All about breastfeeding: How I keep my milk supply up while working out

August is National Breastfeeding Month, and I couldn’t let this month pass without touching on the subject. Thanks to Aeroflow Breastpumps for sponsoring this post. Proceed with caution, as there’s a bit of TMI. 

Before becoming a mom, I just couldn’t quite wrap my head around the idea of breastfeeding. 

Fast forward to being 10 months into my breastfeeding journey with Brady, and I think of it as incredibly natural and not weird at all. It’s a big part of my life right now, and I’m so grateful I get to do it.

How to stay active and keep supply up -- all about breastfeeding by A Lady Goes West

Everybody’s breastfeeding journey is different

Before we dig into the meat of this post, I need to say that every single mom has a different breastfeeding story, or no story at all. Breastfeeding is not always easy. It’s not as simple as it sounds, and a lot of moms face pain, trouble with latching, lack of time, lack of supply and so much more, which all ends up stopping their breastfeeding journeys earlier than they want, or keeping them from starting those journeys at all, or forcing them to exclusively pump. 

I’m truly appreciative of the fact that it has worked out for Brady and for me without any issues. Of course, the first few days in the hospital were not easy, but we ended up finding our way, and since about day seven or so of life, Brady has been a good eater. And he still gets basically all of his nutrition from breastfeeding, outside of one small serving of solid food a day, with no formula. (I see this changing soon as we approach the one-year mark, and you can read more about that in Brady’s 10-month update.)

Before having Brady, I knew I wanted to do my best to breastfeed him for at least six months, and I’m happy that we’ve gone on this long and are continuing. Quite honestly, I did worry about having issues with my milk supply knowing that I’d be getting back into my workouts a bit more and typically active women do tend to have less of a supply. I’ve had a lot of questions on how I’ve been able to do it, while staying healthy, so I wanted to share what has worked for me.

How I keep my milk supply up while working out

Little disclaimer here: Every body is different. Also, I’m not a doctor, I’m not a registered dietitian, and I’m not a lactation consultant either. But I am an active nursing mom, and here’s how I’ve kept my milk supply up to feed my little man and still hit the gym quite regularly …

