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Nursing on the Run

Michelle Byrom
Virginia USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 24 No. 5, September-October 2007, pp. 205-206

Nursing moms can do anything. I'm certain of this now. I am a nursing mother who ran the 2006 Marine Corps Marathon! I rarely hear stories of athletic nursing mothers, so I'm sharing my story in hopes of encouraging others.

Before my husband, Chris, and I started our family, I was a recreational runner. I ran to stay in shape and socialize. I occasionally entered 5K races and enjoyed running from our apartment to the coffee shop with my girlfriends. My running ended while I was pregnant with our first baby as I experienced signs of preterm labor. My husband and I accepted our obstetrician's recommendation to decrease my activity in order to minimize the risk of premature birth. Fortunately, Samuel was born full-term, but I soon felt overwhelmed by the realities of motherhood. When I wasn't nursing on cue, I tried to catch up on sleep. Housework piled up and exercise was a fleeting memory.

After the first year of being a mom, I finally felt ready for physical activity again. I began cycling and walking everywhere with my toddler in tow. I was amazed at how quickly exercise influenced my emotional and physical health. I felt great! When Samuel was 17 months old, I became pregnant again. I knew I needed to be in good physical shape for the birth, so I joined a stroller fitness group. I worked out with the group throughout this pregnancy and had no signs of preterm labor. I was in good shape and felt healthy when Anika was born in June 2005. I didn't want to fall out of the exercise habit again, so I began walking short distances a few weeks after the birth. By the time Anika was four months old, I was going for short runs.

Running became my personal time. I ran without the children. It was a great break from 24-hour mothering. I enjoyed the runs, so I'd run a little farther each day. With the encouragement of my dad, I committed to run a marathon with him in the fall of 2006. I did not want to jeopardize my nursing relationship with Anika, so I worked with a lactation consultant to ensure I maintained proper nutrition and hydration. The lactation consultant encouraged me; she was confident I could nurse and run.

Throughout the summer of 2006, I followed a novice marathon training program. The training schedule included four runs per week, plus one day of cross training. I followed a mom-friendly version of the training. If we had been up at night for teething, restlessness, or bad dreams, I skipped a workout. Yet, most days I was able to follow the training program. I always ran in the morning before the children fully awoke. Anika nursed around 5:30 am and dozed back to sleep while snuggled up to her daddy. I was in my running shoes by 6 am and home by 7 am when Chris left for work. I nursed Anika again after a quick shower. This was a good routine, and I readily accomplished my running goals. I admit, training required a lot of time, especially when the runs were more than 10 miles and long post-run stretching periods became necessary. I received incredible support and assistance from Chris. He took care of the children while I ran and on Saturday afternoons while I napped after the long weekend run. I could not have done it without him!

I never encountered problems with my milk supply either. My appetite was enormous, and I ate what my body needed. I stayed well hydrated, and I slept properly.

For race day, my family came to cheer my dad and me on and to help care for Samuel and Anika. I nursed Anika prior to the run. She blew me a kiss as I walked toward the start line.

On that crisp October morning, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in four hours and 43 minutes! I ran well, and I finished strong. I nursed my baby just beyond the finish line. It was a great day!

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