We first interviewed fitness expert and author Gabby Reece in 2009 for our Celebrity Champions for Moms Blog Series and got her exclusive breastfeeding story about nursing daughters Reece and Brody. We were awestruck by what an absolute font of wisdom she was on the subject of nursing and staying in shape. Four years later, Best for Babes is now on course to put breastfeeding on the fitness for a cause highway, and we asked Gabby to champion Team We’ve Got Your Back, Babe! the first nationwide personal fitness challenge to urge America to back breastfeeding in honor of National Breastfeeding Month!
It is easy to feel overwhelmed with a nursing baby and let fitness take a back seat. In this exclusive interview, we asked Gabby for her insights on exercising while breastfeeding and about how fit moms have a step up on Beating the Breastfeeding Booby Traps®!! Gabby has so much to say on the subject that we are presenting this interview in two parts. Here’s Gabby on how exercise and breastfeeding complement each other and WHY it can be so helpful for a nursing mom. Stay tuned for Part II, in which Gabby shares more of her nutrition and exercise tips on HOW a nursing mom can accomplish a fitness goal without wearing herself out!
BFB: In your new book, My Foot is Too Big for the Glass Slipper, you refer to exercise as “the key to everything.” Why do you think that’s particularly important for a breastfeeding mom?
Gabby: My whole point of eating well and exercise is that it can physically support you during nursing. You put so much physical demand on yourself when you’re a mom. First you have a new body and then you have a new baby. Then you’re holding a child, and as they grow they get heavier. Then you’ve got the baby in one arm and are doing things with the other! People don’t realize the posture that you can wind up in when you’re nursing. If you’re laying in bed in the middle of the night, you might be in some contortionist move, or when you’re on the phone or the computer and hunched over and nursing at the same time. There’s a lot of postural things that can create a bit of a chronic pain and a lot of load on the body. So for me, physical exercise wasn’t just about, oh, I’ve got to get back in shape. Exercise was an emotional release that made me feel good and supported my body.
BFB: Like exercise, nursing is a physical act that requires you to connect with your body. Do you think that looking at it that way is helpful?
Gabby: We are built to move, and when we move, we connect to ourselves on this level that intuitively makes a lot of sense and ultimately feels good. Most of us don’t really grow or pick our own food, and we travel in vehicles instead of walking. Breastfeeding is one act that is visceral and is an opportunity to, like you said, connect with yourself and your body for a purpose. Nursing is a primal thing; it hasn’t changed over the years. It’s using your body as one of the tools for which it was created, and it can really help us connect with our true selves.
BFB: Do you think that being a professional athlete helped you with nursing?
Gabby: I think becoming a mother makes you tough, period! It tempers you. And part of that tempering is nursing. I think when you can go outside of your own comfort level — willing-ly and wanting-ly– for something that you believe in, it can make you stronger. Nursing gives you a lot and is a very beautiful experience, but it can challenge you. That makes you stronger.
BFB: One of the biggest challenges any mom faces– especially a new and nursing mom- is finding time for herself to do anything! Do you have any suggestions for how to fit an exercise plan in?
Gabby: In general, when you have a baby and are trying to nurse, you need to put yourself in the most positive environment. What that means is, no friends that don’t support the mission. No family members that don’t support the mission. Basically, no one is allowed to come into your zone that doesn’t support you and the mission. I think being really clear but unemotional about what you are trying to accomplish is so important. It’s all about communication. So for example, you may need to ask your partner to take over that night to make dinner for you so you can get a few minutes to exercise. I also think it’s really important to have a strategy about your training schedule and your nutrition. Write it down — days you’re walking, days you’re lifting, or cycling, and what you are eating — so you understand it. This really helps with the meals, especially if you’re nursing and you’re doing rigorous exercise, because you have got to get the calories –the good calories– to keep your own strength up.
BFB: When do you suggest a nursing mom start exercising?
Gabby: Once the doctor has cleared you, I think it’s important to start a little bit, even when you are tired, but don’t go out and kill yourself! Add a little at a time so that you harmoniously integrate it into your life and it’s not shocking or punishing. Even if it’s just sitting on a balance ball for a few minutes a day. It’s easy to use the “I’m too tired” or “there’s no time” all the way until your baby becomes a teen, so I really think you have to get going as soon as you cleared–to make it a habit– because it only becomes more daunting as you go!
BFB: What motivates you to want to get behind this first nationwide fitness challenge to urge America to back healthy infant feeding — Team We’ve Got Your Back, Babe?
Gabby: I look at breastfeeding the same way I look at fitness: It’s about taking care of you and your baby. But in order to achieve your goals, you need support for the mission. Team Best for Babes and this We’ve Got Your Back, Babe event are helping moms to get more of that essential support and I am proud to sweat for the love of moms & babies!
Next in this Celebrity Blog Series: Gabby shares more of her fitness and nutrition pointers for nursing moms!……You don’t want to miss these tidbits!
Please Join Gabby and the rest of Team We’ve Got Your Back, Babe! as we sweat for the love of moms and babies! Anyone who cares about their health and happiness has a reason to participate! If we can do it for premature birth and heart disease, we can do it for prevention and breastfeeding! Proceeds benefit Best for Babes and Breastfeeding USA.