  1. Eat a lot of hearty calorie-dense healthy food throughout the day. Especially carbs and veggies and fruit and oats. I eat very calorie dense meals three times a day, with 2-3 snacks as well. I don’t track my calories, I don’t track my macros, and I don’t time my meals, do intermittent fasting nor avoid any food groups. Eating a lot of food every single day doesn’t mean I eat a lot of crap. I mostly eat fruit (bananas and dates every day), veggies, eggs, oats, veggie burgers, sweet potatoes, avocados, Larabars, almond butter, etc. I also eat a big grass-fed burger or steak on the weekend one time and a big plate of homemade pizza one time and a few ice cream sundaes as well. Why do I mention these things? Because they are hearty meals, and they fill me up. Even though it would be great to “lean out” now that I’m back to an active lifestyle, I know that fueling my body with a lot of good nutrients is keeping me running and keeping me able to produce enough milk for a growing baby, with perhaps a bit more weight on my frame. Did I mention oats? I have oats for breakfast every single day, and I think that they have something to do with my supply. On weeks when I’ve had something else for breakfast, I’ve felt a tiny shift in supply. Maybe it’s just me, but I believe in the power of oats. I usually make a few batches of overnight oats at a time, so a breakfast is always waiting for me in the fridge in the morning.
  2. Drink a lot of clear liquids every single day. I have a 32-ounce water bottle, and I make it a mission to fill it up to the brim at least four times a day. I drink at least my bodyweight in ounces of straight water each day, and I also have two helpings of green tea, the occasional protein shake and kombucha (my doctor said it’s fine to drink while nursing, as long as you stay hydrated) and coconut water. Breastfeeding takes a LOT of hydration. On days when I’m slightly slacking on water consumption, I can feel it. So I sit down and chug an entire water bottle and usually feel better instantly. Another big thing is that I keep a water bottle by my bed at night and drink in the middle of the night before and after nursing Brady, as well as first thing in the morning.
  3. Keep the middle of the night feeding. This isn’t going to be a fun one for those of you who have a baby who sleeps through the night, but I think the fact that I still nurse Brady one time in the middle of the night has helped my supply to stay where it is. I read something somewhere that the most productive and important times to nurse or pump are between the hours of 1 and 3 a.m., due to the swings in your hormones, and that’s usually right around when Brady wakes up, so I feed him. Obviously, I’d prefer that Brady sleeps through the night, but I guess he still needs the nutrition, and I think it’s a benefit for both of us.
  4. Soak up baby snuggles and nurse regularly. I am BEYOND lucky that I get to be with Brady all day every single day and work from home. If I had to go back to an office and be gone all day, I’m sure that I would experience a drop in supply that may make my current workout load impossible. And of course, what does that mean for working moms who are nursing but also have to be gone for long stretches? Pump a lot during the work day, try to get that middle of the night nursing session, and snuggle your baby as much as you can every minute you are around them. My morning nursing session with Brady when he first wakes up and comes into our bed is my favorite time of the entire day — I love it. (By the way, Brady does take bottles of pumped breastmilk at least once a week, sometimes more depending on if I have something that keeps me away, and if I am away for a long time, I will pump.)
  5. Keep the high-intensity exercise to a once or twice a week thing. Even though I’m back to working out about five to six days a week regularly, I really only do “tough” workouts once or twice a week. That tough workout is usually a one-hour Les Mills group fitness class. My other workouts include teaching barre or doing short weights circuits (like these) on my own at the gym. I also always have a day off of exercise entirely, sometimes two. And I never do more than one workout a day (except for the rare subbing opportunities when I’m helping out and have to teach more than one class). I’d imagine that if I was trying to do a full hour of high-intensity cardio multiple times a week with a lot of plyometrics and all-out efforts, I would feel more of a dent in my milk supply. However, in order to keep everything running smoothly, I make sure to limit the crazy tough exercise. I do plan to get back to more if it one day, while continuing to monitor my activity levels and hormones to keep totally balanced — because too much exercise is not a good thing for anyone, as you can see here. (And I always share my weekly workout recaps on Fridays, so check out those here.)
  6. Just try to be healthy and feel good. I’m not an expert on breastfeeding or breastmilk supply, but because I’m not having any issues and I feel very good (good energy, sleep, digestion, supply, healthy baby, etc.), I know that what I’m doing is working for me. I try not to have too much stress, and that means limiting some commitments and work projects that I’d actually like to be doing. I go to bed at a reasonable hour at the same time each night, spend a few minutes reading and make sure to get out of the house without Brady for some solo time at least once a week too. Ensuring that my health, activity and mental sanity is at the forefront, means I can be the best caretaker as possible for him — because stress can totally affect other things in your body, like your supply. My health matters a lot, and eating good food, moving regularly, hydrating, relaxing and focusing on self-care (even the smallest amount per day), has been a big thing for me.

Once again, this is what has worked for me to keep my milk supply up while working out. I know that every situation is different, and I’m beyond grateful that things are working out how they are for us. I wish you the best of luck too, momma friends!

How to stay active and keep milk supply up -- all about breastfeeding by A Lady Goes West

A few thoughts on the breast pumps that I’ve used

I’ve used four breast pumps in my life. The one in the hospital, which I did not like, and the three I have at home.

First up, the manual Medela pump. I’ve used this pump only a handful of times when I’ve been out and away from Brady and away from proper pumping places. For instance, I had this little beauty stored in my small purse when I went to the Justin Timberlake concert in Vegas, and was able to use it in the bathroom stall with no problem. I actually don’t mind this pump at all, and I recommend all nursing moms to have one on hand for those times when it’s not possible to have your full pump with you. It’s easy to use and easy to clean and easy to hide in your bag — props all around.

