June 2019 Newsletter: Breastfeeding & Sports

By BMSG Editorial Team

*DISCLAIMER: You should seek the opinion of your doctor or your gynaecologist before doing any forms of exercise after giving birth.

If you have read Sophie Power’s story, you would not cease to be in awe!  She is the amazing mother who stopped to latch her baby AND pump in the midst of a  48-hour marathon through the Alps.  The image of her at a pitstop latching her son while also pumping milk from the other breast, is one that will resonate with many mothers, who are avid sportswomen. Power is an example of a mother who would not let her passion stop her from doing what she needed to do for herself.

Here in sunny Singapore, we are not short of mums who truly love sports. We spoke to several breastfeeding mothers who are avid sportswomen themselves, to find out just how possible it is to juggle the act of breastfeeding with sports. 

Does Exercise = Decline in Supply & Quality of Breastmilk?

One of the greatest concerns that many mothers may have when it comes to exercising, would be whether it impacts milk supply and its quality. According to the US Academy for Nutrition & Dietetics, as long as the breastfeeding mother is drinking and eating enough to replenish the resources she has lost to exercise, there is no evidence to link a dip in supply with exercising. 

Heng Wen Xiu, who has been breastfeeding for less than a year, exercises daily. The swimmer and elliptical trainer said,  “It does make me hungry, so I make sure to eat enough to avoid impacting my milk supply”.

Having balanced meals before and after a workout can help to replenish nutrients in the body.

Jasmin, an avid road cyclist who exercises several times a week, said that it is important to stay hydrated: “I have to drink more water to replenish the liquid lost, in order to ensure a good supply.”

Dr Mythili Pandi, a family physician, and an EXCO member with the Breastfeeding Mothers’ Support Group, resonated with this. “Plenty of water and good quality foods from all the food groups are all that a mother needs to maintain her milk supply,” said the mother of three who enjoys running even when her three children were babies. She added, “I also find that when I am doing a lot more anaerobic work or long-distance runs, I tend to have more protein rich foods to quicken muscle recovery.”

Some mothers are concerned that exercise can impact the immunologic factors in their breastmilk. Research has found that the IgA compound which is responsible for the immunity factor in the milk, can be reduced after exhaustive exercise. However, this dip is only for the short term and is found to be insignificant. Dr Mythili also added that levels of IgA can remain stable throughout the day: “It is probably best to not exercise to exhaustion especially if the mother has not been active regularly. Even so, the drop in the levels of sIgA are only for a short time (15-30mins) and it will then return to normal levels again. So the total levels of sIgA over the course of the day may be quite stable.” 

Timing Matters

While we know fatigue from sports may trigger a reduction in milk supply, mothers we spoke to discussed arranging feeding or pumping times to fit in with exercise. Jasmin, an avid cyclist, finds that pumping just before and after her riding sessions is important to help her sustain her milk supply, as a single ride could take a few hours!

Others, like Vicki, who usually goes to a gym during lunchtimes at work, deciding to pump or to workout, can be a challenge. She sees both as important to her, but believes that pumping should take priority. “I tell myself pump(ing milk) for my baby is more important than exercise so I make sure I get to the gym as soon as I finish” said Vicki, who also added that it can be more comfortable for mums to exercise on emptier breasts. 

Wearing the Right Exercising Gear

Grace, who does High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), also agrees on exercising on empty breasts. She encouraged other mums to empty the breasts before exercising. “I did it (exercise) once without pumping and ended up with mastitis!”

Sports bras and tops, which have large bands underneath the breasts for better support, may pose risks of blocked ducts leading to mastitis if unresolved. Tight clothing, too, can impose similar risks. It is important that the attire you opt for is loose and comfortable, and that you do not wear it for long periods of time. You should remove the clothing as soon as possible and to check for blocked ducts frequently.

Exercising while breastfeeding should be extra comfortable and breasts should be well-supported. However, avoid constricting clothes to prevent blocked ducts and mastitis!

Exercise for Your Sanity

Even with all the logistical organisation required, all the mothers we spoke to concurred that exercising helped them to cope better with their roles as a mother and maintain their emotional and physical well-being.

Agnes Nemes-Chow, a stay-at-home mother to seven children, says, “Running helps me to reduce my general stress level. As a stay-at-home mum, it gives me a break from looking after my children and helps me to maintain my physique.” She also added that she did not notice that it had any negative impact on her milk supply as she latches her baby before and after her runs.

A mother who enjoys yoga and pilates, Hwee Min, says exercise has actually helped her improve her resolve to breastfeed. “Staying active by engaging in sports helps me be refreshed and to reset my mind. It gives the emotional strength and tenacity to continue my breastfeeding journey,” says the mother who has been breastfeeding for almost a year. 

There is no particular exercise or sport to avoid while breastfeeding but focus on your nutritional and physical well-being.

No Particular Sports to Avoid

Dr Mythili also advised mothers to do the sports they love and enjoy and that there is no particular sports that mothers should avoid. 

She also added that mothers could consider exercise in a bid to get over the baby blues. “Being active was the best way I could deal with my postnatal blues and the massive shifts in my life – being a full time medical officer in a bustling public hospital to a full time mummy to a brand new baby.”

