Health & Medical Parenting

Exercise Does Not Affect Breast Milk

´╗┐Exercise Does Not Affect Breast Milk

Exercise Does Not Affect Breast Milk

April 24, 2002 -- Everyone knows that exercise is good for you. And most agree that breast milk is the single best source of nutrition for a growing baby. But some research has suggested that exercise and breastfeeding don't mix. The theory is that exercise increases the amount of lactic acid in mothers' milk, and babies don't care for the taste. Not true at all, new research shows.

The latest findings "support the hypothesis that moderate- or even high-intensity exercise during lactation does not impede infant acceptance of breast milk consumed one hour postexercise," write Kc S. Wright, MS, and colleagues from the University of New Hampshire in Durham.

The researchers had 24 nursing moms of 2- to 4-month-olds complete three separate tests. Each woman pumped her breast milk and bottle fed her infant one hour before and one hour after 30 minutes of vigorous exercise, 30 minutes of moderate exercise, and 30 minutes of resting. The nursing sessions were videotaped and reviewed by lactation, or breastfeeding, experts who didn't know which type of exercise the woman had recently completed.

"There were no differences [before or after each session] in maternal skin temperature, breast milk temperature, and infant milk acceptance as judged by either the mothers or the lactation consultants," the researchers write.

Breast milk lactic acid levels remained the same after the moderate-exercise or rest sessions. And although lactic acid levels did increase slightly after the intense exercise session, it made no difference in the babies' acceptance of their mother's milk.

"The benefits of physical activity for women have been well-documented and include improved cardiovascular fitness; decreased body fatness; enhanced bone [strength]; decreased risk of colon cancer, [high blood pressure], and diabetes; and improved mental health," they write.

The country's obesity epidemic is evidence of how few women are getting sufficient exercise, and for a variety of reasons, few new moms heed the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation of breastfeeding their babies for at least 12 months.

But findings such as these "that support the compatibility of exercise and lactation, may help to reduce the sociocultural inhibition of extended breastfeeding," the researchers write.

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