Exercises for a breastfeeding mom

Exercises Every Breastfeeding Mom Needs

Exercises Every Breastfeeding Mom Needs and Why

Breastfeeding is a beautiful thing, but it can add a lot of strain on our bodies. If you are ready to breastfeed without the common aches and pains that come along with it, then keep reading! Below are must do exercises for every breastfeeding mom. 

*Disclaimer – If you are a postpartum, pregnant or have any other health conditions, make sure you always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider. Content on this blog should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, expertise or treatment. 

Why Should a Breastfeeding Mom Do These Exercises?

Our bodies experience a lot of changes when we begin to breastfeed. Due to the forward weight shift of a heavier chest and holding an infant it results in more stress on our shoulders and upper back. If you just started breastfeeding, you may catch yourself constantly looking down adoringly causing a tilted head and neck pain. 

You also may be sitting a lot more in those beginning stages of breastfeeding. Excess sitting leads to weakened glutes and tighter hips. Not to mention you already are dealing with a weaker core from pregnancy. All of this shows up in the form of pain from our necks down to our hips.

Exercising has so many wonderful benefits for a breastfeeding mom. These include improved mood, improved body composition or weight loss, and improved posture.

However if you are reading this you are looking for exercises to help relieve tension and pain from breastfeeding. These specific exercises help to build strength, increase mobility, and relieve tension so you can breastfeed pain free!

Breastfeeding Posture and Alignment

First, it’s important to go over proper posture and alignment while breastfeeding. These exercises will be essential for strengthening the muscles used while breastfeeding, but good posture is fundamental to remaining strong and pain free. 

Make sure you are on a surface that allows you to sit with feet on floor or use a foot stool. Your back should be supported and your weight distributed equally between your sit bones. 

Elongate your trunk and keep your ribcage and pelvis stacked and in a neutral position. Meaning don’t flare your ribcage or put your pelvis in a posterior or anterior pelvic tilt. To avoid hunching, bring your baby close to you and to your breast.

Shoulders should be relaxed and down away from ears, chest up, and chin tucked. However you decide to hold baby, cradle hold or football hold etc, make sure the arm that is supporting baby is supported by something like a pillow or a rolled up blanket. 

Breastfeeding Exercise Tips

What to Wear

You want to feel comfortable with what you wear when you are working out. Wearing a form fitted sports bra will help you feel more supported when exercising. I’ve also noticed that tighter sports bras keep me from leaking breastmilk during exercise. If you are exercising with your baby, maybe opt for a sports bra that is also a nursing bra so you can easily breastfeed, if need be, without the struggle of pulling down a traditional sports bra. 

Exercise Timing

This brings us to when to exercise as a breastfeeding mom. If you are not exercising with your baby present it may be beneficial to breastfeed before you exercise. This will empty the breasts, reducing any discomfort from fullness. This will also make for a happier baby. 

Though exercise hasn’t been shown to effect the breastmilk volume, energy density or energy composition, studies have shown significant levels of lactic acid build up in breast milk after high intensity exercise. High levels of lactic acid may alter the taste of breastmilk making baby less likely to accept a feeding. If you notice your baby is fussier during a post exercise nursing session, you may avoid this by rearranging the time of the feed. 

What Exercises to Avoid

Some other considerations while exercising as a breastfeeding mom are exercise positions to avoid. Exercises lying prone or on your belly may be uncomfortable. Some examples are supermans, chest supported rows, and lying leg curl. If you want to continue these exercises, you could try using a cushion under your abdomen to reduce pressure on your breasts. 

Nutritional Considerations

Due to an increased energy expenditure of milk production, the general recommendation for a breastfeeding mom is to consume an additional 300-500 calories a day. This may be even higher depending on the length and intensity of exercise. You will need to make sure you are staying well hydrated and eating enough to make up for the additional calories burned and fluids lost during exercise. 

The simplest way to make sure you are getting what your body needs is to listen to your hunger cues. This just means eat when you are hungry and also make sure to drink water throughout the day. The days you are exercising you may want to include an additional pre-workout snack with carbohydrates and protein as well as drink an additional 8-16 oz of water. 

Breastfeeding Workout

Now that we’ve covered some exercise tips, let’s get into the workout. The goals of this workout are to help relieve pain and discomfort from breastfeeding and to help you be a strong, breastfeeding mom! 

Exercise Goals:

  • Open the chest
  • Increase mobility of neck and back
  • Increase strength in upper back extensors, deep neck flexors, glutes, and deep core muscles 
  • Relieve tension in neck, upper back, and hips

Equipment Needed:

  • Dumbbell, kettle bell, weight plate, or a medicine ball would all work. However you could do this workout without weight too!
  • Thera band or resistance band for the band pull-aparts. You could also use olympic rings or TRX straps to do a similar exercise, but more advanced.

