Is breastfeeding performance enhancing?

You’re still breastfeeding?! I get this question a lot. Zoe breastfed until just before two years old, and Nico is still going strong and feeds on-demand at 15 months. Whenever he pleases, the “dairy queen” is always open, ha! I don’t proclaim to be a “lactivist” and I certainly can appreciate the difficulties my friends and many women have with breastfeeding be it milk production, ongoing latching difficulties, scheduling with returning to work, or any other obstacles that make continued breastfeeding more stressful than pleasurable for mommy or baby or both!

I have one athletic friend, who said, “My body didn’t feel completely normal again until I stopped breastfeeding.” I can’t say I’ve experienced the same. And other than the 9 months plus I was pregnant with Nico, I’ve spent 3 out of the past 4 years breastfeeding while training and competing. In fact, I’ve even found it even has the ability to enhance performance and here are my top reasons why….

1. Motivation to set personal bests. In the first six months you may set some personal training and racing bests because you’ll be worried your infant will starve if you don’t get back to them in time!

2. Extra rest and recovery time. You can sneak in some extra and valuable downtime while breastfeeding, with a great excuse to put your feet up for 10 minutes or more, ahhhh…..You can say “Sorry ‘husband’, I can’t help with dinner (or whatever else) right now, ‘baby’ is nursing”….”Sorry, ‘other child(ren)’, can’t play etc right now, ‘baby’ is nursing.” Its also an easy way to calm your child and help them get to sleep easier! Plus the hormones oxytocin and prolactin are released which make mommy feel more relaxed!

3. You can eat for two! I know many jokingly say this while pregnant, but I’ve found “eating for two” is truly more appropriate while breastfeeding and exercising, especially during the second year of breastfeeding! Breastfeeding moms can burn an extra 300-500 calories a day. I’ve never been as lean as I have while breastfeeding. And I do not really have to watch what I eat! As long as I’m breastfeeding while training regularly maintaining race weight hasn’t been a problem, particularly in year two, perhaps due to the increased fat content of the milk as explained by the following quote found on….

“Human milk expressed by mothers who have been lactating for >1 year has significantly increased fat and energy contents, compared with milk expressed by women who have been lactating for shorter periods. During prolonged lactation, the fat energy contribution of breast milk to the infant diet might be significant.”
— Mandel 2005

4. You may continue to increase your pain tolerance. As most mom’s experience, once baby turns into a teething toddler, these little nursing munchkins like to practice their acrobatic moves, “twiddling” the side they are not feeding from, and occasionally chomping down with their teeth! Yeowww!

5. It enhances baby’s performance! You can be motivated by the fact that a few months or years of your life spent breastfeeding can go a long way for baby. Research has shown breastfeeding children benefit nutritionally, are sick less often, have fewer allergies, and are well-adjusted socially. Extensive research has also linked duration of breastfeeding to cognitive achievement!

6. It enhances mother’s health factors. Mom’s who breastfeed past infancy reduce the risk of breast, ovarian, uterine, and endometrial cancers. Breastfeeding also protects against osteoporosis, reduces the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, and can help moms lose weight easier (as already mentioned).

7. Appearance enhancement! Finally, for those of us who are born not so well-endowed, as long as we breastfeed it is just plain enhancing! πŸ˜‰

I also enjoyed a similar post by Brandi earlier this year, as her son’s “boobie time” came to a close. Click here to read.

5 thoughts on “Is breastfeeding performance enhancing?

  1. Again, this a great and timely post. I have been asking the question lately how breast feeding impacts training and finding racing weight. I was wondering if “boobie time” makes it harder to lose the last bit of weight gained from the pregnancy. I have heard this from several people but am never sure if it’s just how they perceive that stage of motherhood. Thanks again for the post, I completely appreciate the encouraging information.

  2. Yea! I love this post. My now 3 year old just weaned. I never ever thought I would breastfeed 27 & 35 months but it was just right and working for all involved. I had some of my best performances ever last summer while still nursing.

  3. Thanks for this post. I love your list of reasons to keep going. My son is 19 mos and still nurses like a newborn. He’s nursing right now actually…. for the fifth time today and I even left to run in a half marathon this morning! Unfortunately I’m one of those women who just keep a little extra body fat while nursing. It’s not a ton, but a good 5-7 lbs I would love to have gone! More than anything though, I feel drained when he picks up his nursing and it throws my fluid levels off. I think if I wasn’t a long time competitive athlete, I wouldn’t notice that much… so I’m trying to continue being patient. None of the other serious runners I know breastfed for very long, so I feel like I have no one to complain to πŸ™‚

    • Dana! Thanks for the note and I can relate to the nursing like a newborn. My 17 month old son still nurses round the clock! I don’t keep track but some days it feels like every two hours if I’m with him all day! Nursing always leaves me extra thirsty too!

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