Next up, my Medela Pump In Style (shown below), double electric breast pump. This is the breast pump that I originally got before Brady arrived, and I genuinely like it. It’s small, there are only a couple of parts, and it’s very user friendly. I feel like it works quickly, and it only makes minimal noise. I’ve had no issues with this pump, and Medela has a lot of accessories, like converters to pump directly into freezer storage bags (which is something I do a lot, just to keep space in our freezer when building up my stash). However, once I tried another pump, I quickly realized a few things the Medela Pump In Style was missing: battery operation and a timer.

Medela Pump In Style breast pump -- all about breastfeeding by A Lady Goes West

I recently started using the Motif Duo (shown below), which is a much quieter electric pump, with many, many parts. That’s the downfall of the Duo, is that you have a lot of pieces to put together every time you want to pump. Yet, the pump is battery powered, so you can take it anywhere, which is something I didn’t even know was possible for a pump, and it has three expressions levels. I wish I had been using the Motif Duo when I went to the IDEA World Fitness Convention in LA, because there were a couple times I found a private place to pump only to realize that there was not an available outlet. The next thing I like about the Motif Duo is that the actual pump has a digital display which keeps track of how long you are pumping. I’m not sure why, but I found this to be the greatest feature. I don’t think the Duo is as easily adaptable as far as pumping into bags and small storage containers, but it does come with some bottles you can pump directly into. Overall, it’s a good one too, depending on your needs — yet I didn’t find that it worked quite as quickly as my Medela — but once again, the speed of your let-down is a personal thing, so it could work differently for everyone. I’d probably vote for the Medela as my favorite though.

Motif duo breast pump -- all about breastfeeding by A Lady Goes West

How to get a pump through your insurance with the help of Aeroflow Breastpumps

I’m not sure who told me that I could get a breast pump through my insurance, but I’m so glad that they did. Apparently, most insurance carriers will cover a breast pump, because it’s a medical device (which is also why you can bring it as a carry-on, and it doesn’t count against your limit on an airplane, if it’s in a separate bag). 

Aeroflow Breastpumps is an amazing resource where you can go and enter your insurance information for help on finding out which breast pumps your plan covers and which would work best for you. Aeroflow even reaches out to your insurance for you in order to get the claim going and processed. All you have to do is fill out this form to see if you are qualified — for free.

It’s pretty awesome that you don’t have to mess with the back-end and only have to select which pump you want and request it. Then, that pump will show up to your doorstep in a few weeks, totally covered. 

To find out more, head on over to Aeroflow Breastpumps to look around.

*Disclaimer: This post about how I keep my milk supply up while working out is sponsored by Aeroflow Breaspumps. I received compensation, but all thoughts, words and opinions are entirely my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that support A Lady Goes West — I truly appreciate it and so does this guy …

Brady with Motif breast pump -- all about breastfeeding by A Lady Goes West

And to all my ladies out there, future mommas, current mommas or friends to mommas — you take care of YOU first! Being a mom is not an easy job and do your best to keep your baby fed, safe and healthy, however you need to. Sending you lots of good vibes! Have a wonderful day!

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Questions of the day

Mommas out there — what was your favorite part about breastfeeding? 

Everyone else — how was your weekend?

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5 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this information Ashley, so helpful!! I’m currently 11 weeks pregnant with my second baby (which happened after recovery from HA, thanks again for creating your ebook!!!) and am trying to gather all the information I can on breastfeeding. I breastfed my first for about a month but I had what I now realize was latch and supply issues and it just wasn’t a good experience. I’m hoping to have a better experience this time around!! Were there any books or websites you also found helpful?

    1. Hi Erin! So exciting you are getting ready for baby number two! From what I hear, most women have an easier time the second time around with breastfeeding – so here’s hoping that happens for you. I didn’t do a ton of reading, but did always look at Kellymom.com when I had a question about something – it’s a good resource! 🙂 Hope you are feeling great, momma!

      1. Thanks Ashley, I’m feeling better now; the nausea this time around was no joke. Thanks for reminding me about that website; I remember going there frequently with my first so here’s hoping it’ll be helpful this time?

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