So mummies, if there is a particular sport you like or one in which you are hoping to try, don’t hesitate! Prepare yourself and your loved ones for the hour or two that you will be away from baby, and get active! You will find that it may actually help you to feel much more energetic and happier! And a Happy Mummy means a Happy Baby!

BMSG Annual Report for 2018-2019 – A Brief Outline

By BMSG Editorial Team

In the first week of May, BMSG had our Annual General Meeting (AGM). As usual, our AGM reported our initiatives, developments and milestones that BMSG has achieved in the past year. Here are some of the highlights as obtained from our Annual and Financial Reports.

Attendees at the Annual General Meeting on 4 May. [Credits: BMSG]

Increasing Interest in BMSG Breastfeeding Programmes

BMSG is known to provide counselling and mother-to-mother support to all breastfeeding mothers in the community. Throughout the years, the way we provide such services has evolved. From just phone counselling in the 1980s, we now provide counselling services across several platforms, namely online (Facebook support group), WhatsApp, email as well as the phone helpline.

Our WhatsApp counselling service has gained popularity in the last year, gaining over 700 counselling cases within a year.

  • Increase in Counselling Channels

Based on a review of our counselling channels, we find that there has been significant increases in those which offer more online participation. Our closed Facebook group had a surge of members and now stand at 13,000 members and counting. Our WhatsApp counselling service has also garnered over 700 counselling cases just in the past one year year. With the introduction of services such as Chinese WhatsApp and WhatsApp groups for post-workshop support for our participants, this value-added service has definitely gathered significant traction in the past year.

Our counsellor Lanie (left) conducting a Mum 2 Mum Meetup at BMSG office earlier this year. [Credits: BMSG]

  • Increased interest in Face-to-Face Counselling

Our Mum 2 Mum meetups, our free monthly breastfeeding support meeting, have seen consistent attendance among mothers especially in the past year. With the introduction of the weekend sessions for working mothers, we found that more mothers are able to attend our meetups to seek assistance for their breastfeeding queries. As the weekend session is focused on working mothers, we discovered that mothers are asking work-related questions on how to manage their breastfeeding goals. This is a good complement to our physical workshops as it is a shorter session and and we can directly address their specific concerns.

Increase in Number of Counsellor Trainers

As part of improving the quality of our counselling services, BMSG takes a serious view on skills upgrading for its volunteer counsellors. While BMSG volunteer counsellors previously only had a senior counsellor who received training to become a trainer, in early 2019, BMSG decided to invite existing and senior counsellors to trainer as trainers for potential counsellors. Eight existing senior counsellors took up the invitation and underwent a training conducting by the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA). They successfully graduated from the training and are now taking turns to train at the current Counsellor Training 2019.

Significant Presence on Social Media

We have a strong followership on the World Wide Web. With over 10,000 likes on our Facebook page and an increase of 700 subscribers to our monthly newsletter (as compared to 200 subscribers in early 2018), we believe that we are moving in the right direction in positioning ourselves as an approachable and credible service provider. We stand fast to our believe that we remain as accessible to as many mothers and their family members as possible in addition to providing most of our services for free.

Our breastfeeding workshops are conducted monthly and taught by our volunteer breastfeeding counsellors. [Credits: BMSG]

Increase in Workshops & Talks

Our workshops and talks continue to be highly sought by parents. Our Breastfeeding 101 and Breastfeeding & Going Back to Work workshops remain popular and are sold-out often. Due to popular demand and affordable tickets, we are working towards conducting our workshops monthly from the second half of 2019.

Beyond paid workshops, we have been providing our services to members of the public in social settings. The Breastfeeding & Babywearing Workshops are co-organised by the BMSG, Babywearing Singapore and the National Library, and have been held  at various libraries monthly since the beginning of this year.

We are very excited to announce that we have started collaborating with other organisations, such as the People’s Association and private companies, to provide more services for the public. Look out for updates on our social media pages!

Our volunteer counsellor, Eve Van de Perre, conducting a talk at one of our public libraries. [Credits: Jasmine Tan Tai]

Future Plans

As always, we continue to review our initiatives and programmes to serve mothers better. We are excited to continue planning for the next year in order to engage breastfeeding mothers and their families. Works are in the pipeline for our annual flagship event, the Big Latch On, as well as niche events such as Tea With Breastmilk, a get-together with mothers to discuss breastfeeding-related topics and our annual public health talk.

Our Big Latch On event saw over 100 attendees in 2018. Here, our then-President Elaine Chow (in pink) with our Guest-of-Honour MP Rahayu Mahzam (centre) and Dr Yvonne Ng (left) from National University Hospital, who was our co-organiser. [Credits: BMSG]

Newly-elected Executive Committee

As this year also marks the end of the 2017-2019 EXCO, we were excited to welcome new members to the team during the AGM. This year, we were surprised to have close to 20 nominations! After a short but exciting presentation by each nominee, we each voted on whom we wanted to be on the committee. Do look out for our subsequent articles where we will introduce our new EXCO members for you to get to know them better.

Our nominees for the BMSG EXCO presenting their speeches before the voting process begins. [Credits: BMSG]

For a more comprehensive read of our milestones and developments, do click on the following links which are accessible to the public:

BMSG Annual Report

BMSG Financial Report for 2018-2019

BMSG’s newly-elected EXCO for 2019-2021. Read more about them in our next article! [Credits: BMSG]

We hope to have your continued support in our initiatives!