Kids eat right.

Breastfeeding and the Athlete

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

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

Mothers who breastfeed need extra calories. Calorie needs depend on your baby’s age and how much you breastfeed, 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 breastfeeding. There also is a "MyPlate Plan 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 breastfeeding and for athletic performance. For example, breastfeeding 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 breastfeeding, too. Without exercise, breastfeeding 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 breastfeeding, 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 breastfeed before you work out.