If you were a Bikram yoga-lover before pregnancy, you're probably itching to return to classes now that you've delivered your baby. It wasn't safe while you were pregnant to practice this type of heated, humid yoga, but now you might be wondering if the heat and humidity — and massive amount of sweat — could negatively affect breastfeeding. Luckily, as long as you practice safely, breastfeeding should be OK for you and your baby.
Get the Green Light
Your body goes through some profound changes when carrying and giving birth to a baby. Generally, your OB/GYN will recommend waiting until you're cleared for exercise — about six to eight weeks after birth — before hitting the yoga mat.
That doesn't mean you're ready for Bikram, though. Ask your doctor or midwife when it’s safe to take part in a heated yoga practice, and tell your yoga instructor that you are postpartum and breastfeeding. He may be able to provide you with some modifications.
Take it easy your first few classes — simply getting used to the heat should be your first step. It's always all right to simply lie down on your back and rest during a Bikram class.
Your breasts may be engorged with milk, making it difficult to perform forward bends or lie on your stomach, both of which are part of the Bikram sequence. Your pelvic floor muscles will also be much weaker than normal and muscles in your abdomen and hips may not provide as much support as they once did.
This strength will come back, but it takes time. Practice Kegel exercises — squeezing the muscles of your pelvic floor — at increasingly longer intervals, take slow walks and be patient.
Successful breastfeeding requires that you stay healthy and hydrated. The National Institutes of Health recommends drinking a minimum of six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, but the University of Rochester Medical Center recommends 12 to 14 glasses a day while breastfeeding, as dehydration can cause your milk supply to dip.
Additionally, Bikram yoga can cause excessive sweating. You should add at least 2.5 cups of liquid for each session you attend; many Bikram students drink a liter bottle of ice water during the course of one class. Consider a drink that contains electrolytes to replace those lost in your sweat.
Signs of heat exhaustion as a high pulse rate, dizziness, nausea, confusion, cramps and muscle weakness. If you notice any of these symptoms, lie down. If they persist more than a minute or two, immediately leave the room, lie down in a cooler area and ask for help.
What About My Milk?
Rumors abound that exercise reduces essential nutrients in your breast milk or increases lactic acid in breast milk, causing your baby to reject it due to its flavor. The Clinical Practice Obstetrics Committee of Canada and the Australian Breastfeeding Association report that moderate exercise has no observable effects on quality or quantity of breast milk.
For more vigorous activity like Bikram yoga, breastfeed or pump just before practice, if only to make it more comfortable for you. If your baby seems averse to your milk after vigorous exercise, consider pumping and discarding the milk 30 minutes afterward. After about five months, exercise will have less of an effect, because your milk will be mainly produced on demand at feeding time.