Kids eat right.

Breast feeding and the Athlete

Reviewed by Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, FAND
Baby breastfeeding

Thinkstock/iStock/Artranq

If you're an athlete, you can also provide your baby with the benefits of breast-feeding. With a doctor's guidance, most women can engage in sports or some form of regular physical activity if they're breast-feeding. An active lifestyle does not affect the quality or amount of breastmilk or your baby's growth.

Mothers who breast-feed need extra calories. Calorie needs depend on your baby’s age and how much you breast-feed, and can range from an additional 400 to over 600 each day. Additional calories to provide energy for physical activity also are needed and vary based on the duration and intensity of your workout.

For athletes and non-athletes alike, the USDA Food Patterns offer guidance for planning a varied, balanced and moderate eating plan during breast-feeding. There also is a "MyPlate Daily Checklist for Moms" on ChooseMyPlate.gov.

When you meet increased calorie needs with a variety of nutritious foods instead of foods and drinks high in added sugars and saturated fat, you get the additional nutrients needed for breast-feeding and for athletic performance. For example, breast-feeding mothers need more protein and carbohydrate each day. Athletes also need additional protein and carbohydrate beyond basic needs to fuel, build and maintain muscles.

Fluid needs increase during breast-feeding, too. Without exercise, breast-feeding moms need about 15 cups per day from food, beverages and drinking water. When working out, you may need to drink even more.

To stay more comfortable when working out while breast-feeding, it may help if you wear a comfortable support bra or sports bra and nursing pads in case you leak during exercise, and pump or breast-feed before you work out.