That little helper, however, is also a secret little robber of calcium. Supplying milk for our little ones takes about 200 mg per day of calcium stores. Calcium loss will affect our bones for the worse, especially if we are Vitamin D deficient as well, which 70-75% of women are. Vitamin D and calcium are critical in preventing osteopenia or osteoperosis later in life.
What can you do to make sure your bones are healthy while breastfeeding?
General wisdom would tell us to simply make sure we eat and drink more calcium-rich dairy products or take supplements. According to breastfeeding.com, however, during lactation our bodies release a hormone that calcium from the bones and into the bloodstream. These higher levels of calcium in the blood may hinder absorption of extra calcium from what we consume. Once we stop nursing or menstruation begins this hormone is no longer released and we go back to normal calcium absorption.
Some research indicates that within 6 months to a year of beginning menstruation or weaning, our bones are restored. Based on this, nursing is thought to help prevent osteoporosis later in life. However, recent research reveals that we may need to help things along because most of us aren't getting enough of the essential calcium and Vitamin D in the first place. Our bodies can't restore our bones if we're not providing the building blocks and doing some of the work.
Be Aware of Your Calcium and Vitamin D Needs
So what do we do? One of the best steps we can take is to make sure we are getting plenty of calcium and Vitamin D in our diets. Most of us don't get the daily recommended amounts of 1000 mg of calcium and 200 IU of vitamin D that we need.
Read more on a breastfeeding mommy's calcium needs and how to get the necessary amount of calcium every day in the article, Calcium Needs During Lactation at breastfeeding.com.
The best way to get vitamin D, of course, is through about 15 minutes of pure sun exposure (without any sunscreen) two-three times a week. With that amount of sun your body can make all it needs, so you have it taken care of if you're getting outdoors for some exercise (read below)!
For more information on Vitamin D needs and how to get it from other sources read the article,
Break Out Those Sneakers!
Osteoporosis tends to occur more frequently within petite women and those who are sedentary so number one preventer is exercise! Osteopenia and osteoporosis indicate a loss in bone density. One of the easiest ways to strengthen bones and increase bone density is through weight-bearing exercise. It's ideal to shoot for 30 minutes a day most days of the week or a combination of times that adds up to that amount.
- Strap your kiddo safely in a sling (I'm thinking backpack-style for comfort) and get walking! Walking alone is weight-bearing, but you're doing double duty when you have the extra weight of your babe on you.
- Take out and dust off that jogging stroller from the closet or garage and put it to work on a jog or run. Your child will love catching the outdoor scenery while you get in a good workout.
- Take your kids out hiking at the closest nature preserve, park trails or countryside.
- Pop in some fast-paced, fun tunes and start dancing around silly with your little ones.
- Take tennis or racquetball lessons with your older child.
- Is your toddler obsessed with his new-found skill for climbing stairs? Do it with him. Over, and over, and over....
- There are many ways to weight lift with the kids, too. Ever play airplane? Lie on your back, hoist them up on your feet and take them flying! Play with your kids in the sand or dirt filling buckets and hauling them around to build castles or mud cakes. Do some traditional weight-lifting exercises like bicep curls or bench presses but use your little one as the weight (perhaps over the bed for safety...) and be a little silly. It helps if you use your best Swedish gym-guy impression to count out your reps!
- Check out a family yoga DVD or class. Mommy and baby classes and then family classes for older kids and teens would benefit you the most. Toddler and younger child classes don't involve enough adult poses.
If anything, have a talk with your family, especially your partner, about what you need to be healthy. If you're not getting enough exercise with the kids, ask your partner for support in finding time to yourself to run for 30 minutes or take a yoga class a few times a week. If you're not good about diversifying your diet or have trouble establishing new habits like taking supplements, ask for their support in that, too. Let it be important to you to take care of yourself so that you can be healthy and strong for years to come. Have the energy and health you need to be able to chase around not just your kids, but your grandkids, too.