The importance of keeping active, eating well and minimising the time spent seated is being promoted more and more to everyone and this is no different for ante or post natal women. In fact, encouraging ante and post natal clients to become more active on a daily basis will actually help them in a variety of ways. These range from maintaining their fitness during pregnancy and regaining it quicker post childbirth and strengthening core and pelvic floor muscles, through to improving their labour fitness and mental health throughout. It is however a very life changing time so exercise and activity can seem low on the list of prioritise or daunting for some. As fitness professionals, we need to offer exercise and physical activity which is tailored to the client, and of course, is safe and achievable. When it comes to training post natal clients, there are less considerations than ante natal clients but there are still important areas that need to be addressed which is why it is important to be appropriately qualified. Today, we are highlighting 4 Training Considerations for Breastfeeding clients. Let’s take a look…
RELAXIN IS STILL IN THE BODY
Relaxin is an important hormone during pregnancy and is responsible for relaxing the ligaments and connective tissues in the body in preparation for the growing uterus and stages of labour. It remains in the body for approximately 5 months post childbirth but will continue to be present whilst a mother breastfeeds too, and this can be the case for up to two years (WHO). As a result, when it comes to training clients that are still breastfeeding we need to be aware of relaxin’s effects and consider appropriate exercises, postural alignment when performing a range of exercises and not take advantage of the greater flexibility and range of movement available. The risk of injury can be higher as a result of this hormone so remember to keep it front of mind when creating a programme.
MOTHER IS LIKELY TO BURN MORE CALORIES
Breastfeeding requires energy! In fact, it is suggested that breastfeeding can burn up to 500 calories a day. Therefore, if your client is going to be exercising on a regular basis at a moderate intensity, then it is important to discuss their nutritional habits to ensure they are consuming the appropriate number of calories per day. You can then structure the session and its intensity to be suitable for the client.
BE AWARE OF DISCOMFORT
Breastfeeding can cause discomfort and heaviness in the breasts, especially in between feeds. As an instructor you need to be aware of this and regularly identify how they feel prior to the start of each session so you can adapt accordingly. Several mothers are recommended to feed their baby prior to exercise to reduce the fullness and heaviness of the breasts in preparation for exercise. This should help but high impact exercise is still likely to be uncomfortable as are prone lying exercises. Another way to help the client feel supported is to wear an effective sports bra which may be something you can recommend if they haven’t considered it.
FOCUS ON POSTURAL EXERCISES
There are many postural changes that occur during pregnancy with the primary change being a more significant lordotic curve to the spine. New mothers need to be educated to how to sit and stand with a neutral spine again as they may naturally adopt the lordotic posture despite not carrying the baby. Plus relaxin can be influencing these changes. Not only do we need to focus on rectifying the postural changes that occurred during pregnancy but we need to consider new challenges such as breastfeeding postures and how they hold the baby. Breastfeeding is likely to cause a kyphotic posture for the mother so again making them aware of their posture will help ensure they don’t develop any long lasting problems. Encourage a range of exercises to strengthen the upper back muscles to help retract the shoulder blades. Additionally, holding the new born baby can mean new stances and standing postures develop, in particular a lateral pelvic tilt. So again, teaching good posture, educate them for their own awareness and integrate exercises which will counteract these postural curves.
I hope you found these 4 considerations helpful to updating and refreshing your knowledge when working with this client group. If you have any exercise recommendations or other considerations from experience that would help support other fitness professionals then head over to our Facebook page and share them there.
If you are interested in training to become an Ante or Post Natal Fitness Instructor then you can find more details about our online course here.