Important Note

Since you are postpartum, it is important to note you may have some abdominal separation still. Be aware of any doming, coning, or bulging from the midline of your abdomen (linea alba). This might be visible or you may be able to feel it when you are doing an exercise. If any of these exercises, especially the front plank, cause this stop or modify the exercise to better manage this abdominal pressure.

The Workout

Dynamic Stretching

Neck Mobility – 2 Sets of :30

Tuck chin, tilt head side to side, look left, look right, look up, look down, and repeat.

Shoulder Rolls – 2 Sets of :30

Relax your shoulders and alternate rolling them forward and backward.

Half-Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch – 2 Sets of :30 Each Side

Tuck your pelvis and lean slightly forward into front leg. Repeat on other side.

Cat-Cow – 2 Sets of :30

Lift your head and relax your shoulders away from your ears as you inhale and curve (extend) your spine. Now, exhale as you tuck your chin and curl down into a rounded back (flexed spine). Create as much height in your upper back as you can. Repeat.

Thread the Needle – 2 Sets of :30 Each Side

On your knees and hand under shoulder, take other arm and reach under to the opposite side (thread). Relax face on the ground and reach, then pull arm back through twisting to the opposite side. Repeat on other side.

Strength Exercises

Alternating Band Pull-Apart (Diagonals) – 2-3 Sets of 10-12 Reps

You may find it beneficial to do this with your back against a wall. Holding the band in front of you shoulder width apart. Pull in opposite directions until the band reaches your chest, or the backs of your arms reach the wall, and exhale. Repeat in opposite direction.

Dumbbell Goblet Squat – 2-3 Sets of 10-12 Reps

Holding a weight in front of chest, engage core, and squat down while keeping chest up. Push knees out in the direction of your toes as you lower, and inhale on the way down. Exhale as you ascend.

Bent-Over Dumbbell Row – 2-3 Sets of 10-12 Reps Each Side

Using a chair, bench, or box for support, bend over in a staggered stance. Engage core, extend arm with weight and inhale, and then pull elbow in towards hip, and exhale. Repeat on other side.

Weighted Bridge – 2-3 Sets of 10-12 Reps

Lying on your back with feet about shoulder width apart and ankles under knees, place weight on your hips. Lift hips, bring chest to your chin and exhale. Squeeze glutes. Lower hips and inhale.

Front Plank – 2-3 Sets of :30 – :60

Place elbows under shoulders about shoulder width apart. Lift up onto your toes and keep spin neutral. Push up through your elbows, engaging your upper back. Squeeze glutes and engage core. Breathe throughout. Modify by placing elbows on an elevated surface.

Static Stretching (Cool-Down)

Open Book Stretch – 2 Sets of :30 Each Side

Lay on your back with knees together at a 90 degree angle. Start with arms and palms together (closed book). Then pull your arm across your chest (opening the book) and try to relax arm on the floor and hold.

Levator Scapulae Stretch – 2 Sets of :30 Each Side 

Tilt head to the side and look up slightly. Grab head with hand for an extra stretch. While doing this, take opposite arm behind your body and hold.

Knees to Chest – 2 Sets of :30

Lay on your back and bring your knees to your chest. Feel a stretch in your low back. Hold and breathe throughout. Pull knees in closer for a deeper stretch.

Child’s Pose – 2 Sets of :30

Start in table top position and push hips back as you extend your arms in front of you and lower you hips back to the ground. Hold while reaching with your arms and trying to sink your hips deeper to the ground. Breathe throughout.

Additional Exercise Options

Self-Myofascial Release

You may also find some relief from foam rolling or using a small ball (lacrosse ball) to massage tender spots. You can do this by laying on the floor or leaning up against a wall. Gently roll the ball around until you find a spot that feels tender and stiff. Apply pressure and hold for 20 to 60 seconds. This would be a great addition to your cool-down or to do on rest days. 

Exercises While Breastfeeding

Sometimes you need instant relief, but you can’t find the time to sneak away with your breastfeeding schedule. In this case, here are some exercises that can offer quick relief while breastfeeding.

  • Chin Tucks
  • Neck Mobility
  • Scapular Retraction
  • Shoulder Rolls
  • Pelvic Tilts
  • Seated Marches
  • Glute Squeezes

Exercises Every Breastfeeding Mom Needs Conclusion

Breastfeeding can come with many aches and pains, especially if it is done with poor posture and alignment and with muscle weaknesses present. The exercises above will help open the chest, relieve tension and strengthen the neck, back, core, and glutes. I hope you give these a try so you can start enjoying the wonderful benefits of breastfeeding while also being pain free!


Exercises for breastfeeding moms Pinterest pin


  1. The concentration of lactic acid in breast milk following maximal exercise –https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1889945/

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