I did before I got pregnant. It’s not a huge deal and I’m still at a very healthy weight for my height, but all of these things started ringing alarm bells. I took Teddy to the pediatrician and she asked a bunch of questions – does he seem satisfied after feedings? (not really…). Does he just want soothing or is he ravenous when he wakes up in the middle of the night? (he attacks my boob, so I’m gonna say hungry). Is he gaining weight? (Sort of, but probably not as much as expected, even for a breastfed baby who often gains slower). I felt like an idiot and a terrible mom. After a few tears, the ped and I agreed to start giving him a bottle of milk from my freezer stash each night to see if that helped. So that’s what we did. And it worked. He started sleeping a little better. He got that “milk drunk” look again. And he started putting on some more weight.
I also worked really really hard to build my supply back up. Some things that worked for me:
- I started double pumping after the morning feeding to stimulate more milk production (and provide milk for the nighttime bottle as my freezer supply started to disappear quickly).
- I paid more attention to how much I was eating and drinking. When I’m busy and tired, it’s easy to forget to fuel, but I made it a priority, especially after long/hard runs.
- I started drinking milkmaid tea, bought some brewer’s yeast (increases milk supply), and made a big batch of lactation cookies. My substitutions: wheat germ instead of flax seed (what I had on hand), cut the sugar by 1/4 cup, used 1/2 cup whole wheat flour + 1 cup white flour, added 1/4 cup chia seeds, and used 2 Tbs canola oil instead of 4 Tbs coconut oil. They are amazingly good.
Sleep got iffy again recently, but that’s due to a need for sleep training more than anything else (I think). Lots of well meaning friends and family members have suggested rice cereal, which we’re not too keen on doing, for a variety of reasons. I know he’s getting more milk these days and I honestly think any sleep issues he has have to do with some bad sleep habits we’ve hung on to (nursing him to sleep, unpredictable nap schedule, him getting overtired, etc).
My running has taken a hit recently, mostly because the weather has been crappy, but I’m still hoping to run a half-marathon sometime in early 2017. Realistically, until I’m no longer his main source of nutrition, I doubt a PR is likely. Breastfeeding takes a lot of physical energy and I just don’t think I can run more than about 40 miles per week and still feel good. I’m hoping that when he’s closer to a year old, the energy requirements for nursing will start to decline a bit. I have my eye on running a marathon in late 2017 or early 2018, but as with everything right now, I’m taking it one day at a time.
Thanks for all of your feedback on my last post re: the jogging stroller! I’m still planning to get one soon, so hopefully that will increase the amount of miles I’m able to run. I guess this snow will have to melt first though…
A quick list of things I’m loving right now:
This book. We are a few days in to sleep training, so I’m gobbling up all the info I can get. It could be a fluke, but we saw pretty drastic results in just 2 nights.
This pizza. I am obsessed with this farm-made pizza. Locally grown flour, homemade tomato sauce, a minimal amount of high quality cheese (which limits the grease), and their own organic veggies. We order from them at least once a week. If you’re in the Saratoga area, check them out.
This podcast. I especially loved the episodes about Instagram and AirBnB.
And just fyi, none of these links are affiliate links (I don’t even know how to do that lol). It’s just stuff I want to share!