I have loved breastfeeding my three children, and feel fortunate to have had very few struggles with nursing. I am still nursing my youngest, and he is the most enthusiastic of them all. I never thought I’d be in the “extended breastfeeding” category, but here I am, at 21 months and still nursing like a champ.
As we move into warmer months and more consistent sleep and health, I’ve also been moving into more running. I had a much faster return to running (and racing) with both older daughters; however I also had a higher rate of injury postpartum with both girls. For the past year, I have been keeping the two basics in high priority for me as I nurse and up physical activity: nutrition and hydration.
Pay attention to Mom’s nutrition
One of the issues I have struggled with while breastfeeding is proper nutrition. Breastfeeding takes a LOT of energy (aka calories) and nutrients. It’s important to fuel yourself so you can run and do so without precipitating an injury or nutrient deficiency. With a busy family, work, and running, I struggle with remembering to fuel and hydrate sufficiently. It sounds ridiculous, but sometimes I just forget to eat. I think I do this more now (nearly 2 years after baby is born) than I did when he was a newborn, which seems illogical!
Often, I come home from a run, make some tea, shower or get dressed, drink some more tea, help three children get ready for school, play pass-the-toddler as my husband and I try to dress a wriggling toddler, feed the kids breakfast, drink my husbands’ coffee, and go to work all without actually eating more than a few apple slices or half a bowl of oatmeal. Generally it’s before my husband comes home from daycare and bus stop drop-offs and gives me a stern “what have you eaten” as I sit at my computer before I actually eat anything substantial…3 or 4 hours after I finish my run.
I know this is not ideal, and it’s a habit I’m actively working to correct. I am a serious “planner” personality, so one of the ways I do this is by loose meal planning. We make a weekly family meal menu: my daughters add the lunches they want, we have a few breakfasts that go into rotation, and we plan dinners. Key for us is having “easy” dinners on nights when we have after school activities (swim team, right now). This means dinners that are leftovers, soups or other things like lasagna that can cook/bake during the flurry of activity and pickups.
We also have “fall back” dinner meals that are simple, easy, only require pantry staples and are kid pleasers. These are things like egg fried rice with peas and bell peppers [or whatever veggie is in the fridge/freezer], pinto beans, calabacitas and red chile (I’m New Mexican, this is a weekly staple!), or “Brinner:” breakfast burritos/pancakes/Dutch BabiesDutch babies. And, to be honest, we enjoy take out meals when we’re just tired of thinking about planning for food.
Hydration is Critical
Hydration is absolutely critical for healthy breastmilk production. Any normal human needs abundant water, my life right now (breastfeeding + running + living in a desert) demands even more fluid intake. I don’t always feel like gulping cup after cup of cold water on a winter day, so my solution is tea. I am an avid tea drinker. I’d like to pretend I drink fancy teas, but I’m really just a basic PG Tips addict. By which I mean I probably drink 8 cups of tea a day (I split between caffeinated and decaf).
One guideline I hear tossed about is to be drinking about twice you would normally to account for milk production. That means 16 cups of water per day (in liquids and foods). That’s a lot! For me the best way to not get behind my hydration is to have a big cup of water right next to the chair I nurse in and to drink deeply every time I sit down to nurse. My husband laughs at me because if I go to nurse without any water he knows to expect pleas for water cups within the minute!
These two fundamentals – hydration and nutrition – are important to keep your body functioning and producing milk as you walk and run through life. We will talk more strategies for running postpartum next time.
What is your go-to dinner when you are tired or life gets hectic?